How to Harness the Untapped Power of
Employee Advocacy on Social Media.

Why employees are the best storytellers for your brand.
Dino Kuckovic
April 5, 2018 - 7 min. read

2018 could be the year of employee advocacy on social media.

A single post shared by all of your employees can offer a significant opportunity for increasing visibility, improving brand recognition and providing a competitive advantage.

Social media has fundamentally changed the way people interact with the world around them, including the organizations they belong to.

Recent research found that company-branded messages reach 561% further when shared by employees instead of through branded channels. Despite this great outlook, only about half of all large companies have an established department taking the lead on setting rules and managing external communications through social media.

The average employee has ten times more followers than their company. Leveraging the connections and networks of your employees can be a huge differentiator.

Are employees the (new) brand advocates for your company? It’s all pointing to an untapped opportunity.

What is social media advocacy?

Today’s business reality is that you’ll find disengaged employees in almost every organization.

Encouraging those employees to engage more actively with the company and its goals has become a major priority of Employee Success teams.

social media advocacy

Branded posts have 561% greater reach when shared by employees.

There are three types of social media advocacy: employee, customer and influencer advocacy. Each offers a unique advantage for companies.

Employee advocacy is word-of-mouth marketing now widely manifested on social and available for everyone to see. It requires employee passion for your products or services while nevertheless pooling the knowledge and expertise within the group one stands behind.

Customer advocates demonstrate the value of a product or service from a consumer perspective. However, they often don’t go into the same depth as employees and quite frankly don’t even need to because a simple recommendation from an unbiased source suffices.

Influencer advocates don’t work for your company and they may not even use your products. Instead, their affiliation comes in one-off campaigns where brands find a person their audience trusts to leverage that influence to promote the brand. What sets them apart is the established audience they bring with them.

Employee advocacy on social media: the stats advocate it

It is estimated that there will be around 2.77 billion users on social networks around the globe in 2019. The majority of these people are somewhat socially savvy and have built up decently-sized audiences of their own.

employee advocacy

Pictured: an impressive personal brand gaining importance.

However, getting employees to engage with their company’s posts remains a challenge for most brands. But it is a goal that every brand should be pursuing.

Consider this: most employees have an average of 850 social media connections across the various networks, which is more than some small businesses will ever achieve.

Besides which, according to a 2017 report, about 70% of B2B and B2C marketers plan to produce more content in the coming year. Finally, consider this: companies with willing and engaged employees outperform those without by 202%.
The benefits of employee advocacy

Those are the numbers supporting why companies should pursue employee advocacy. Here’s what your brand stands to gain:

  • Broader reach and social presence: Don’t underestimate the power of employee content amplification. Especially in this time of ad blockers and algorithms increasingly working against us. Building up an army of content brand advocates led by your very own employees can significantly increase your reach regardless of the size of your social media presence. Employee sharing will also humanize your brand. Think about it—with social media advocacy, each post your brand shares ends up in many more personal feeds. This not only works towards improving brand awareness and reach, but also builds up all-important consumer trust.
  • Lead generation: It probably comes as no surprise that salespeople who use social media outsell their peers by 78%. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are all great for lead generation with little effort required. Employee sharing casts your net even wider, which in turn will impact revenue and growth.
  • Employee empowerment: Encouraging your brand advocates to partake in your employee advocacy program shows them that you’re invested and interested in their personal and professional development. 
  • Recruiting. People are your greatest resource for evangelizing the company, its values and its culture. Employee advocacy gives recruiters a much stronger foundation to work from. People will naturally be drawn to a brand whose employees openly and authentically share their love for where they work. This will pay off in qualified referrals.

While referrals account for only 7% of job applicants, they result in 40% of hires and are less likely to leave in the first 18 months. That makes social sourcing the lower cost-per-hire option.

employee advocacy program

A happy workforce leads to year-round gratitude, productivity, retention and growth.

How to implement an employee advocacy program

Now that we’ve covered why advocacy matters, let’s discuss how to implement it in just three easy steps.

  1. Documentation: Start off by documenting the program for two different audiences: admins who will run the program, and employee advocates who will contribute to the program. The first group requires clear documentation detailing goals, KPIs, posting protocols, tooling used, etc. The second group needs the same details in a much more condensed format to understand the rules of the game.
  2. Get the word out: Once a program is in place, you need to inform your employees about it. This could be via the company newsletter or Intranet. Additionally, the program could be incorporated into an internal training for new employees. It’s up to you to educate people on social media best practices and, above all, get them involved in the employee advocacy program. In time, the program will run itself because connected employees will see each others’ posts and want to like or share the content themselves.
  3. Incentives: Down the road, you’ll notice that certain employees are more active advocates than others, while others might have the potential to reach more people. For some, the best motivation for employee advocacy is a boost to their personal brand. Others simply enjoy being involved. Publicize a leaderboard showcasing metrics on who’s getting the most impressions or engagement to inspire employees. Offer small rewards to motivate them to keep up the work such as gift cards, candy, certificates, etc. 

While the above are definite musts, there are things you should avoid at all costs:

  • Employees creating their own company content without approval: this will likely veer off-brand fairly quickly.
  • Making employees share “spammy” content: they’re not just representing you, but also themselves.
  • Not having a clear social media policy: guidelines ensure appropriate employee conduct online.
  • Forcing employee participation: this will only be counterproductive.

Make it easy

employee advocacy on social media
You already have an attractive and interactive work culture (I hope). Now, make employee advocacy easy.

Content has to be easy to share and relevant to your employees’ wider circles and beyond. It’s important to be aware that not every employee will share the same things.

To avoid extra work, leverage your existing content. Some popular resources people like to share include blog posts, job descriptions, favorable brand mentions, ebooks or webinars.

Now, take a moment to understand the most common objections you’ll get from employees:

  • Time: employee advocacy comes with time constraints.
  • Management: employees may want to get involved but managerial support is missing.
  • Work-life balance: employees prefer to keep their jobs and their personal lives separate.
  • Social media savviness: some employees may simply lack it.
  • Fear: employees are skeptical of the unknown.

The impact of social media advocacy on your brand

social media advocacy campaign
Enthusiasm is contagious. Be sure to hype up your brand initiatives and goals. Remind your employees about the advocacy program with updates about new and shareable content to keep the cycle going.

You’ll want to see how employee advocacy helps your bottom line. In order to learn and make adjustments to your program as you go, you’ll need to find an organized way to accurately measure your success.

It’s best practice to align your advocacy program with at least one of your primary business goals. Then, decide which social media metrics to track.

Some key metrics to include could be top contributors, popular shares, top downloads, number of referrals, impressions, share of voice, engagement, website traffic, organic reach, or new leads.

Setting up UTM parameters to links will allow you to track and attribute traffic from your advocates. Make sure to share the results, as this can inspire your workforce.

Dell does it well

Social media has been an integral part of Dell’s marketing operations for years. Dell excels at activating their employees on social media.

They’ve created a training, support and facilitation program to empower their sales employees to be active on social and to ensure effective social media advocacy.

Dell calls it the Social Media University and it includes over 16,000 employees across the globe. The goal is to turn every employee into an employee advocate.

The keys to their success are, on the one hand, top-level executive supporting their program, and on the other hand, encouraging employees to find and share their own content in addition to what the Dell team suggests.

This includes content that at times has nothing to do with Dell. As the Head of Dell’s employee advocacy program, Amy Heiss put it:

“One of the big tenets of our social media and community training is that we want people to post 80% about topics that are informative, helpful and relevant to our customers or are personally interesting to our employees, stuff that reflects their own interests. Only 20% of the content they share should actually be about Dell.”

Isn’t it fascinating that content shared by Dell’s employees is eight times more engaging than anything the brand publishes?

Over to you

The time is now for business leaders at all levels to create a culture where employee advocacy can flourish and their organization can start engaging its greatest asset – people.

Now that you’ve got an idea of how to start an employee advocacy program, why not start thinking about How to Turn Customers into Brand Advocates?