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Employee advocacy is more important than ever. Here’s why

The biggest misunderstanding about employee advocacy? That it’s just about sharing content. You mail out a bunch of social posts, ask people to share on LinkedIn or Twitter and boom. Job done.

Except it isn’t.  In fact, you’re more likely to annoy the hell out of your employees – and their connections – when the LinkedIn feed is jammed with dozens of identical posts. 

Employee advocacy is not a mass cut-and-paste exercise across social media. It requires time, training and careful planning.

In this post, I’ll explain how I worked with one international client to build an impactful employee advocacy programme that included people at every level of the business including the CEO and other senior stakeholders.

1. Find your social media champions

First, I carried out an audit of employees who were using Twitter and LinkedIn regularly. They already had a strong social presence and were sharing posts and content with a healthy community of followers.  

It took time to win their trust. They’d invested a lot of time building their online brand and were initially reluctant to join an employee advocacy programme.

I pointed out that they’d get instant access to a fast-growing network of fellow professionals—plus a steady stream of premium content that they could personalise and share with their followers.

Then I assembled a second, larger group: People who had social accounts but were much less active. Some were already retweeting or commenting on posts from the first group. Others contacted me directly, keen to sprinkle a bit of social media magic dust over their social profile.

To make sure that we always had new faces in the group and to keep up with employee churn, we also put the employee advocacy programme at the heart of our social media induction sessions.

By the end of the year, we had about 60 active social media advocates sharing content in an organisation of about 5,000 people. Every week I sent them posts, via email, that they could adapt for their own channels. Later on, these posts were distributed via a dedicated employee advocacy platform (see #5 below).

I also divided employees into three groups and shared content on different days to keep distribution as even as possible across the week—and avoid the spamming situation described in the introduction.

2. Encourage your employee advocates to network

I next set up a series of coaching sessions where I encouraged participants to grow their network, especially on LinkedIn.

Here, the trick is to widen your horizons gradually. Connecting with workplace colleagues and former co-workers means you can share content and engage with a familiar group of people to begin with. As you strengthen your profile (and the LinkedIn algorithm notices) start searching for people with similar professional interests.

Remember, there are no short cuts. These days you should always send a note with a LinkedIn connection request to avoid being ignored. Anyone serious about building up their network needs to spend about 30 minutes per day to keep up the momentum. This wasn’t suited to everyone, and we had a few dropouts at this point.  But their places were quickly snapped up as word got around.

3. Company-wide ‘hygiene’

What about the wider workforce?

We encouraged every employee to check their LinkedIn profile and update the most important elements. For example, did they have a professional photo? Was their current employee status up to date including a link to the company LinkedIn page?

We didn’t mandate these steps but provided guidance for people who wanted to optimise their profiles.  

4. Get buy-in from the top

Getting 15 minutes with the CEO to explain the importance of employee advocacy took a bit of effort. Especially when the CEO in question thought that social was only for celebrities or viewing cat memes.

But I got that 15 minutes slot in the end. With little time to waste, I Googled his job title and industry.

Up came the first search results page: A list of his peers and rivals including their LinkedIn profiles and even a few Twitter handles. But the CEO was nowhere to be seen.

That got the message across. Within a week, we’d revamped his LinkedIn profile and he was sharing daily updates. Six months on, and he’d doubled his connections and profile views. His example encouraged other employees to take part, helping us to increase the advocacy network by one third.

The important lesson about the C-suite is that they often have the most connections, especially on LinkedIn. In many cases, they have more influence than the company’s own branded accounts, so it’s important that they are involved.

5. Introduce a bit of competition

To manage the programme as it expanded, we subscribed to an employee advocacy platform where participants could access content and share it on their network.  

Every employee had their own dashboard where they could measure their achievements including the number of posts shared and post engagement . The platform also included a ranking table which led to some serious competition between offices as they vied for top spot each month.

As the project lead, I used my admin privileges to retrieve data and analytics for the head of marketing while using the results to recalibrate my strategy. Which posts and articles got the most shares? Who was most active by demographic and location? How could we encourage less active employees to participate with more energy?

Your employees have changed. Have you?

Having got so far through this article, you’re now probably wondering whether employee advocacy is the right tactic for your business. In today’s post-pandemic world, I think it is.

Over the past two years, remote working is now the norm in many organisations.  What people used to say at the watercooler, they now share on social media. Most of all, lockdowns have brought home to people the importance of their personal brand. Employee advocacy isn’t just about widening the distribution of a brand’s content; it’s about helping people to make the most of their online presence.

Help your colleagues to build a productive and positive digital presence, and they’ll be more willing to support their employer in return.

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