The Science of Social Advocacy: Inspiring Employee and Partner Advocates

Posted on March 1st 2013

The Science of Social Advocacy: Inspiring Employee and Partner Advocates

Employee advocates are important not just because they are a strong measure of a brand’s strength and trustworthiness, but also because they help a brand amplify their owned media reach and generate earned media. This blog post explains some of the motivations that drive employees and partners to advocate for a company by sharing their social content.

In late 2012 I published a short blog post called the “The Science of Social Business: What Motivates Employees to Participate," looking at how Dan Pink’s “Drive” applied to motivating employees to participate in social media programs. That post generated a lot of great discussions, including one in particular with Steve Woods, Co-Founder and CTO of Eloqua, the leading marketing automation and demand generation platform that sold to Oracle for ~$850 million in late 2012. In addition to being a hugely successful founder and marketing technology executive, Steve is also the author of “Digital Body Language”, an Amazon best seller explaining how customers use the internet to learn about your company and decide what to buy.

Digital Body Language

Over coffee, Steve shared some of his insights on what really motivates employees and partners to share content. 

Employees share because it helps them do three things: 

  1. Develop their personal brand; 
  2. Demonstrate that they’re a team player; 
  3. Feel like they’re supporting a company they love. 

Employees at partner organizations such as resellers, customers and suppliers will also support a brand for those same reasons, but also because re-sharing helps them to: 

  1. Leverage the credibility of your brand; 
  2. Encourage your brand to retweet them or their brand (if they’re the community manager). 

A more detailed explanation how each of these motivations works and how brands can harness these motivations more effectively is below:  

1) Develop their personal brand

People share content that helps them build their own personal brand by demonstrating their knowledge and passions, helping family, friends, and professional contacts in their network, and showing they’re affiliated with causes and organizations they believe. Companies can help employees develop their personal brand by giving them content that is helpful to their networks (special offers, unique insight) or which supports a cause the company believes in. 

2) Demonstrating that they’re a team player

This is pretty straightforward: many employees want to show their commitment to their company publicly. Companies can encourage employees to do this by making it easy to share content and showing them that other colleagues have also publicly supported the brand. 

3) Feel like they’re supporting a company they love

Like the old saying goes, ‘tis better to give than to receive’, sometimes sharing is just about helping and feeling good about it. Companies can encourage employees to support by their company by regularly thanking them when they support the company sharing. 

 4) Leverage the credibility of your brand 

Many partner organizations are keen to demonstrate an association with your brand. Companies can encourage partners to do this by making an email distribution list and sharing their best social content via email to community managers at partner organizations. If you really want to supercharge this, make it easy for employees at partner companies to sign up to mailing list. 

5) Encourage your brand to retweet them or their brand 

 This is the easiest of them all to understand: people love to get retweeted by major brands. One element of them retweeting your brand is the hope that you might retweet them. Companies can encourage partners to share their content by recognizing them publicly with @mentions and retweets. To make this easier, try to create a leaderboard that tracks your advocates so you can easily find them and thank them.

Companies that recognize employee and partner motivations to act like advocates and more effectively engage them to drive their social marketing and earned media initiatives. If you’re interested in regular thought leadership on this topic, don’t forget to check out the Elevate blog. 

Are there any other motivations you can think of? Do you have more ideas on how to effectively align your business objectives with your advocates motivations? I’d love to hear about them. 


Sandy Gibson

CEO, Elevate Inc.

Sandy Gibson is the CEO of Elevate | The First Social Newsletter Platform. Elevate uses social updates to create beautiful, shareable newsletters so digital marketers can save 5 - 10 hours each week and focus on what they do best: creating and sharing content that matters to their customers. 

Sandy graduated from Princeton University and swears that audiobooks will change your life. 


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