Think for a moment about the companies you most admire.
Whatever the industry, geographical location, or company size, chances are there are a multitude of factors that make you admire them. Great branding and good content are probably in the mix, but I can almost guarantee that the company’s employee advocates play some part, too.
Ultimately, companies are made up of people. Since you (a person) relate to and value relationships with other people, it makes sense that you’d be comforted and influenced by employees of companies you admire, sharing their content and saying good things about them. If you’re a company owner or manager, it makes just as much sense that you would turn your employees into great advocates for your company and brand.
Though the individual equations for building employee advocacy on social media sill always depend on the company, here are a few common ways I’ve seen companies find success:
- Start by enabling your employees to be great. This is similar to the advice we’d give companies hoping to advertise a bad product: fix your product, or you’re just wasting your time. In the same vein, you will never get employees to be long-term advocates if you treat them poorly. Building a culture where you enable the employees to be great takes time, but this is the first and most important step to build employee advocacy online.
- Set clear guidelines within a company social media policy. Even small companies stand to benefit from social media policies. Yours doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, but it should cover what employees are and aren’t allowed to do on social media as representatives of your company. You can never prevent someone from talking badly about your company on social media, but you can put systems in place to reprimand employees who do.
- Let your employees be themselves on social media. This is important. Don’t tell employees which platforms they must be on, or what exactly they must post when on social media. The best employee advocates, in my opinion, are those who are clearly human and whose advocacy is only a part their online selves. No shills needed.
- Host a workshop for less experienced employees. Not all employees know how to use social media, but you’d be surprised at how many want to use it. Even younger employees who are probably more experienced can learn a thing or two from an in-depth, company-sponsored workshop about how to use social media. Think of my first point about enabling employees to be great: how can your employees turn into great advocates if they don’t even know where to start on social media?
- Give employees a reason to become advocates. Unsurprisingly, this point is very much related to point number one: you need to provide written content, stories, videos, photos, or other sharable stuff if you expect employees to share it and comment on it themselves. Many employees are happy to share company content—but are less willing to create their own and share it with their own networks. Tied in with your offline efforts to be a great workplace, this type of content lessens the barrier to advocacy entry, so to speak.
In general, any social media advocacy by your employees on your behalf is a good thing. What isn’t a good thing is to have every single employee like, retweet, and share every post. With this sort of approach, it doesn’t take long for engagement fatigue to set in and for any potential benefits of employee advocacy to be offset.
Put more simply, the best employee advocates (on social media and elsewhere) are the ones who can be themselves and share your content or give referrals about your product or services because they genuinely want to. Not because they have to—because they genuinely admire the company they work for and its content.
Employee advocacy is not something you can build overnight. But, with a concerted effort and by taking a few of the steps I’ve described here, you should soon start to reap the benefits of a group of employees who truly want to advocate on your company’s behalf.
Image credit: CC by Alan Wolf.