This is a MASSIVE post about employee advocacy. If you’d rather have this in a downloadable guide to read and share with your team, you can go here to snag the complete resource.
Everything You Need to Know About Employee Advocacy
The goal of any employee advocacy program is to better leverage the social networks of employees, both for the benefit of the company they work for and the employees themselves.
- For a business, employee advocacy opens up opportunities to drive brand recognition, increase organic sharing and engagement, increase referral traffic, generate new leads, and source new potential hires, all through the trusted voice of their employees.
- For employees, participating in an employee advocacy provides opportunities to burnish their professional profile online, to grow their networks, to better engage with their contacts, to develop meaningful relationships, and progress in their careers.
This all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Sounds like something every company should support and be engaged in doing, don’t you think? We think so, but the reality is that it’s still the minority of early adopters and market leaders that have invested in employee advocacy.
That said, more attention is being paid to employee advocacy as shown by the search volume graph included below.
Anecdotally, we can say that two things have started to change in the last 12 months:
- More companies are expressing interest in employee advocacy
- Those companies operate in an increasingly diverse set of industries
Looking back a year or two, most companies who were putting employee advocacy in place were B2B tech companies. Our client list for example, now includes those in commercial real estate, legal and professional services, staffing, education, and a number of other industries.
As we move into a new year, more and more businesses are beginning to see how important social media advocacy can be to their brand. Decreasing effectiveness of paid social (as further cemented by Facebook’s feed changes) are one driver of this.
Now, many of you coming to this post might be completely new to employee advocacy, others may be somewhat familiar with the term, and some of you may be seasoned pros having launched and run a program at one or more companies.
No matter what category you fit into, this post is meant to cover everything you and your company need to know about employee advocacy. This is our definitive what and why post.
Below is an outline of what’s covered and you can click any of the links to jump to a particular section.
- What is Employee Advocacy?
- What Employee Advocacy is Not
- Why it Matters for Your Employees
- Why it Matters for Your Company
- Where Employee Advocacy Works Best
- Key Employee Advocacy Statistics
- Common Objections and Challenges
- Brands Engaged in Employee Advocacy
- Launching Your Own Employee Advocacy Program
What Is Employee Advocacy?
Employee advocacy centers on employees sharing about their company, their jobs, and professional interest on social media. Said differently, it is about companies equipping and leveraging their employees as digital influencers.
Since the beginning (approximately 10 years ago), social media marketing has centered on brands (e.g., Dell, Disney, Coca-Cola, etc.). Brands created their profiles and spent a lot of money to 1) build up their followers and 2) to promote their content. Of course, this makes perfect sense: marketing, since its dawn has centered on brands; it’s only very recently that the individual influencer (a CEO, celebrity, politician, etc.) has emerged as an alternative channel to the corporate brand.
Employee advocacy takes the influencer model a step further. Having been a pioneer in this market, our position is that all employees regardless of their role or stature can be an influencer for their company.
This is especially true in B2B businesses, where celebrity/high-visibility influencers don’t translate to marketing results, but where having 100, 1,000, or 10,000 employees helping to promote your business and its products or services does. It doesn’t matter if that employee is the CEO or a college intern: every employee has an increasing network of connections across social media.
While employee advocacy has made a lot of sense for B2B businesses, it’s only recently that B2C companies have started to turn more towards their own employees. You might think that employee advocacy and a strong B2C brand would be a match made in heaven, but most B2C brands have (and in many cases continue to) overlooked their own employees, instead focusing on paid advertising and influencers to drive their social media marketing.
However, this is changing and advocacy programs are gaining a foothold in B2C brands in large part because the costs/results are no longer what they used to be for paid advertising in any form.
What Employee Advocacy Is Not
Employee advocacy programs can come in many forms–they reflect the culture and objectives of their organizations–however and make no mistake, employee advocacy is not simply about getting your employees to share content about your company.
Many companies have tried this approach in years past (often pushed in this direction by a vendor), only to find that (surprise!) employees aren’t interested in spamming their hard-earned networks with corporate content. However, if you can design a program that produces value for your company and your employees, the sky’s the limit.
Make no mistake: the more you involve your employees in the process and make clear the benefits to them, the more they will share, the bigger your program will become, and the more sustainable it will be over the long-term. After all, you don’t start an employee advocacy program with the intention of shutting it down after 12 months; it’s something that if successful should run in perpetuity.
Why It Matters For Your Employees
Whenever we’re working with a new client, we always stress the need to put their employees at the center of their plan. While it’s tempting to think about an employee advocacy program as a corporate program, the success of any program is a function of how engaged your employees are in the program, and in order for them to be engaged at a high and sustained level, they have to understand what’s in it for them.
Invest: Help them establish their profiles
One of the first building blocks of a successful employee advocacy program is making sure that all your participants have completed, polished profiles across the social networks they will/are engaging on. This is simple, low-cost stuff including hiring a professional photographer to take everyone’s’ headshots, having someone suggest or review or even write copy for their profiles, and having your creative department provide fun images for them to use as background images on their profiles. All of your employees’ profiles don’t need to look the same (e.g., everyone having the same background image would probably be a mistake), however, they should look consistently good and professional.
Invest: Train them on how to be successful
Training is another important thing you can do for your employees. While social media managers are often some of the most experienced employees when it comes to how to get the most out of any given networks, the rest of your employees likely exist on a spectrum from newbie to seasoned pro.
A good training program should be something that’s run on a continuous basis (i.e., it shouldn’t be a one-time event) and should focus on establishing a foundation of both best-practices and standards for how your employees should engage on any given network. Remember that employee advocacy is about scale, and simple things (like ensuring your employees are adding hashtags, etc.) can make big differences in the results they drive.
Invest: Provide them with the best tools
If you’re intending on establishing an employee advocacy program at any level of scale (and that is, after all, what employee advocacy is really about), you’re going to need a platform like EveryoneSocial. While we are biased and think ours is the best, here are some things to think about when selecting a platform for your company:
- Is it going to scale to our needs? Employee advocacy is all about scale. Assuming you have more than 500 employees you need to make sure that you have a platform that can scale to your entire organization, or at least close to that level. If you don’t, you’re simply leaving a lot of value on the table.
- Does it allow our employees to be themselves? Being successful on social media is all about being yourself. The most successful programs we work with celebrate their employees’ personalities and encourage them to be themselves.
- Does it support the latest standards? Again, social media is a changing landscape. Images, video, live video, hashtags, @mentions, the list of features and capabilities is constantly changing. In order to get the most out of your program, you need a platform that is always improving to support whatever the latest trends are.
- Are we going to get the support we need? While employee advocacy may be about scale, creating a successful program with thousands or tens of thousands of users is no simple task. Make sure you’re selecting a platform that comes with an experienced team that will be there, whenever you need them.
Result: They will grow their networks
On average, we have found that employees who participate in employee advocacy grow their networks by a minimum of 10% each year. Have 1,500 connections when you start (1,500 connections is right around the average number of connections per employee)? That means you will have at least 1,650 connections by year-end.
However and again it’s all about scale. A group of 1,000 employees each with 1,500 connections has a combined network of 1,500,000. Growing at 10% per year that network would increase to 1,650,000 by the end of the first year. Of course, the more employees you involve and the longer your program runs, the larger their networks will get. As Einstein said, “compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.”
Result: They will better engage with their networks
Engagement is the currency of any network. Doesn’t matter if you have a network of 1,000 or 100,000, getting the most out of that network (regardless of what that may be) is a function of how well you engage with it. This is where that training can really pay off: helping your employees understand best practices and fundamentally what it means to be a good citizen on social media will mean the difference between them achieving low (if not negative) versus high levels of engagement.
This also goes back to putting the employee at the center of your efforts: social media is not a performance marketing channel. It’s about relationships, which is fundamentally a long game. Help your employees understand that and they’ll become an unstoppable generator of positive engagement for your brand.
Result: They will drive awesome results for your company
Getting back to where we started, employee advocacy is, in the end about driving awesome results for your company. Where your program exists on the performance spectrum is a function of how much you put into it, and how well you prioritize and communicate the benefits to your employees.
However, don’t be confused: creating a top-performing program at scale does not cost a lot of money (even the biggest programs cost a fraction of what those companies spend on paid advertising). Support your employees, train them, communicate the value to them, and focus on building a sustainable program (a program that doesn’t end) and you’ll generate results far beyond any other channel as measured on a per-dollar basis.
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Why It Matters For Your Company
There are myriad reasons why employee advocacy matters to your company: it strengthens corporate culture, helps build brand recognition, drives new leads, and ensures far more of your people are on the same page, just to name a few.
However and as we’ve already discussed, the world of social media and for that matter every other area of a corporation (marketing, sales, communications, and HR) are undergoing constant and accelerating change, and with that there are new reasons and benefits to put a program in place that weren’t here just a few short years ago.
Your brand followers aren’t seeing your content
As we detailed extensively in this post, Facebook and all other social networks are in the process of continuing to prioritize user content over brand content. For them it’s about survival over the next 10 years: the success of any social network comes down to interactions between users and the more brand/sponsored content users are exposed to, the less of those user-to-user interactions occur.
You probably knew something was up when the social networks (primarily Facebook) told you that you not only needed to pay to build your follower base but then you needed to pay to ensure that your followers actually see the content you post. Research from Edgerank Checker and Ogilvy estimate that if your page has more than 500,000 likes, organic reach could be as low as 2% (here’s another article from AdWeek saying the same).
Your takeaway should be this: this is not a problem you can spend your way out of. It’s only going to get worse with time, which is why if you’re serious about social media marketing (and you should be) you need to put an employee advocacy program in place. Especially for B2B companies, the combined network of your employees are often multiples larger than any of your brand profile followings.
Not only do employee shares get more exposure amongst their network, employees will share a lot more content that you’re able to share or promote via your brand handles. Just think about it: you have 10,000 employees, each sharing one piece of brand content every two days. That comes out to 150,000 unique shares per month.
Influencer (celebrity) marketing can only get you so far
If you’re a B2B company, celebrity influencer marketing doesn’t make sense. If you’re a B2C company of any size, no doubt celebrity influencer marketing has been a part of your playbook for some time. I’m not going to be the one to say celebrity influencer marketing is dead (from what I can tell it’s been around as long as marketing itself), but it would be foolish to rely solely on celebrities to promote your brand and its products on social media.
As we’ll explore below, employees represent your company’s greatest investment, and your buyers trust them more than your brand, the media, or any celebrity (see this post on the Edelman Trust Barometer for more on the topic of buyer trust). Simply put, you’re leaving a tremendous amount of value on the table if you’re not involving your employees in your digital marketing.
Your employees can be your most valuable asset
Simply taking for granted that your people are your most valuable asset is incorrect. It’s how you enable and empower your people that transforms them from your biggest investment into your biggest asset. If you want to go deep, like academic-deep on the topic of employee enablement, I would suggest reading this HBR article on the topic. Another great measure of this opportunity to better enable your employees can be seen in the below graph from the Edelman Trust Barometer report, which found that less than half of employees in many developed nations trust their employer.
Pre-social media, we were all a lot more siloed in our personal and professional lives. Simply put, there was limited to no way to connect with people outside our immediate sphere of friends, family, and co-workers. And when it came to work, you were hired to do a job and that usually meant spending your time behind a desk and not collaborating a whole lot with other departments. Especially if you were in marketing; you would never think to enlist the participation of co-workers outside your department!
Today’s world, post-social, post-internet is totally different. Not only are you connected to more people through social media, but you also have the ability to find virtually anyone through social media all of which changes the game for how you market, recruit, sell, and communicate as a business. As social media and other technologies have also broken down geographic borders, competition and cost has also increased across the board.
In order to effectively compete in today’s marketplace you have to constantly work to uncover new opportunities, especially those that can scale. Employee advocacy represents one of those opportunities and it has the dual benefit of furthering your core corporate objectives around marketing, sales, and recruitment and improving the bond your employees have with your brand and each other. When people are more connected to each other and to their company, when they have more trust in their company, they will perform better. Full stop.
Your buyers trust your employees more than your brand
Along with the breakdown of traditional media, there have been major shifts in who buyers look to for advice and direction on their purchases. Every year the Edelman agency puts out a survey called the Trust Barometer, which takes the pulse of who consumers trust the most. Spoiler: people trust their peers, employees of companies, and technical experts more often than any other group, a person (e.g., a CEO), brand, or the media.
Further and along those same lines, more buyers are doing their own research rather than relying on the media or other channels traditionally used by companies to market their wares. Buyers–regardless if we’re talking about a consumer trying to figure out which brand of socks to buy or a professional worker researching CRM systems–trust peers, employees and experts overall. And guess where they’re going to encounter those types of people? On social media, of course.
I imagine this kind of data looks pretty scary to a lot of marketers and it is. However, I have some positive news for you! Within your company I can guarantee you have all the personas most trusted by these modern day buyers: you have employees, you have peers of the buyers, and you have technical experts. You have everything you need!
Now it’s time to unleash them on the marketplace, which you do by having them participate in an employee advocacy program. If you don’t retain anything else, retain the point that your buyers trust your employees more than your brand.
Where Employee Advocacy Works Best
Assuming you have more than ~500 employees, an employee advocacy program can work in your company. While some companies are attracted to the idea of getting all of their employees involved from day 1 (and there’s nothing wrong with that), there are a number of areas where employee advocacy works particularly well. Those would include marketing, sales, HR/recruiting, and PR/communications. The commonality between these areas is that they primarily involve communicating and engaging with people outside your company.
In many ways, employee advocacy was born in the marketing department. This is where our first customers used EveryoneSocial and where many new employee advocacy programs still begin their life. It just makes sense: marketing is tasked with producing and promoting content to the widest possible audience. Leveraging your employees to help spread that message across their own social networks is a no-brainer and is an opportunity that we believe applies to any organization with more than a few hundred employees.
There are two main aspects to marketing-run employee advocacy programs that have changed over the last few years: 1) employees have more control over what they can share and 2) more effort is put into tracking those shares back to core marketing KPIs.
Re the former, employees are simply being given more latitude around what they can share: the content, the copy, the channel, etc. Why? Because the more people personalize and make their shares their own, the more successful they are. Take a look at this employee advocacy trends piece I wrote for more on that.
Re the latter, employee advocacy is no longer a fringe marketing activity, which means that companies are making sure the infrastructure is in place to properly track and account the shares made by their employees. This typically includes the use of advanced UTM parameters and web analytics platforms such as Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics.
Sales started using employee advocacy a couple of years ago and have never looked back. While more commonly referred to as social selling or even as just a part of an overall sales enablement strategy, sales teams’ use of employee advocacy tools and practices is rapidly growing and has shown some very exciting results.
So why are sales so hot on employee advocacy? It’s simple: salespeople are always in search of gaining an edge on their competition. Combine that with the fact that more traditional channels such as email and phone aren’t delivering the same results they used to and that everyone they want to reach is on social media, and voila!
If you have any familiarity with a salesperson or team, just think about how often they use the phone and email. There isn’t a salesperson on earth that doesn’t. Well, social is the next frontier. Mind you, it’s still the early adopters who are embracing social, however, with every passing month, there are more of them that do.
As we’ll touch on in detail below, there are some very compelling reasons why your salespeople should be leveraging social. The most extensive social selling case study done to date was performed by our client, Genesys. They found that regular use of social media by their salespeople grew pipeline, lifted win rates, and deal sizes.
Communications has always been at the party but hasn’t really taken the reigns of employee advocacy until recently. Generally speaking, it’s the communications team at B2C companies (e.g., Electronic Arts) that owns a program and those we’ve worked with have been quite successful.
Typically the communications team has both internal and external objectives. Internally objectives can include better employee communication and engagement (with each other and the content). External objectives would be more along the lines of increased brand awareness and engagement (with the content that was shared by employees).
We think the communications team owning an employee advocacy program, especially inside of b2c companies makes sense and is exciting. Not only does employee advocacy make a lot of sense for the communications team, but they have a mandate that covers all internal and external communications, which means a program can be scaled up without much friction.
One quantitative tidbit I’ll share. We recently launched a B2C mobile telecommunications service provider. They’re a very social-forward company (their CEO has millions of followers). The communications department owns the program and took it from zero to all employees (tens of thousands) inside of 90 days. That’s really cool and something that may be somewhat unique to communications teams.
HR is another interesting application of employee advocacy centered on talent acquisition. For many companies (but certain types in particular, such as those that need significant numbers of specialized workers) talent acquisition is a constant battle. Competition is fierce, salaries for new hires are going up, and so are those recruiting fees.
Ask anyone you’ve ever worked with who has been responsible for hiring people where the best hires come from and they’re going to tell you referrals from existing employees. People in their network. This is where employee advocacy comes into play: what if you could enlist all of your employees to not only promote your brand but also to help to recruit?
The use of employee advocacy for talent acquisition/recruitment is in the early stages, however, it makes a ton of sense and we expect to see more companies leverage it for that purpose over the coming years. We think this will be especially true as more B2C companies adopt employee advocacy programs.
Key Employee Advocacy Statistics
What you get out of employee advocacy depends on a few factors: chiefly your goals, the size of your company, and the industry you compete in. That said, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, success can be had.
Below we’ve pulled together a collection of employee advocacy statistics, primarily from third-party research groups on why employee advocacy matters to and what it can do for marketing, communications, sales, and HR. There’s a lot here; feel free to take what you need to bolster the case for a program at your own company.
We also added these stats to a cool SlideShare presentation below. Additionally, if you’d rather have these stats packaged in a PDF to read and share with your team, you can click here to snag the complete resource. No email required!
Marketing & Communications
- Employees who participate in an employee advocacy program organically grow their networks by >10% per year (Source: EveryoneSocial)
- The average employee across the companies that use EveryoneSocial has a network of over 1,500 connections (Source: EveryoneSocial)
- 92% of buyers say they delete emails or voicemail messages when comes from someone that they do not know (Source: A Sales Guy Consulting)
- Content shared by employees receives 8x more engagement than content shared by brand channels (Source: Social Media Today)
- An employee advocate is 2x more trusted than a CEO (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2014)
- 92% of employees’ Twitter followers are new to the brand (Source: Cisco)
- 33% of buyers trust the brand whilst 90% of customers trust product or service recommendations from people they know (Source: Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey)
- Brand messages reached 561% further when shared by employees vs the same messages shared via official brand social channels (Source: MSLGroup)
- Brand messages are re-shared 24x more frequently when distributed by employees vs a brand (Source: MSLGroup)
- 98% of employees use at least one social media site for personal use, of which 50% are already posting about their company (Source: Weber Shandwick)
- Genesys, the call center technology company used employee advocacy across its global salesforce and saw the following results (Source: Why Genesys Invested Big In Social Selling):
- 2.2x increase in pipeline
- 16% increase in win rates
- 42% increase in deal sizes
- The average cold-call-to-appointment rate is 2% (Source: CEB)
- B2B buyers complete 57% of the buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep (Source: CEB)
- Sales reps using social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78% of their peers (Source: Forbes)
- 54% of social salespeople have tracked their social selling back to at least one closed deal (Source: A Sales Guy Consulting)
- 73% of salespeople using social selling as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23 percent more often (Source: Aberdeen Group)
- 46% of individual social sellers hit quota compared to 38% of sales reps who don’t (Source: Aberdeen Group)
- 64% of teams that use social selling hit quota compared to 49% that don’t (Source: Aberdeen Group)
- 80% believe their sales force would be more effective and efficient if they could leverage social media (Source: Sales Management Association)
- 66% of companies have no social media strategy for their sales organizations (Source: Sales Management Association)
- 93% of sales executives have not received any formal training on social selling (Source: Accenture)
- 53% of salespeople want help in understanding social selling better (Source: A Sales Guy Consulting)
- 22% of salespeople are not using social media, 18.9% cited not using it because they didn’t see the value and 45% cited because they did not understand social selling (Source: A Sales Guy Consulting)
- 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed independent research (Source: CEB)
- 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established (Source: Demand Gen Report)
- 84% of B2B decision makers begin their buying process with a referral (Source: Sales Benchmark Index)
- A warm referral increases the odds of a sales success 2-4x times (Source: LinkedIn Social Selling Report)
HR & Recruiting
- When employees are asked how they felt after sharing work-related content, the leading response was “I feel more connected and enthusiastic about the company I work for.” (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer)
- When asked which employee-shared content consumers found most relevant, recruiting rose to the top: 30% of consumers find job posting useful (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer)
- 21% of consumers report “liking” employee posts–a far higher engagement rate than the average social ad (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer)
- Employee referrals have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate – only 7% of applicants are via employees but this accounts for 40% of all new hire hires (Source: Jobvite)
- 67% of employers and recruiters said that the recruiting process was shorter and 51% said it was less expensive to recruit via referrals (Source: Jobvite)
- 47% referral hires have greater job satisfaction and stay longer at companies (Source: Jobvite)
- Disengaged employees make up 74% the average company’s workforce (Source: Tower Watson)
- Employees of socially engaged companies are… (Source: Altimeter & LinkedIn Relationship Economics 2014)
- 57% more likely to align social media engagement to more sales leads
- 20% more likely to stay at their company
- 27% more likely to feel optimistic about their company’s future
- 40% more likely to believe their company is more competitive
Common Objections and Challenges
We’ve worked with more, larger companies on their programs over the years than any other vendor and as such there aren’t objections or challenges to employee advocacy that we haven’t heard before.
While an employee advocacy program may seem complex from the outside–activating and enabling thousands of employees–the most common issues, those that really drag down a program are few in number and rarely if ever have to do with the employees themselves. Said differently, we’ve never worked with a company where their employees weren’t eager to participate in employee advocacy programs. The most common problems come from executives, the internal administrators (those tasked with managing the program on a day-to-day basis) and the vendor (the company, like EveryoneSocial who provides the platform).
Executives don’t believe in it (and don’t support it)
In order to have a kick-ass employee advocacy program, you need to have a company that believes in social, and in order to have a company that believes in social, you need to have an executive team (and preferably a CEO) that believes in social. Without this level of support, it’s going to forever be an uphill battle to have a really successful program. Everyone looks to executive leadership to understand what the priorities are for the company and what they should be spending their time on. If those executives aren’t on social media and aren’t talking about its importance, you can be sure it’s never going to be important for the majority of employees.
Internal administrator doesn’t do a good job
Okay, let’s say you’ve passed the first hurdle: you have a CEO/executive team that supports social and wants to have a successful employee advocacy program in place. The next link in the chain is the internal administrator, the person tasked with managing the program on a day-to-day basis. Their duties will include inviting users, marketing the program internally, curating new content, setting up leaderboard contests, and expanding the program to new teams.
It’s rarely if ever someone’s full-time job, but it is an important job, and if the admin doesn’t see it as something important and doesn’t put in the requisite effort, it’s never going to take off. Make sure you have someone who a) understands social (this is where you go and find a millennial) and b) who wholeheartedly believes in its value as a tool for professionals. When a program struggles it’s never because of one reason, however, know that if you appoint a great admin you’ve given yourself one of the best chances for success.
Vendor not giving you the support you need
Finally, there’s the vendor. The vendor should serve two roles: 1) they should provide a best-of-breed platform that your employees actually want to use and 2) they (their team) should support you and your admin through all the stages of your implementation and growth.
To the first point, we like to say that it’s no one’s job to use an employee advocacy platform, which is why it’s so critically important that you provide your people with one they’re actually going to want to use. You’re probably nodding your head, but it goes deeper than that: the number one success factor for any employee advocacy program–regardless how big your company is, what your goals are, etc.–is employee engagement, which is how frequently and consistently your people are logging in and using your chosen platform.
I can also tell you that the #1 reason why companies have chosen EveryoneSocial after using a competitor platform for a year or longer was that they didn’t see good engagement numbers on that competitor platform. It’s simple: give your people a platform they’re actually going to want to use.
To the second point, most vendors simply sell software. That’s why we refer to them as vendors; here’s your software, now go away. If only it were that simple. Again, we have a long history of working with companies on their employee advocacy programs and I can tell you that every client has needed our team as a resource to plot their way to success. If you and your vendor aren’t thinking about your relationship as a long-term partnership, you’re setting yourself up for a big headache.
The reason is that no two programs are the same. Yes, there are some basic rules and best practices, but wouldn’t you like to have an expert with you every step of the way? I sure would, which is why we partner with every client we work with. In my mind, there’s no better way to ensure our mutual success.
Brands Engaged in Employee Advocacy
Now that we’ve talked a bit about the why, what, how, and where of employee advocacy, let’s look at some brands that are doing it right. The seven companies included below cover the spectrum of uses, from marketing to sales to communications, and hr.
Electronic Arts (Video Game Publisher)
When Andrew Wilson took the helm as CEO of Electronic Arts in 2014, he set out to focus the organization on three core strategic priorities: putting the players first, focusing on digital transformation in all areas of the business, and working together as one team. With 5,500 employees spread across 30 offices in six different geo-regions, the video game company was suffering from multiple, competing for internal cultures.
EA launched their employee advocacy program, called “EA Insiders” in 2014. Within a very short time employees from around the globe, we’re writing into the program managers about how much more connected they were to their coworkers. New members were sent official certificates and an EA Insiders stocker thanking them for joining and participating in the program and leaderboards and contests were created to spur friendly competition.
With thousands of active users across the globe, the EA Insiders program generates tens of thousands of social shares each month to a network of over 1.1M. Electronic Arts has done an amazing job with their employee advocacy program, which should serve as a model for any global consumer brand looking to better connect and leverage their teams. Read more about the EA Insiders program in this in-depth case study.
Dell (Tech Company)
Social media has been a core part of Dell’s marketing strategy for years. Dell was one of the earliest, large tech companies to deploy sentiment analysis and social media monitoring technology. However as time went on and Dell’s ambitions grew, it became clear that they needed a structured, centralized program and platform to realize their full vision.
Dell is truly a pioneer in the world of employee advocacy. In addition to having top-level executive support their program from its inception (as we talked about above, a key to any program’s success!), they were the first to encourage employees to find and share their own content in addition to what they were being provided by the Dell marketing team.
Empowering their employees to share content beyond news about Dell has been hugely central to the success of their program. Employees who participate in Dell’s program have shared hundreds of thousands of pieces of content since the program’s rollout and have driven tens of thousands of clicks back to Dell’s website. Get the complete Dell employee advocacy case study here.
Genesys (Tech Company)
Genesys was one of the first, if not the first company to take employee advocacy into the sales department. Since that time, Genesys has shown how social selling should be done and the lift it can drive. The Genesys social selling program has been in place since the beginning of 2015 and is deployed across their global salesforce. However, simply handing their salespeople a new tool wasn’t enough, they rightfully wanted to understand how social was driving revenue.
As a global organization, Genesys has sellers all over the world–in fact, the majority of their organization (including their sales teams) is remote. The Genesys approach to social selling is simple: every seller is unique and creating a top-performing sales organization (especially one that spans the globe) requires harnessing and enabling their unique styles. Sound familiar?
As detailed in our complete case study of their program, the results of Genesys’ efforts have served as the gold-standard for how other companies have approached deploying employee advocacy within their own sales teams. From increasing pipeline more than 2x to boosting win rates and deal sizes, Genesys has shown just how big of an impact social selling can have on a company’s bottom line.
Kelly Services (Staffing Agency)
In the year 2018, if a job seeker is missing a Linkedin profile picture, or their profile looks lackluster it’s unlikely that a recruiter is going to want to engage. This is why employee advocacy is such an important tool for the staffing and recruiting industry, and why Kelly Services is a leader in the space.
In 2010, Kelly Services hired the Altimeter Group to evaluate their social media marketing strategy. They wanted to put a social system in place that would set the foundation for a modern marketing strategy and that would attract new business and new talent.
“The first thing Altimeter recommended was employee advocacy,” said Lorrie Sole, Senior Marketing Manager at Kelly Services. “We have a large employee base, many of whom are active on social media. And it quickly became clear that if we could harness the power of our employees, we could outpace our corporate marketing channels 10x.”
Bill Oswin, a Recruiting Specialist for Kelly services put it this way: “Since I began using social media I have seen an uptick in the number of qualified connection requests on Linkedin and followers on Twitter. People now know what type of positions I have and that I’m active in the recruiting world.” We call that a win.
Ciena (Networking Equipment)
Like many organizations, what brought Ciena to employee advocacy was their desire to have employees be more active on social media, primarily to increase the reach of their brand. However and soon after launching their own employee advocacy program they realized it could also be leveraged to do the same with their channel partners.
For three years now Ciena has worked with EveryoneSocial to achieve both these goals: not only are their employees more engaged in social media, but their decision to include channel partners in their program has been a runaway success, so much so that two of their largest partners have now decided to launch employee advocacy programs of their own.
“A lot of our partners have asked me, ‘why do you do it? Why do you let all of these partners into your employee advocacy program?’” said Bo Gowan, Ciena’s Social Media Leader. “The benefit to us is simple: the platform’s ease of use means there is a very little incremental cost to us–from both a time and financial perspective–and it provides meaningful value for our partners.”
Get the complete Ciena case study, including detailed information on how they extended their employee advocacy program to include channel partners.
Coupa (Tech Company)
56% of younger employees (Gen Y’ers) say they wouldn’t accept a job unless they had access to social media while at work, and one third said they would prefer access to social media over a higher salary. “Instead of fighting employees’ desire to be on social, we’re choosing to embrace it,” said Kira Bernshteyn, Social Media Strategist at Coupa, a newly public software company.
“Social media has long been a part of our corporate culture,” Kira says, “and we have always encouraged our employees to use it to their advantage. In the early days, there were 80 employees in our company and I used to send out a weekly email featuring key company content we wanted to promote as well as pre-packaged shares they could post to Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.”
Over time, the process becomes unwieldy as it does for many companies. As the company grew to more than 1,000 employees, Coupa’s marketing function has become more sophisticated. As media coverage and content volume increased, aggregating new content and increasing a number of emails sent weekly become ineffective and caused sharing efforts among employees to plateau.
“Ultimately we decided that EveryoneSocial was the best platform for us,” Kira said. In January 2016, Coupa launched their employee advocacy program company-wide. Kira filled eight company streams with relevant content from corporate blogs, professional development and leadership seminars, partners’ Twitter accounts, and industry news and surveys. Employees began sharing that information with their own networks and in a single month quadrupled Coupa’s total reach across social media.
HPE (Tech Company)
HPE’s employee advocacy strategy is unique due to their use of our platform. It is a service that helps businesses unlock the power of employees in extending their social reach. With our platform, the company was able to easily curate, manage, and publish content on their chosen social media channels.
To help fuel their advocacy program, HPE offered incentives and guide employees on the proper way to interact with social media platforms. Gamification, in particular, is one of the effective tactics that increased their employees’ drive to advocate for the HPE brand.
Launching your own employee advocacy program
If you’ve made it this far you should give yourself a pat on the back. 🙂 You’ve read through a lot of information to get here, so let’s talk about how to launch your own employee advocacy program
Put together a simple plan
Every company is different. A great place to start your employee advocacy journey is putting together a simple plan that covers the why and the what. This plan will not only help you build internal support for a program, it will help you select the right vendor. More than anything your plan should outline your goals: what does success look like and why? Are you looking to increase brand reach and reduce the cost of paid spend on social? Are you looking to better enable your salespeople to help them boost pipeline and accelerate sales cycles? Are you looking to increase employee retention and recruitment? We’re all for having an employee advocacy program for the sake of it, but the degree to which you can tie your program to real, solid goals the bigger an impact you’ll have on the business.
Secure the support of your executives
As mentioned above, executive support is an important factor in the success of any program and when you’re looking to secure their support for a program you should reach as high up as you can, to the CEO if possible. Maybe your CEO isn’t that active on social media? No worries, find others who are, especially in sales, marketing, communications, and hr. Most importantly you need to make sure your boss or your boss’s boss (the one who is going to approve the program and sign the check) is all in because ultimately they’ll be the one touting it to the rest of the executive team.
So what does getting executive support mean? Beyond your boss or boss’s boss, it’s a great idea to reach across departments and get them and their teams involved! Especially with executives, include some of them in your first group of users; it’s a win for them because they’re getting a chance to boost their public profiles (and what executive isn’t interested in that? answer: they all do) and it’s a win for you because you now have people involved that can help spread your program to their teams and advocate for more resources. Don’t expect to get them all involved day one, but you should have no trouble recruiting a handful.
Select a platform vendor
The all-important vendor selection. While we are 100% biased, we can offer a few points of advice having gone through hundreds of RFPs, reviews, presentations, etc.
- Cull your list of potential vendors down to those that work with companies like yours. Are you B2B company with 5,000 employees primarily doing business in North America and EMA? Probably doesn’t make sense for you to select a vendor that primarily works with companies that have less than 500 employees.
- Talk to their customers. Ask the vendors for customer referrals and make sure that those vendors don’t participate in those phone calls; should be just you and the customer. This is your opportunity to really probe and ask the questions you probably wouldn’t ask the vendor; customers are far more willing to spill the beans. Don’t skip this step!
- Get access to the product. Sounds simple, but it’s a good idea to have an in-depth understanding of the product. Beyond getting a scripted demo of the platform, make sure you and your team get access to a sandbox account. Look and feel and usability is important and you need to get in there to really understand how a solution stacks up.
- When in doubt, try before you buy. More accurately, pilot before you buy! If a vendor is confident that you’ll be successful on their platform they should have no problem supporting you for a 30-60 day pilot. It’s VERY important that you select the right vendor and as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding!
Find your initial group of users
For the most part, employee advocacy programs don’t go from zero to thousands of users on their first day. Some do, but suffice it to say that those companies are already experienced/set up to launch a program at scale. For most, starting out on the smaller side is generally a good bet. It’s all about showing success at every step; an employee advocacy program is something that doesn’t have a time limit, and if you come charging out of the gate and fall on your face it’s going to be hard to recover.
On average, most employee advocacy programs begin with a few hundred users. So who should those users be? They should be employees that are already active on social media, preferably those who are active in a professional capacity (i.e., they believe in its value). Not only are you not going to need to train these people, they are going to serve as the shining examples for everyone else you’re going to invite following your initial launch. These early adopters are important: they’ll give you great feedback, they’ll build the visibility of the program, they’ll help you recruit more users, etc. Start with a strong base.
Appoint your program admin
The program admin has most likely been a key part of the process up until this point, however, it’s very important that there is a clear understanding of who is going to be responsible for the program on a day-to-day basis going forward. This person typically sits in the social media or comms department. What are the qualities of a great admin? They need to care, they need to believe in the power of social media and employee advocacy, they need to be an expert on current social best practices, and they should really enjoy working with people and not be afraid of connecting with others across the organization.
Set up your check-in schedule
An employee advocacy program is a constantly moving, evolving animal, which is why it’s important for all of the stakeholders to get together on a regular basis. Ultimately this check-in schedule is up to you, however, we typically recommend that your program admin have calls with their counterpart at the vendor once every two weeks and that you do a deeper review with your executive sponsor once a quarter. This should be more than sufficient to 1) make sure the program stays on course and 2) to communicate the value of the program and its significance to your business.
Pull the trigger!
Invite your users! Now, even though you’re likely only inviting a few hundred users to start, the key is to get as close to 100% adoption as possible. Simply pushing the send button on a form email probably isn’t going to yield the best results. Think about how people communicate in your organization: what would be the best way to get their attention? This may not seem all that important with a few hundred users (after all, you could just email them one-by-one), but it becomes critically important when you take that next step and invite thousands.
Looking for a complete launch plan? This employee advocacy launch guide will ensure your success.
Hopefully, this post has helped you develop a greater appreciation for employee advocacy and how a program could help your company drive better results in the areas of marketing, sales, communications, and HR.
As mentioned at the outset of this post, we believe employee advocacy applies to companies of all types and sizes: social media is the latest frontier in business and it’s only just getting started. Moving forward with establishing your own program puts you in the enviable position of being an early adopter; there are far fewer risks than there were a few short years ago, however many of the opportunities have been amplified.