Employee advocacy is a hot topic; it’s the form of workforce marketing that really gives the power to the people. Think, ‘straight form the horse’s mouth’ as an underlying principle here. Instead of relying solely on official, corporate messages as the means to marketing the business, employee advocacy is all about embracing the individuality of current employees and getting them to promote their company in their own way on social media. Sure, there needs to be guidelines in place, but the idea is to let the people closest to the business sell it passively.
What is Rackspace and what do you do there?
Absolutely, so Rackspace is the number one managed cloud provider and we offer expertise and support across all the world’s leading clouds. We’re based on six core values including things like passion for our work and treating others like friends and family. I always jokingly refer to myself as The Social Enablement Strategist because I’m the only one. So I am responsible for our global employee advocacy program.
What prompted Rackspace to launch an employee advocacy program and what were the primary goals?
There were two initial challenges that we were having on the social team. The first one is that, you know and this is sort of 2013, it was really easy for people to dismiss the social team as just watching Twitter all day. I think there was just a need to sort of educate about the potential and the value that the social team was bringing to the business as a whole.
And then the second part of that was as the social team, we were in charge of enforcing social guidelines and policy. And that kind of gave us a bad reputation as the social police. So at the time we did have a social policy but it was a piece of paper that a lot of employees signed on their first day of work, you know, with hundreds of other pieces of paper. And so when it came to actually using social media, there was a lot of, we called them coaching opportunities.
So we really thought, gosh, there’s an opportunity to really help give some context around the policy and guidelines so that employees not only understand what they mean and why we need to be cautious about them, but also understand what that means when they’re about to hit post or tweet.
Where is the social media training program now?
We’ve definitely evolved from there. So initially, when we started out, I’ll honestly say that the majority of the requests that we got for training was around LinkedIn. So a lot of employees, especially in sales and recruiting wanted to improve their LinkedIn profiles. So in all honesty I kind of wanted to go where people wanted me, so I started initially with this sort of 30-minute LinkedIn workshop that I would deliver as part of team meetings and then tried to sort of squeeze in some little bits about compliance and policy into that.
And after doing that for about six months, I realized that wasn’t working very well. I’m not scalable, so I was kind of running around going to lots and lots of different meetings. And then in the end, 30 minutes really isn’t enough to get down into the nuances of social media and how to use it on the job. So after kind of giving that a go and a pilot, I took a step back and said, you know, I actually need this to be formalized training.
And initially we built out two courses. So the first course is that foundation course where we get to take a deep dive into the business value of social media and into the policy and into the Rackspace strategy. And that’s the required course to then be able to go on and take our LinkedIn workshop. So I was able to build those out into two sort of proper courses. They’re both two hours each and it really gave employees an opportunity to ask the questions and get the clarification that they needed.
What problems did you hope employee advocacy would solve for the organisation?
What I did is I actually had to take a step back and say, “Wait a second. All of our employees really need to have the same foundation before we can kind of get into those specific use cases.”
One of our challenges that we saw is if I say social media to you and you’re thinking about Twitter and somebody else is thinking about LinkedIn, we’re going be having very different conversations and expectations. And so a lot of what we had to do was just create a baseline of, “Hey, the value of social media is the ability to connect, share, get feedback, network in real time.”
So that was really the strategy that we took and we found it to be working really well as in employees, once they have that foundation, we find them reaching out and making connections across different orgs, you know, thinking more strategically and holistically about social media and really building up into those use cases such as social selling and social recruiting in a much stronger way.
Do you provide your employees with content to share on social media? If so, what content is performing the best?
The neat thing that we’ve done now is we’ve really set this foundation mindset conversation around social media internally and I think we’re actually have evolved enough that we’re ready to start exploring a content sharing tool. And I’m actually excited for that. So in the meantime, in the interim, what we’ve been doing is really giving employees agency over what they share and how they share it.
We’ve got different newsletters that come out internally. We’ve got our internal intranet. We have our social ambassadors which is a group of social experts that actually are creating content and have an impressive presence online. And so they are great examples across the business of how to integrate social. And so what I do is I really highlight these opportunities for employees and say, “Depending on your topic, depending on your product, here are some different avenues for you to get content.” And really give employees agency over where they go get that content because, honestly, we’ve got some sort of niche products and markets across the business and I wouldn’t want employees to get overwhelmed with having to be plugged into one content funnel, if that’s not what was really relevant to their job.
What have the benefits of social advocacy been to the company and to employees?
One of the interesting pieces that I’ve learned from talking with other people that occupy an employee advocacy role in their company is that I actually get to kind of enjoy in the employee engagement piece of this as well because I’m not so focused on demand gen or driving content. I think that one of the biggest transformations has been in employees’ attitudes around social. So, again, the way we built the program out, we were really able to create a positive discussion around how to use social media. Employees really felt that the company supported them in doing this.
And so I think that that’s one of those unexpected fringe benefits of a program like this is having employees really feel like we’re helping them put their best foot forward. And I think that it’s one of those very hard ones to measure and again it wasn’t something that we anticipated as part of this program.
Do you find that employees in this program are more engaged in their jobs?
Yes, absolutely. And I’m excited to add an anecdote from this morning. So one of the teams that I’m working with right now is one of our technical storage teams, and so intuitively you wouldn’t naturally think like, “Well, their storage team it’s very internal, they’re very direct customer focused.” You might not instinctively think that social media could have an impact on them but their manager came through training. We had a really fantastic conversation and we started to realize that these storage experts are just a wealth of information that they’re not necessarily documenting and sharing.
How do you measure success of this program?
Yeah, so measuring success has evolved with the program. So honestly, initially, when we were starting to launch training, it was just all about attendance. We were really trying to fill those classes and see if people had an interest for this.
On the sales side we’re actually able to measure the social selling index, so the SSI, for our sales reps, so that is another piece of data that we add in to sort of seeing the progression of the program. And it was really exciting I think just a few weeks ago LinkedIn highlighted our Rackspace UK team as one of the top ten companies in regards to our social selling index. So that’s been really exciting to see. But then we’re also able to, you know, in a macro level, see employee network amplification across certain platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. They’re able to provide us with some of those analytics for engagement. So at this point I take those multiple data points and sort of wrap them into an overall view of what the program’s accomplishing.
What’s next for social employee advocacy at Rackspace?
Yeah, so I will say that our next step will be to launch an employee advocacy tool. So we’re already vetting options. And I’m honestly really excited at this point because again as I mentioned I think we’ve really built the foundation and I think it’s going to be an easier transition. If we had done it the other way, I think it would have been a little bit more challenging, like starting with the tool instead of the training. So I’m actually excited to launch this.
Then there’s social listening, having those meaningful one-on-one conversations, networking, listening to industry insights, these are all pieces of our social media training that have been there from the beginning. And I’m actually starting to hear from other companies that they’re starting to make that shift that as well like they had that initial focus on sharing the content and now they want to kind of expand to a deeper strategy.
Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @CreatingLiz.