By Ulrik Bo Larsen, founder and CEO of Falcon Social
Don’t miss out on your employees’ untapped energy and enthusiasm for your brand. Find out how you can start your company’s employee advocacy program.
When the Super Bowl comes around each year, companies shell out millions of dollars for 30 seconds of television ad space ($4 Million on average in 2013). With the shift to social media and online video in recent years, many brands now deploy a paired social media strategy to go with their flagship television ad. However, in 2013 Dell chose to buck the trend of TV-first/Social-second and asked their employees to be the primary drivers of their marketing efforts. They uploaded their ad to YouTube, encouraged their team members to share it on their individual social networks, and were rewarded with 6.5 million views.
Employee advocacy is not a new concept. Anyone who’s run a family business has recruited friends and family to engage their respective networks with a recommendation. However, the mainstream adoption of social media has exponentially multiplied the impact this kind of marketing can have. The core of it is still simple word of mouth, but social media provides additional structure and amplifies reach. Corporations have taken notice, but far too many marketing directors still overlook the tens, hundreds, or thousands of voices that are ready to carry the organization’s message to an entirely new segment of potential customers. These untapped spokespeople come with an inherent investment in the success of your company—all they need is a little guidance and encouragement.
The structure of your employee advocacy program should change depending on the size of your company, but regardless of scale you’ll want to consider how each kind of team member will be involved. For example, a CEO will engage differently than a front-line employee for many reasons, time constraints and different target audience being just two of them. Here are a few suggestions on how you can get the whole team involved in ways that will be most effective and encourage them to engage in the program.
This is going to be the primary focus of your efforts in rolling out an employee advocacy program. As Dell did with their team, spend time laying out the overall plan and goals, educate your employees on how they can participate, and give them suggestions on what to say and do. Then, share the results when the project is complete to show what they were able to accomplish together.
Equip your team supervisors so that they are ready to answer questions and provide guidance to their reports as the program takes off. Also make sure they are trained to deal with any potential crisis if an employee steers critically off-message. If you elect to include an incentive program, ensure your supervisors understand the tracking structure and are able to run it smoothly. Finally, make sure they participate in sharing to their networks as well.
Since the goal is company-wide adoption of the advocacy program, you’ll want to make sure to secure buy-in from the other department heads and get their help in training their staff. Look for ways that participation will help them accomplish their own departmental objectives and bring their team closer together, as well as benefitting the company as a whole.
Your executives are guaranteed to be strapped for time, but it’s important to secure their involvement to set the tone for the rest of the staff.
Here are a few final things to consider when you decide to implement an employee advocacy program:
• Keep it fun – As the saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Make the program into a game, keep participation optional, and maintain a light-hearted tone. Your staff will be much more inclined to engage if they don’t feel like they are getting a corporate mandate.
• Make it easy – Draft a basic outline of the plan, create some sample language, and provide some previews/examples to point your staff toward what you hope the end result will look like. Consider having your social media manager conduct some training on social media best practices.
• Recognize/Reward your standouts – Hosting a leader board is a great way to track and honour your standout performers. You can even give out a few prizes to the top participants.
Don’t miss out on your employees’ untapped energy and enthusiasm for your brand. With a well-structured and creative employee advocacy program, you’ll watch your marketing efforts soar to new heights and generate even more internal loyalty and passion.