Could your business benefit from introducing an employee advocacy program? We’ve had a chat with Mikael Lauharanta, the co-founder of Smarp,  to find out all about how to create a successful employee advocacy program.

Why companies need employee advocacy

There’s obviously internal and external goals for the company regarding employee advocacy and it’s something that they probably have already done without knowing. So the term is really new but for example a lot of companies that we talked to, they’re already sending emails to their employees asking them to share, for example, open positions or if there’s some industry news. But in the end it all boils down from the company side, how can they reach more people in a more relatable fashion?

And if you ask companies what their goals are on digital nowadays, it’s usually all about increasing the reach. But I think more importantly, there are soft values and internal values for the company about showing they trust their employees, they’re okay with them going on social media, actually trying to help them gain their own personal benefits and achieve their own personal business goals on social media. So I think those kinds of internal engagement and empowerment gains are more important in employee advocacy.

The key elements of an employee advocacy strategy

I think first of all the most important thing is to get the positioning right, and the internal communication. So they should position it as a tool really for employees and how can these employees become better at what they do to reach some of their KPIs or their personal business objectives. And then only through that correct positioning that it’s a tool really for the employees, then the company can also reach some of the goals that they have put forth regarding their employee advocacy program.

Obviously another step is identifying the user group that they want to roll out with. So sometimes we’ve had clients that want to roll out right away for everybody. Sometimes they have identified that they might have a brand ambassador program going on and then it’s natural that those people are the first ones that are going to get a crack at it, so to speak. But, yeah, have the positioning right, then identify the target group and carefully do the internal communication and hopefully also include the leadership in that and show some examples.

And obviously then have a program manager as well, somebody who’s responsible, looking after the program. Not necessarily doing everything themselves but making sure that everything works well, and that there’s good communication also between us and the company. And then eventually the program hopefully starts growing organically but obviously doesn’t stop with sending out the invitations. It needs fresh content updating and taking care that it gets off to a good start and then after that hopefully grows organically.

How to measure return on investment on an employee advocacy program

There are several different ways you can arrive at a monetary value and also the return on investment. Obviously it depends on the kind of KPIs that the company has set for themselves. But the most obvious thing is when we can see, okay, how many clicks the company is getting from which networks in a certain time period. We can then look at how much they would be paying if they compared that to what they would be paying if they bought advertising from Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. And we also know how much they have paid to us in that time period, then we can just compare, okay, what is the return on investment multiplier in this case? We call it the estimated earned media value, the price of those clicks on social media.

But obviously it goes further than that so we track the website traffic with UTM tags as well, so if they have conversions on their website, for example to purchase products or to apply for a certain position and then we can tell okay, these people actually came through SmarpShare and did this on your website. They can look at the bounce rate, what pages inside the website they take a look at. So really there’s a lot of measurement and analytics that you can get out of using employee advocacy platforms.

The top benefits for employees

There’s a lot of things and it all starts with your own professional brand on social media. So if you have good content to share to your professional network then you’re going to increase your thought leadership status and it’s going to help you reach some of your own personal business objectives. If you’re in sales, it can help you get more leads in and obviously create more business. If you’re in recruiting, you might reach more people, more relevant people, get better applications or more applications. If you’re in marketing, you’re going to look at the cost per click at what you’re doing on and your digital footprint. So regardless of your job function it can help you.

And in the end I was also talking about those people that are already on social media and doing professional networking and being active on LinkedIn, the benefit for them is the ease of use and the time saved, so they don’t have to go around and look for good articles anymore. It’s kind of tailor made for them and they can just pick and choose the ones that they like and share them instantly from the same platform to different sources.

And yes, sometimes it’s about the recognition, so in the form of they know that somebody knows that their actions are not going to go unnoticed and they can get a pat on the back for their good work on social media. Because there’s a lot of unmanaged employee participation going on already, so it’s just a way to take it a step further.

The future of employee advocacy

I feel like it’s going to become more of a standard, so I don’t know if it’s going to happen in the next three years but it’s going to move into the direction of, okay, the companies look at employee advocacy like they look at CRMs. Obviously you’re going to need a CRM, so companies are going to look at employee advocacy platforms as well so we need this and we just need to choose who we want to move forward with.

And the other thing that I witnessed is that companies are looking at communications from an entirely different perspective nowadays. They’re turning it upside down, so instead of thinking, “How can we communicate so that it’s the most beneficial for the company?” They are actually starting to think, “Okay, what sort of communication is the most beneficial for our employees which are, in the end, the most valuable resource that the company has?” And it’s been great to be a part of this transformation.

Connect with Mikael on Twitter @mlauha and LinkedIn.

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About Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO at Link Humans, a social and digital marketing agency.

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