The 8 Lessons About Employee Advocacy I Learned in 2015
It was only 15 years ago when companies would provide cell phones only to senior managers. General scepticism about the new-born technology lead brands to limit its use, fear employees would end up using mobiles to call their friends and family the whole time. If we think about it now, we can't help but smile at what seems something so far from the present reality. As with every major technology advance in our society, companies and people approached it with hesitation, until they fully realised the power and potential of this new type of communication, and the advantages it could bring to every organisation. At the beginning of 2016, our world counts over 2.6bn smartphones!
Something similar is happening now with one of the most groundbreaking communication channels in history: social media. We access networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with the rest of the world every day, and we probably don't even recognise how much we integrated them into our lives. Although cautious at first, companies are now realising the importance of social media for both their external and internal communication, beyond traditional advertising. This is why it's no surprise that employee advocacy on social media has been one of the game-changing business mega-trends of 2015.
The idea is simple: everyone can become extremely influential online, not only for themselves, but also for their company, effectively advocating for a brand while at the same time showcasing their expertise online. Employees are anyway already using their social networks to share content with thousands of personal connections about many topics, including their company! This is why an incredibly growing number of organisations are embracing this exciting opportunity to amplify their communication and further contribute to the conversation happening online, while strengthening their internal culture.
As the founder of SoAmpli, one of the companies at the forefront of employee advocacy, I feel particularly compelled to dig deeper into this mega-trend that I strongly believe represents the future of communication. It provides a new way of connecting and engaging with employees, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders involved. In this post, I look back at the amazing 12 months we had, and the learnings I derived from working with our clients. There are a number of insights that I would like to share with you, and that can help you and your organisation make the most of employee advocacy.
1. Which problems are clients trying to solve the most?
I had the opportunity to meet a wide number of companies from a variety of industries this year, and most of them approached me with a specific challenge they already identified and were looking to solve through the implementation of an employee advocacy programme. The top reasons for them to embrace this mega-trend can be summarised into 3 objectives:
• Improve staff's digital confidence
• Increase reach and engagement with their online content in a way that would be considered more authentic by their audience
• Provide fresh and relevant content to employees already advocating for the company online.
2. Do companies embracing employee advocacy have already a plan for their programme?
Even though it may be easy for companies to identify the problems they want to tackle, it is much harder to come up with a clear strategy. What we found is that brands are excited about the concept of employee advocacy and the new territory it represents for them, but seek a helping hand to envision how the programme will work for their specific company. This is why we decided to focus on providing ongoing and tailored support to clients, as it is crucial to help them adopt such an innovative strategy.
3. Which social channel do users share to the most?
The social channels that brands embracing employee advocacy use the most depend a lot on the objectives that the single company has set out for the programme, and the strategy they are adopting to differentiate their communication on various networks. However, we found out that users tend to share to Twitter and LinkedIn 50% more often than to Facebook and Instagram. Surely enough, this is due to the nature of these two networks, which are more suitable for sharing work-related updates, and thus employees feel more comfortable using, compared to social media better suited for strictly personal content. Also, the use of a particular channel will also depend on the type of content to be shared; where quick updates are usually posted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, more in-depth and industry-specific articles are posted on LinkedIn.
4. What are the types of content most shared through our platform/posted on our platform?
When sharing updates on social media, we found employees like to try different solutions and use a variety of types of content to advocate for their company. In particular, 83% of the posts we analysed contained a link and not just text, which usually redirect to original content coming from their company, but often also to articles produced by external sources which they found relevant for their company's objectives and for their industry in general. In addition, employees are increasingly making use of images, and appreciating the effectiveness of visual content.
5. On average, how many posts do users create or share on a weekly basis?
On our platform, employees have the choice to create their original content to be posted on social media, or share interesting updates created by other users, which they can then tailor to their own voice. Our analysis revealed that users start by creating 1 post per week on average, and share 7 posts per month, increasing their usage as they gain confidence. According to the users, this level of social sharing is perfect for maintaining their authentic voice online while sharing company content, and creates a perfect balance with content shared through the brand's social accounts.
6. Are there any commonalities between the people at the top of companies' leaderboards?
One of the most exciting parts of employee advocacy is the element of gamification that these types of programmes often include. During this year, a large number of employees asked me how to reach the top of the leaderboard. We looked at our clients, and realised the top brand advocates at a company share a lot more than expected. In particular, we found out that they:
• share, on average, to two or three different social channels, benefiting from a larger audience to share updates with
• use the scheduling feature extensively, maximising the effectiveness of their posts
• tend to add a personal touch to their content, increasing the engagement with their shared posts
• not only share content but find relevant industry articles to showcase their expertise, building thought leadership.
7. Which metrics companies use the most to measure the performance of their employee advocacy programmes?
One of they key elements for the implementation of a successful programme is to ensure a constant review of employees' social sharing habits, in order to better understand what determines a more or less frequent usage of the platform and identify any room for improvement. Initial KPIs preferred by our companies for their programmes include # of posts created on the platform per week, # of shares per week, average reach and click-throughs for content shared through the platform and improvements in employees' activity on social media. A quick and effective way to understand the economic value of such indicators is to translate them into media spending savings. Put it simply, when you know how much additional reach and traffic to your company's website an employee advocacy programme is generating, you can calculate how much that would cost with traditional online advertisement (we provide a quick and easy tool to help you make this calculation on our homepage).
8. On average, how much reach and how many click-throughs does a post generate?
Finally, we also had a look at the results achieved through employee advocacy on social media. On average, posts shared through SoAmpli had a reach of 480 people, and each post which contains a link generates, on average, 25 click-throughs.
A year of intense learning and experimentations has taught us quite a lot on how to get started with employee advocacy. Here are our recommendations to anyone who may be considering such an implementation in 2016...
a) Make a plan.
You don't need a detailed one, but a high-level roadmap or what is exactly that you'd like to achieve. Start by focusing on the objectives you'd like each department of your company to accomplish, and then choose a comprehensive programme that will offer you as much support as you need throughout the journey.
b) Capture relevant metrics before, during and after the pilot.
To really see the impact of your employee advocacy programme, monitoring a set of relevant metrics is essential. What does success look like to you and how can you measure it? SoAmpli provides real-time statistics that can help you analyse and improve your results.
c) Start with what you have.
There is no need to create a huge amount of social media content to kickstart your employee advocacy programme. Most companies already have plenty of online campaigns, snapshots of office life and thought leaderships blogposts and articles that could benefit from further amplification. Use the first weeks as a test run: seeing what your colleagues share most frequently will also help you plan better what kind of content to create in the future.
d) Find ways to get people excited about the initiative.
Don't expect colleagues to simply want to join the initiative. We're all very busy, and new technology adoption can be a challenge for any company. The solution is to find always new and exciting ways to keep people involved. Gamification elements can be very powerful, but don't forget to state clearly what are the benefits every individual could gain from actively participating in the programme.
e) Don't treat your employees as billboards.
Genuine messages are the most effective, even when it comes to employee advocacy programmes. Encourage your colleagues to share what they want and when they want to, highlighting the fact that participation is always voluntary and never "forced upon them". Effectiveness in social media often lies in authenticity.
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