5 Things You Need to Understand to Run a Successful Employee Advocacy Program

Roope Heinilä

Posted on June 25th 2014

5 Things You Need to Understand to Run a Successful Employee Advocacy Program

employee advocatesAs employee advocacy continues its growth and becomes an integral part of external communications, organizations need to start asking themselves: What exactly makes an employee advocacy program successful? During the last 18 months we at SmarpShare have been studying how different organizations perform when encouraging employees to share content to their networks and what major factors affect participation and engagement. Below are the 5 factors we have found to be the most important:

1.       Content is king

Out of all the factors affecting participation and engagement, the quality of the content has been clearly the most important. The content an organization has at its disposal depends largely on industry, but some elements are the same for everyone. Firstly, blunt promotions or marketing messages are not shared by most employees and it may even lead to employees feeling exploited. Instead, we have found that the most effective content is based on dialogue and creates real value for both the employee sharing the message and their personal networks. Employees value their networks highly and thus will not share content they don’t feel adds value for them and the people receiving it. This, however, does not mean that businesses could not use this channel for promotion if they are smart about it. Some of the most effective content includes:

- Thought Leadership: Case studies, industry trends and other content that increases the professional image of the employee sharing it.

- HR, Recruiting and Employer Branding: Employees enjoy telling positive stories about their work and offering their networks the possibility to join in that success.

- Corporate Social Responsibility: Who wouldn’t want to tell about all the good their employer is doing and how they are helping society?

- News, Blogs, industry news and other content from external sources: Not all content needs to come from the company. Content coming from external sources can be more credible and attract more engagement.

- Company accomplishments: Did the organization win an award or have one of their products/services recommended by a well-recognized source? Great, encourage your employees to celebrate the success!

2.       Recognition is the main reward.

Our platform allows organizations to reward employees for participation. However, we have found that the reward is not the end goal for employees and the monetary value of the reward(s) doesn’t make a major difference in the amount of participation. Instead, employees want to get recognition for their efforts and they enjoy comparing themselves to their colleagues on the leaderboard more than claiming real-life rewards. Some organizations are also offering employees the opportunity to donate money to a charity or a cause as a reward, which has proven very effective.

3.       Make it easy and intuitive or it won’t happen

Employee time is valuable. If it is not easy and intuitive for employees to find the right content and share it, it simply won’t happen. Asking employees for a single additional click makes a surprisingly big difference in engagement and sharing (up to 50% drop-off rate). 

Many employees prefer to use their mobile device for sharing and it is therefore important that they can do that without requiring them to download an app (think how many additional clicks that is!) and instead through a responsive service/page.

When you focus on making it easy for employees and minimizing the amount of action required by them, you will definitely see a clear increase in engagement.

4.       Timing and frequency make a huge difference

Employees won’t come looking for content. You need to be able to bring the content to the employees on a timely fashion and make it easy for them to engage and share. We have found that the most effective way to engage employees is via email during commute times (usually between 8-9am) with all the content already in the email thus minimizing the amount of clicks required. Daily emails work best as some content expires quickly.

Other effective ways to engage employees include adding the ability to find and share content to services/platforms they already use, such as the company intranet, and rewarding employees who suggest content, invite colleagues, and generate more engagement with their shares.

5.       Internal promotion is NOT optional

Things simply don’t happen if nobody knows about them. Although word-of-mouth marketing is an old concept, employee advocacy is still a fairly new term, so organizations will need to do some internal promotion to educate their employees on the initiative and communicate what’s in it for them as individuals. Usually this includes bringing up the subject at a company event, adding information about it to internal resources, informing internal thought-leaders personally, and sending everyone a message about it. A well run internal promotion campaign will bring higher levels of engagement and boost the results of the program in the long term as well.

Think you are ready to get started? If you are planning on launching an Employee Advocacy program make sure you are fully committed to it or the results will show the lack of effort. A successful employee advocacy program can more than double your reach, engagement and credibility. It should thus be treated as a high priority in any organization.

(employee teamwork / shutterstock)

Roope Heinilä

Roope Heinilä

CEO, Smarp Oy

Roope Heinilä is a co-founder and CEO of Smarp which is a provider of Employee Advocacy Software-as-a-Service platform SmarpShare. Smarp's core business is helping businesses harness the combined power of their employees on social media allow our client organizations to leverage collective power of their employees and their networks for functions such as communications, sales, recruitment and employer branding.

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