How to Create a Winning Employee Advocacy Program Using Social Media

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If you’re unsure about social media for business, you should know this:

  • Globally, there are nearly 3.2 billion active social media users. (Source: We Are Social and Hootsuite)
  • The average person spends over two hours on social media every day. (Source: Global Web Index)
  • On average, employees collectively have personal social networks that stretch ten times larger than a corporate brand’s network. (Source: LinkedIn)

Social media networks are not just where your customers learn about your company and its products or services – it’s where potential employees learn about your culture, your job opportunities, and where your company is heading. It’s undeniably the prime place to showcase your employer brand.

Social Media for Employment Branding and Recruiting

Employee Advocacy Programs (EAPs) are a critical component of a comprehensive employment branding and recruitment marketing strategy – and their importance is only growing.

According to Sprout Social, 86% of social media users have indicated that they want to – and do – follow brands on social media. But at the same time, they crave relevant, real content – not focus group-tested corporate speak.

What’s more, the younger consumers (and candidates) are the more this holds true. According to a national study by The Center for Generational Kinetics, titled “The State of Gen Z 2018,” Generation Z – those born between about 1995 and 2005 – expects to interact with brands on social media and is doing so in greater numbers than Millennials. The research revealed that 73% of Generation Z follow at least one brand on social media compared to 64% of Millennials, and 52% follow three brands or more.

The lesson? Influencer marketing, while popular, is being met with a fair amount of skepticism. Micro-influencers – that is, real employee and/or customer communities and “people like me” – are viewed as much more trustworthy than corporate brands as consumer trust continues to decline.

An EAP in Action

One of Sevenstep’s clients – a global information solutions company – recently adopted an Employee Advocacy Program (EAP) to increase its social media influence – with the ultimate goal to drive more and higher quality applicants to their jobs.

The program, which initially started out with a simple content calendar and curated articles for employees to share, has grown into a critical recruitment channel for the business.

Utilizing LinkedIn Elevate, which is a paid EAP solution, we’re measuring:

  • The top employee influencers, including who has shared the most and how influential they are
  • How many people are looking at each job from posts that employees share
  • How many people are applying to each job from posts that employees share
  • Influenced hires – how many people have applied and been hired as a result of employee posts
  • Earned media value – that is, how much the company would have otherwise paid to advertise the jobs through alternative, paid channels

Reporting back to employees after you’ve asked them to engage as active brand participants, or advocates, is an important part to a successful program. In the case of this client, not only are we measuring their impact, but we’re also rewarding the top influencers each month.

Our client’s program capitalizes on several social media trends of this year, including the rise in popularity of employee advocacy and influencer marketing, the fact that trust in ‘peer influencers’ has overtaken the trust that candidates have in corporate brands, and the movement towards gamification – which incentivizes employees through leadership boards and prizes to show who’s ‘winning’ in delivering impressions and engagement.

Tips for Implementing a Successful EAP 

Authentically cultivating a workforce of engaged employees on social media takes time and attention – and the right tools.

For Employee Advocacy Programs, I recommend considering:

  • LinkedIn Elevate
  • Sprout Social’s Bambu
  • Sociabble
  • Hootsuite Amplify

Additionally, here are a handful of tips for companies considering implementing an EAP of their own:

  1. Set the stage. It’s important to engage employees from the very beginning. Be clear on the reasoning behind the program and helping employees understand the influence they can have on helping the company achieve its goals – while also building their own personal social media brand. Outline clear goals for the program and immediately begin measuring the results.
  2. Train them. Some of the employers with the most successful EAPs provide training to their employees on how to effectively engage in the program. Dell, for instance, grants the title of “Dell Certified Social Media and Community Professional” when an employee completes training. Starbucks refers to their employees as “partners,” which gives the people who work there a sense of belonging and accountability. Your EAP will be an extension of your brand, and therefore should be unique to your products and services. But no matter what you do, be sure to provide clear instructions on what you’re asking employees to do and how they can be most effective.
  3. Reassure them. Some employees may be a little nervous to get involved at first. They may be afraid they’ll say something wrong or post something they shouldn’t. Providing guidance and training will alleviate some of this but it’s also important to reiterate that there’s no way they can ‘mess it up’ if they use the tools and follow the guidance you provide. Also, make sure they’re able to ask questions as they arise.
  4. Have trust. In a heated moment, someone may post something inappropriate, or that is otherwise ‘off-brand.’ As the employer, you have to understand this is part of the learning process. You may have a rogue employee who negatively takes to social media, but you need to trust that the consequences are worse for them than they are for the company. We review this and other risks when we consult with clients on their EAP initiatives, and I encourage other brands to do the same.
  5. Report back. To maintain – and continuously improve – employee engagement within the program, it’s important to report back and to share success stories. This is also where gamification can come into play. Consider sharing a leader board and incentivizing employees who participate with creative prizes like company swag or benefits like an extra day of PTO for the most-engaged employee of the month.

EAPs don’t have to represent a significant financial investment – especially early on. I encourage brands to start with what they have – do not try to be in all places at all times for all people, and look at ways to grow the program organically before necessarily making investments in analytics and other add-ons. The key platforms to start on are LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. In fact, we launched Sevenstep’s Instagram account just last month. Start where you are with what you have and the program will grow and improve naturally.

 

Do you have an Employee Advocacy Program? How is it going? Or, alternatively, are you an employee working for a company with an Employee Advocacy Program? What do you like and not like about it? Leave a comment for me below!


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