Employees have 10 times more social media followers, on average, than their company itself, according to LinkedIn research, making employees a valuable resource for organizations that want to expand their reach.

Despite the popularity of employee advocacy programs in recent years, however, 1 in 10 advocacy programs don't meet expectations. Why? The main reason is that businesses rush into them without appropriate preparation, and so implementation falters.

Employee advocacy is a proven marketing strategy. But planning ahead of implementation is key to ensuring advocacy programs' effectiveness—and success.

Essentially, employee advocacy is the promotion of your company from within, relying on employees to share content online. To ensure it will work, employers need to build a strategy that employees will want to be involved in.

What are the first steps to take?

1. The Right Content

Many organizations make the mistake of not aligning their content strategies with business objectives.

Once you understand what it is you would like to achieve from a content strategy, you can then select the content that will allow you to reach those objectives. For example, if you are looking to hire new talent, you will need to create a job posting that can be shared across Social media channels, such as LinkedIn.

Your next step is to encourage staff to share this content online. Your content, therefore, needs to be engaging enough for employees to want to share, as well as be of interest to your employees' social connections.

Good ways to ensure content is going to be shared is (1) to solicit employee feedback and (2) to promote employee-generated content (EGC).

By creating an atmosphere in which employees recommend industry topics that they find relevant, you can motivate staff to participate in an employee advocacy program that will work.

2. A Motivated Workforce

Employers need to embrace the "what's in it for me" (WIIFM) factor. Personal gain is at the forefront of employee advocacy programs: If employees see no personal benefit from sharing content online, they will be less inclined to get involved.

So, what do employees gain from sharing content online? Employee advocacy can have many personal benefits and advantages for your staff, including these:

  • It allows employees to grow their online presence on Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Fully 86% of those involved in employee advocacy say it has had a positive effect on their careers.
  • It's a great way for employees to help employees become credible, sought-after individuals within their industry.

Not all of your team members will engage in an employee advocacy program in the same way and with the same level of enthusiasm. Some may be more active on social media than others, consistently sharing content and engaging with others; some are likely less active or less consistent.

However, all should be encouraged to take part. And they will become more likely to get involved on social media if they understand the value not only for the organization but also for their own personal brand.

3. A Consistent Flow of Engagement

Essentially, the easier your content is to engage with, the quicker you will see results. Organizations therefore need to ensure that what they are sharing is not only relevant and interesting both to readers and to employees but also easy to share.

The process also needs to be efficient:

  • Keep your content in one place so that it can be sourced and shared easily by staff.
  • Use company newsletters or communication software such as Slack to keep on top of updating staff on new content.
  • Keep staff motivated by introducing a competitive element or gamification; you can even provide incentives.

* * *

Your company culture can have a positive impact on how effective your employee advocacy is; in turn, however, an employee advocacy program can improve company culture by fostering employee inclusion.

It's time for businesses to warm up to the many benefits of employee advocacy: It can embody and reinforce your brand's values and create a powerful and convincing messaging channel for reaching your target audience.

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Before Implementing an Employee Advocacy Program, Do These Three Things

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Daniel Ku is director of marketing at PostBeyond, which connects employees to today's social customer and uses analytics to help measure the impact of employee advocacy.

LinkedIn: Daniel Ku