What's the worst that could happen?
We all know the story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Goldilocks helps herself to some porridge, finding that one bowl is too hot and the other too cold, before coming to the one that’s just right.
If Goldilocks is your target customer, then it’s your employees who know how to create that perfect bowl of porridge. When your employees become advocates for your brand, they provide just the right balance of relevance, authority and authenticity to keep your customers coming back for seconds.
Businesses are more interested than ever in launching employee advocacy programs. These initiatives enable employees to promote their company on their own channels. In fact, 1 in 3 of all high-growth firms now have a formal program in place. But before you prepare to launch one of your own, you must remember the most important part of employee advocacy: your employees!
So how do you get them on board and ensure the program hits its sweet spot?
Have a good hard look at your culture
Trust is paramount to successful employee advocacy efforts. Employees must believe in the brand’s values and mission and feel confident sharing them. Most importantly, employers need to trust their staff to take the microphone for a change. This can be a difficult shift in the company’s mindset but without it, you can’t move forward.
Similarly, business leaders must accept that the exercise isn’t compulsory. While you pay your employees, they’re not paid spokespeople! Besides, the point of employee advocates is that customers trust them more than the brand. If they’re not making the choice to share, inauthenticity will be obvious to your customers.
Involve and include
Employee advocacy improves engagement with partners and customers but it can also make a big difference internally. Studies show a disengaged employee can cost an organization up to $10,000 in profit a year.
Alternatively, socially engaged employees are more optimistic and more likely to connect with others beyond their core team. Seek feedback from the employees you want to engage. Find out which parts of the brand inspire the most passion, get their insight on how to spread the message to their friends, and discuss how it could best fit into their regular responsibilities.
Empower and guide
Programs must have an appropriate status within the business. Employees must be encouraged, managed and supported along the way. Investing the time and resources, whether via one-on-one training, webinars or workshops, not only upskills your team but establishes expectations and sets up your employees to succeed.
Empowerment is the key goal here. You want your employees to feel confident amplifying content while also making it their own and understand the power that it has. Ground rules to ensure consistency is important, but avoid being pedantic or prescriptive; the message must be in their voice to be authentic. Trust is key and empowering your employees is different from trying to control exactly what they say.
Curate and create
There are dozens of new tools to help with content curation, distribution and sharing. Some businesses might opt for automated daily or weekly emails, while others might prefer real-time push notifications to encourage immediate social sharing. Easily-accessible content hubs can also help proactive employees find and share the latest information.
But the tools don’t mean anything without a content strategy. Your strategy should reflect the unique business goals and priorities for your teams and help you deliver the right content at the right time to the right employees. Employees are more likely to share content that is relevant to their personal and professional interests.
Recognise and reward
A successful employee advocacy program should track, measure and reward top advocates.
Develop a points system for contributing, sharing and driving engagement and gamify with badges or a team-based leaderboard. Share top advocate content through your brand channels, or repurpose their content in your hub for others to share. You can even include it as part of their role’s success metrics or recognise advocates internally.
Offering recognition and other tangible benefits will help the program take off in the long run and eventually it will become a key part of your culture.
You need buy-in from your staff along each step to ensure success. If the program is too difficult to implement, too confusing to pick up or not well supported for the long haul, you are going to be wasting a heck of a lot of good porridge!