Leading a team of informed and engaged employees is extremely rewarding.
Everyone seems to get along, people are motivated to do their jobs well, and your business appears to be running like a well-oiled machine. (For more on that, see my Part 1 of 3 or Part 2 of 3 in this series.)
But if you stop there, you’re doing yourself and your team a huge disservice.
You’re missing out on the key next step: creating advocates.
Employee Advocates as First Responders
As a leader, creating a team full of brand advocates is beneficial for a number of reasons. Most of all, it adds a human element to your public relations. When your employees are the ones promoting your brand, your audience is much more likely to listen.
In fact, 84 percent of people say they trust recommendations from their acquaintances over those that come through traditional advertising.
Employee advocates are also your first line of defense against those who may be uninformed about your brand (or unhappy with it). In a social media-driven world where people are digitally communicating 24/7, this is especially crucial.
In one study, 56 percent of employees said they’ve defended their company via a public platform — and raising this number is the ultimate goal of employee advocacy.
Acting as a Brand Megaphone
The best employee advocates are proud, vocal, savvy, and educated about what they do. They take their jobs seriously and understand the importance of their roles — both within their departments and for the company as a whole.
Advocates are driven and career-oriented, and they place a high value on their personal brands.
Their ability to be vocal creates enormous levels of engagement. Not only do they show their enthusiasm for their jobs internally, but they also want to share their appreciation with the world.
That said, a love for the job isn’t enough. To be effective advocates, they must also get the proper guidance, training, and tools to share their knowledge with their audience of followers and connections.
That’s where you, as a leader, come in.
Creating Employee Advocates
Here are five techniques that will help you create employee advocates:
1. Put Parameters in place
Informed, engaged employees need to know what they can and cannot say about their companies on public platforms. For instance, someone might be dying to celebrate the positive outcomes of a corporate rebrand, but he isn’t sure whether it’s OK to share that information with the public.
To avoid this, create and distribute a list of best practices for communicating about the company, as well as a social media policy. This might seem like a no-brainer, but one survey revealed that fewer than half of all companies currently have policies in place. Without clear parameters, employees will likely share too much or too little, causing their advocacy to be ineffective (or to backfire).
2. Collaborate to Identify Goals
As you build your advocacy program, be sure to include your employees in the process. They’re the ones who will carry it out, so work together to determine your goals and definition of success.
For instance, are you looking to improve HR and company culture? If so, your ambassador program should be more internally focused. But if you’re striving to improve social selling and lead generation, then your program will be largely social and built on employees’ existing connections.
Either way, your employees have a valuable perspective that should be factored into your plans.
3. Incorporate Technology
To ensure ease of use, simplicity, and adoption, implement technology that supports your advocacy goals. Studies show that employees’ usage of social media, smartphones, and after-hours Internet directly correlates with their performance as advocates.
In addition, employees of socially engaged companies are 57 percent more likely to align social media engagement with more sales leads.
4. Level the Playing Field
To encourage participation, you must give employees a reason to opt in — and an easy method for doing so. Some employees aren’t natural advocates and have no interest in participating; don’t force them. That will only lead to bad things for both of you.
Instead, recognize and reward employees who are talking about your organization and spreading your brand’s message.
Create toolkits for managers to share with their direct reports that detail your program, the opportunities it offers, and the benefits of joining. Announce it during all-hands meetings, share success stories, and give employees more than one chance to sign up.
5. Dive Into the Data
Once you’ve defined success, identified measurable goals, and launched your employee advocacy program, make sure to continuously gather and analyze data.
Over time, this information will uncover what’s working and what’s not, and it will allow you to make necessary adjustments down the road to maximize your program.
Creating Positive Impact
Informed and engaged employees are prime candidates for brand advocacy because they’re already intrinsically motivated to collaborate and make a difference for your company. They want to have an impact on both your culture and your bottom line.
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