Employee Advocacy is a concept that’s been around for ages. From Avon to Tupperware, those company’s employees aren’t just selling their wares from 9-5.

The most successful people in those industries genuinely love the products they sell and rave about them because they honestly believe in them. Most of this effusive praise takes place off the clock and in typical social situations but results in sales. Albeit more indirectly, this same concept rings true in nearly every industry.

 In fact, 84% of folks trust product/service recommendations from a person they know, whereas only 15% will trust the same message from the brand itself.

The advent and adoption of social media has upped the ante significantly in this regard.

Suddenly, the message of those employee advocates became significantly more valuable. A single message of praise for your company can be dramatically amplified to an audience that considers the sharer a trusted source. On the flip side of the coin, the sharing of a blog post or news release about your newest product can raise the profile of the sharing employee, raising their prestige as a voice in their industry and putting their expertise on display.

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the ways Employee Advocacy can help both employee and employer while strengthening the relationship and culture.

 

How can employee advocacy benefit my company?

Employee advocacy is free advertising! And not just free, but also more effective marketing and advertising. We live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with advertisements and marketing messaging. The truth is that many people have learned to tune it out. When is the last time you clicked on one of Facebook’s right rail ads?

If you’re like most people, your brain has been conditioned over time to ignore everything on that area of the page. More than 4 out of 5 consumers completely ignore online ads and the number using an Ad-Blocker grows each day. Ads are inherently untrustworthy as they have been paid for to provide benefit to the advertiser alone.

People, on the other hand, are your friends, family, and business partners who you choose to connect with on social media because their thoughts and opinions provide value. This gives the messages of your employee advocates a natural credibility and trustworthiness that cannot be duplicated with paid ads.

Many people are quick to jump on the bandwagon with simply the idea they can use employees as free billboards and run with it. This would be a mistake! The people working for you are more than just a production asset, and your company’s culture goes hand in hand with employee advocacy to make your office a better place to work.

Doing so will severely limit the potential of your efforts, and is likely to backfire with negative consequences.

Once you have a culture that can support an employee advocacy initiative the resulting value of each quickly multiplies. When employees feel valued and proud of the company they work for, they will feel more invested in their work and have a sense of ownership in shared results. This will cultivate a natural desire for them to share with their friends, family, and industry colleagues. Engaging your workforce in an employee advocacy program also works the other way too, and will strengthen the buy-in to the company’s culture. This can also have a huge effect on your recruiting efforts.

Employee referrals have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate for employers. While accounting for only 7% of applications, they make up 40% of hires. When people see their friend or family member raving about how great their job is, it creates interest in others to join your team.

 

But what’s in it for the employee?

Starting an employee advocacy program will give your employees a sense of empowerment, knowing that there is a certain level of trust being extended to them. In addition, it further cultivates the pride they have in working for your company and provides another avenue for them to contribute to the success of the organization.

In fact, 86% of employees who participate in an Employee Advocacy program said their involvement had a positive impact on their career.

To keep the feeling going, it’s important that your employee advocacy guidelines come across as more of a what they can do, as opposed to limits and rules about what they can’t do to be employee advocates.

We’re also living in an age where many people are creating and maintaining their own personal, professional brands online on social media. These employees are the most likely to be aware of the benefits of employee advocacy and should be the first ones you approach when creating your own program. These folks have worked to create their own engaged audiences of professionals and friends in a chosen industry or niche interest.

In sharing content or experiences related to their work, they can put their industry expertise on display and grow their thought leadership in the industry. This also helps the company, because, in addition to the added reach for content, it showcases the talent you have working for you!

 

How do I get started?

Oftentimes it can be as simple as letting your employees know that it’s okay to share the company’s content, especially if you have those employees who are also invested in their personal branding. Getting these employees onboard early can help grease the wheels to get others on board. Because they are already highly involved with the online world, let them be your advocacy champions who can lead the rest of the pack by example.

By sharing their results, you can generate interest in participation, and they can also act as mentors and guides for those who want to but don’t know how to get started.

To encourage and facilitate the process, it’s often beneficial to provide employees with ideas and examples of what kind of content to share, or pre-created options that make it easier to share and require less effort to participate. You can also provide incentives by way of SWAG, contests, and any other common office motivation techniques.

While it can help for training and monitoring ROI, particularly in highly regulated industries, you don’t need to create a huge infrastructure to have a successful employee advocacy initiative.

In fact, it’s important to make sure employees don’t feel like they are mandated or suffocated by the program since that will likely have the opposite of your desired effects. You should offer basic training on social media, in which you can get your own social media whiz employees to help facilitate and deliver. Give them general training on how to post company content appropriately maintain the integrity of the company’s brand. It might also be good to give them an avenue for how they can report back on engagements that might be beneficial or detrimental to the business.

 

Go forth and advocate.

Armed with just the information contained herein, you are well equipped to get the ball rolling for your own employee advocacy program. Identify the potential advocates and get the conversation started. Build up a list of blogs, press releases, whitepapers, and other content you’d like shared and get it in front of people. Get working on those culture initiatives to build up the goodwill towards your advocates if needed. The ball is now in your court.