Employer Branding

Employee Advocacy: How to Reach Beyond Your Company’s Social Channels

How does a company get started with employee advocacy? I recently had a chat with Ben Donkor who is a Social Media, Online & Innovations Analyst at BT.

You can listen to the audio podcast on iTunesStitcher & Soundcloud (above) or keep reading for an abridged transcript of our conversation. A longer version is available at Link Humans. Questions by me, answers by Ben.

What is employee advocacy?

Employee advocacy is not just a buzzword. It is an expression that people use when they are referring to the exposure you can get when staff and employees share your content as themselves on their personal channels. Usually, the personal channels are social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc and can also include other assets. That goes from email to chat to their own blogs perhaps, anything that’s online as well as share of voice, of course.

Why is employee advocacy important to companies?

The main reason why it’s quite important for the company I work with [BT] is that employees can go into various other social channels that are not in our brand social strategy. For instance, at the moment, your strategy might just cover Facebook and Twitter, whereas your staff are on other channels, like Reddit or Pinterest. At least you have that extended reach. Of course, you also have that trust and loyalty that you get when your employees talk to their own friends and relatives. It’s that loyalty and that factor of trust that you may not be able to get as a brand, but your employees can definitely get it for you.

Is it a benefit to have a company with lots of employees?

It is. Actually, we are part of a big company, a global company but our digital team is relatively small, compared to other ones anyway. It is still a program that we run and has actually been really great for us. At the moment, we are using it mainly for, surprisingly, Reddit, and it is a huge driver of traffic to us. It is only a traffic driver because we started with employee advocacy. You could identify that as a great channel to post content and drive that traffic, but also to build those relationships with the employees that you do have, so why not utilise that for BT as well?

How is employee advocacy of use to employees?

Various reasons. First of all, you are being seen as the guru, as the go-to person if someone needs anything about your brand. For instance, people will come to me if they have any issues with the broadband at their own house. They don’t just see me as someone who works for BT, but also see me as the information hub for BT. So, if they have any questions on our latest offers or perhaps they think I can get any deals for them, any exclusive news about BT or any of our products, they will come to me because they know that I can provide that. So, it’s useful for employers to give that knowledge to employees, as people from outside will already see your employees as that kind of hub.

What if all your friends come to you with broadband issues?

It could be an issue if you’re just doing it as a one-man-band. However, there are various examples of other brands like Dell, for instance, who have their own knowledge available for all employees. As soon as someone comes to you with a question, you can just go back into that application or forum. Just type in keywords like ‘broadband faulty.’ You’ll have a list of links you can then share with them. This is not a tedious task for you to go through. Also, it can be useful links for yourself as well. That aside, it’s not just about people able to come to you with information. It is also about being able to seen as an influencer around that. Perhaps it may not sound appealing to be a BT influencer, but at least an influencer when it comes to the latest deal, or the latest gadget, the latest phone, things that you might want to be personally. So, now you have your own brand pushing it and giving you that content to enable you to be just that.

Do employees get rewards for being advocates?

There are options to get a few badges on your profile. So, for instance, at BT, we have an internal Sharepoint. Next to each name, you collect a few badges, kind of like the army, really. Whether you’ve completed an internal scheme or a really quick campaign that your MD wants to reward you for, you start getting those buttons next to your name. It goes a long way when it comes to recognition, not just in terms of wages and money or prizes but also in terms of anyone can look up for you and see that you’ve got this many badges. That aside, you also start building that influence, not only outside, but also within your own company. So, that all comes in as part of your rewards, really.

What pitfalls should companies avoid?

The first pitfall is when you are setting guidelines, you might be tempted to impose those guidelines on employees. It’s fine to have barriers and boundaries just so you know that, “Okay, beyond this point, you do not share,” and it could be sensitive information or perhaps news you are not allowed to share with the public just yet. Just make sure those are reasonable guidelines and don’t appear as restrictions. Otherwise, it will just look like just another task or another duty to people.

Employee advocacy needs to be something appealing, something that your staff will want to do anyway. You’re just giving them a tool to do it, instead of turning that fun activity into just another chore they need to do in their 9-to-5.

Another pitfall is making sure that those guidelines cater to everything they pretty much everything they don’t want to happen, things like improper sharing, whether it’s speculations or sharing sensitive information. If your staff participates in any controversial conversations, those are things you don’t want to ideally deal with. So, make sure you have guidelines for that and also backup plans in case any of that happens. So, that could be a pitfall, that you’re not prepared for the worst. Always hope for the best, but just make sure you have a backup plan just in case anything happens.

How would you measure ROI on employee advocacy programs?

There are some soft metrics and, by soft metrics, I mean those based in metrics like reach or impressions, traffic, how much traffic are we directing. There are a few metrics that are more of interest to other teams, like your sales teams. How many sales have been driven through employees? When it comes to things like that, you need to stick with a currency value when you are talking to them. That would also fit into your ROI of employee advocacy.

Other really essential metrics would be NPS, Net Promoter Score. That measures the sentiment or brand perception around you as a company. You need to, first of all, measure that before you start the employee advocacy and then keep on measuring it on a regular basis throughout your employee advocacy program. Then, see how that employee advocacy scheme is helping you improve NPS as well as your share of voice out there as well.

More on this topic at Employee Advocacy: The Ultimate Handbook.