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Tips for Starting a Successful Employee Advocacy Program

As author Emily Giffin once said, “Everyone wants to belong, or be a part of something bigger than themselves, but it’s important to follow your heart and be true to yourself in the process.” This quote perfectly sums up what employee advocacy is all about: empowering employees to promote their company’s message on social media and, in the process, allowing them to develop their personal brand, and position themselves as trusted advisors and thought leaders in their own networks.

I couldn’t agree more! I had the pleasure of sharing my experience leading successful employee advocacy programs and what it takes to empower employees to engage on a recent Social Media Today webinar "Tips to starting a successful Employee Advocacy program", along with esteemed colleagues @PaulDunay, @rob_nolte and @heatherdopson. 

Getting started may seem daunting. But remember the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” … this applies directly to building an employee advocacy program. It takes time, but you have to start somewhere! So here are a few tips I shared on the webinar. I hope they help you to get underway. If you need help, let me know, I’m just a tweet away: @sfemerick

Tips for getting started:

  1. Building the business case: Understand & Articulate Why You are Starting a Program To establish an employee advocacy program, you will probably need to build a business case to explain the value the program will create. Getting executive support is as much about educating the executives as it is about building the business case. They are not necessarily specialists in marketing strategy, or how to pull together a marketing program, or social networking. They will not have the time to stay abreast of the changes and emerging technologies that are occurring and how they’ve impacted the way people communicate. They may not fully appreciate how marketing, sales, and service must adapt to these changes to improve the customer experience. You have to be the expert who helps them understand the way people connect and communicate is changing the landscape of the way decisions are made and who decision makers trust. I shared some important research that can help you educate your executives, including the Edleman Trust Barometer, the Nielson Consumer Trust in Advertising study are good sources that illustrate employees and “people like me” are the most trusted sources of information online. Edelman’s research data continues to provide mounting evidence that employees are the most trusted sources of information and considered the most influential company spokesperson across 4 out of 5 topic categories. 


While Nielson’s Trust in Advertising study, show further substantiation with 84% of people weighing in that they trust "recommendations from people I know" over any other form of advertising. 

2. Set Goals and Objectives, be sure your program is aligned to business goals and priorities. As you work to determine the organizational goals that your program will support. One of the most common pitfalls is rushing to execution without establishing clear goals and objectives. Take the time to collaborate with the leaders of the business units or functional teams that the program is intended to support. For example:

  • Expansion into new markets
  • Market growth in a key category or region
  • Customer Acquisition
  • Workforce Talent Acquisition
  • Customer Retention and Loyalty
  • Financial Growth or Cost savings

3. Find a Champion. Better yet, be one! Find a senior executive with broad trust in the organization who will use their network and influence to get other executives to support the program. When you meet with them for the first time, explain the broad array of functional teams that are involved in this kind of program, then explain the benefits and risks to each of those areas of the company. Arm them for the conversations they will have with other executives by showing the benefits and risks. Seek their advice on how you can better portray the benefits and risks to other stakeholders.

Along the way, ask for support from the champion when you need it. Make it easy for them to help by specifying what you need, such as breaking down a roadblock, finding more time or resources, or making an additional investment.

4. Build a pilot with early adopters. Start by asking for just enough money to prove the concept works. Be clear about what you will deliver, and baseline or benchmark the metrics that you intend to impact, before you begin your pilot. Increase confidence in your program by demonstrating progress in iterative sprints. Get some early wins. Regularly remind people of your efforts that succeeded and the impacts you achieved. Strive to deliver quantitative proof as much as possible. You’re more likely to achieve a faster start and measurable success if you recruit “Early Adopters” into your program. Early adopters are typically curious by nature and open to experimentation. They want to be the first to try something new. If the people around them are already doing it, they are less interested. Typically, people who are early adopters of this program will be:

• Already active in the social venues that matter to your brand. In the case of B2B technology brands for example, these venues are likely to include IT Forums, blogs, online communities, Twitter, and LinkedIn Groups.

• Already active in offline activities where they share their knowledge and passion. Examples can include public speaking, local technology meetups, product user groups, or industry associations.

I hope these tips are helpful to you! If you can, join us in Atlanta for the Employee Advocacy Summit. We have a great line up of speakers representing various industries, ready to show you the ropes based on their first hand experience!

In case you missed the buzz on Twitter, here’s the full Storify:


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