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How CenturyLink Doubled Employee Shares Through a Contest [Podcast]

Christa Gorham, Group Manager, Large Business Marketing & Communications at CenturyLink is the featured guest on episode 141 of The Social Business Engine. She explains how they’re growing their employee advocacy program to increase awareness and generate more demand. CenturyLink is a global communications, hosting, cloud, and IT services company. Their solutions and services enable customers to transform their business and lives through innovative technology.

CenturyLink launched their employee advocacy program a little over two years ago to a group of employees within CenturyLink Business, their B2B division. The initial goal of the program was to amplify their content by extending reach through their employees. Today, CenturyLink is a more social media savvy organization, and the goals have evolved.

How it Started

The program didn’t immediately take off. In the early days, there wasn’t a clear program manager, causing the duty to be scattered among CenturyLink’s small marketing team. Other projects and demands would often take precedence over employee advocacy.

Another possible reason the employee advocacy program at CenturyLink didn’t immediately take off was that they didn’t have a tailored message on the value to the employee to participate. There was no grouping based on job function either, so marketing, technology and sales people were all spoken to about the program in the same way.

Successful Improvements

An evaluation of active versus inactive users a few months into the program made it clear that they needed to change their approach. A program manager was assigned to oversee the program, and a plan was activated regarding how to accelerate adoption among employees and measure results. In 2016  they’ve added training on their employee advocacy tool for new salespeople upon their hiring.

CenturyLink also created a calculation to prove the value of the program called the Employee Earned Media Value (EEMV). It’s an equation that calculates the number of branded shares multiplied by the cost per click to advertise to arrive at a value. It represents the equivalent in ad spend that was saved through the employee’s social shares.

As more executives buy into the program, there’s a need for more content streams too. New streams and designated owners/managers continue to be added to different topics. To get more users active in the program, CenturyLink has started to award gift cards to the top “social sales pro” of the week. They highlight the winner in a weekly newsletter and at the end of the year all winners will be entered into a drawing. The program has proved worthwhile as it doubled engagement and the number of shares from employees.

Lessons Learned

In rare cases, some very active users were oversharing content made available to them through the program. Their social media accounts were starting to appear spammy, and some were even sponsoring/boosting their updates on LinkedIn and Twitter. Now CenturyLink provides training on what information to share, how to share it, and frequency. They watch for sudden spikes in shares and reach out to any individuals who might appear to be sharing too much, though Christa points out that it’s rare.

Content is key. There needs to be a balance of content made available in the streams. Messages are a blend of third-party content, industry content, and branded content. CenturyLink monitors their available content regularly, making sure there is also new content added.

Christa’s advice for anyone considering an employee advocacy program:

  1. Don’t wait to implement an employee advocacy program. Christa says that even in the program’s infancy, their social sharing saw results. The employee advocacy platform vendors want their clients to succeed and are great resources in helping with setup.
  2. Identifying your users and what they care about. Get an understanding of your target employee audience just as you would when developing a marketing campaign. You need to understand your base of users to ensure you have content they’ll want to share. Segment employees by role or function in the program.
  3. Resource your program appropriately. Employee advocacy is a program that needs to be managed. This doesn’t mean you have to create a new full-time job. The duties can be shared. Just be sure to have a program manager assigned.

Listen to the podcast above or on your phone’s podcast player to hear more from Christa about their employee advocacy program. Download your copy of Social Business Journal, Volume 9 to read what’s working in employee advocacy for three B2B brands.

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