Why Our Employee Advocacy Program is Working

By: Brandon Chesnutt

In 2011, Inc. Magazine published a contributor post from best-selling author Harvey Mackay with the title, “All My Employees Are in Sales.” The basic gist of the article, to paraphrase Harvey, is that every employee represents the company with their actions, and every employee is invested in the success of the organization. Simple message, but a powerful one.

In the social-media age, employees have the opportunity to serve as marketers and salespeople at scale. They can reach out and tap their network on the shoulder with the few clicks of a mouse. While simply posting on social media and staying in front of contacts digitally does not replace face-to-face networking, it helps fill the gaps between phone calls and lunches.

I’m a big fan of employee advocacy programs that leverage the digital networks of employees, and I’ve blogged about the opportunities associated with implementing such programs on several occasions. Identity also has experienced the good fortune of helping several clients build programs designed to help them maximize their media coverage and owned content on social channels. With Altimeter reporting that interest in employee advocacy programs have grown more than 191% since 2013, I feel comfortable knowing that we’ve had a seat at this table for awhile.

But, I’m also a fan of using our own agency as a proving ground for such programs. So, we put together our own agency employee advocacy program. Here are some of the results.

Last year, Identity employees shared 1,928 pieces of industry content. This resulted in 2.8 million impressions, 4,137 content clicks and 1,608 likes, shares and comments. More importantly, employee content sharing drove more than 2,700 sessions to the Identity website. Of those visitors, nearly 50% of them were first-time visitors to our website. There were also plenty of goal completions and conversions. All good things.

How did we get to this point? Here are the elements we put in place to make our employee advocacy program work.

Invest in constant content production
We produce content like crazy. Our blog alone is home to more than 1,080 blog posts on industry topics, best practices and our perspectives on all things communications. We also have a regular feed of links related to public relations, social media and creative design flowing through our Twitter account. This is a key brick in the foundation.

When you commit to an employee advocacy program, and receive buy-in from participants, they need to be fed content on a consistent basis. Like any other social channel, it needs fuel to keep the engine running. Luckily, we already had the content production angle covered.

Another key point in our program: we focused on pushing out agency content. In fact, it was a priority. While our strategy for channels like Twitter is to aggregate posts from other sources we feel are interesting, we could not rely on third-party content alone. We would constantly be sending our audiences to off-site destinations, and not to our website. We lose the opportunity to share more about our services and capabilities.

Third-party content – especially media placements that feature your organization and provide credibility – is great for programs still in their infancy. However, graduating to sharing company-created content should be a priority.

That brings me to my next point..

Track employee activity
Before posts are shared to social channels by employees, we create custom Google campaign links through the URL builder. By adding UTM tracking codes, we can follow how traffic enters our site as a result of employee shares.

For example, our employee advocacy efforts are typically bringing new visitors to our site (more than 50% of the total campaign visits). We also see just under a 20% Goal completion rate for one of our primary website KPIs, giving us more “at bats” with potential clients or hires.

Tracking employee referral activity allows us to pair qualitative metrics and anecdotes with some hard numbers. But that tracking only works if employees share content.

This brings me to my final point..

Lower barriers to sharing with technology
When I ask in-house marketers and company decision makers if they want employees and sales team members sharing approved company content, the answer is (almost) always yes. Why wouldn’t they want to encourage the promotion of positive news or thought leadership?

At the same time, we’ve also talked with employees, and they also want to share company content. In some cases, in-house marketers have already tried sending employees approved content and links with instruction to “share on social media.” It’s like the initial spark when the match is about to be lit.

Unfortunately, most in-house marketers experience a false start with their initial advocacy efforts. Social media sharing, as simple and intuitive as it may be for some, is never at the top of an employee’s to-do list. It can quickly find its way to the bottom of their work pile. Even asking an employee to copy and paste recommended status updates can feel like a daunting task. Time and everyday workplace distractions create near-impenetrable barriers. A 10-15 second activity feels like it could take hours.

The only way around this challenge is to make the sharing process so easy and simple, the excuse of “I didn’t get to it” is eliminated. That’s why we invested in an employee advocacy platform in 2015. In short, these services automate the distribution of content to employees and provide one-touch sharing options. Employee profiles are synced with popular social networks, making the sharing process almost seamless. The experience of using such a platform over the past year has been awesome.

While there are several great platforms out there – through EveryoneSocial, Sprinklr and even Linkedin’s Elevate platform – I found Dynamic Signal to be simple and easy to use. The mobile notification component ensured our participating employees were quickly alerted to new content and could share it with the push of a button.

I can also tag content by practice area and segment posts by source, such as the agency or third-party websites. The gamification layer, which awards points based on content shared and the reactions of your network, adds another level of “competitiveness.”

What have we accomplished?
Everyone in our company now has an opportunity to market our services and promote thought leadership to their networks of trusted connections and potential clients, hires or referral sources. Our employee advocacy efforts are also designed to track the impact our employees make on our digital presence. Most important, we made the process simple and easy for our team members to share great company news.

Much to my satisfaction, it looks like we are well on our way.