We all know the story. Basically, we went from advertising to content marketing, but we're now facing a loss in inventory on the social channels that we relied upon for distribution. Enter employee advocacy, an approach where employees serve as a broadcast channel that seemingly drives unparalleled endorsement and amplification, and one which marketing can theoretically just turn the switch on. But how can you convince your employees to become advocates, especially when studies show that only 30% are engaged with their employer?
Corporate Content Pushers?
At the Employee Advocacy Shake-Up in Atlanta on Monday, front-runner companies like Dell, IBM and WholeFoods told a different tale. It wasn't a story about how they've managed to turn their staff into animated pushers of corporate content. It was a story about how the companies enabled their employees to develop professionally and personally through marketing driven training programs.
The scale to which they have launched company wide enablement courses, including mentoring, certificates, performance review points, and incentive programs, leaves you wondering how they manage to pull all of that out of marketing. Liaising with HR and sales enablement on tag-teaming skills development is key to launching a successful employee advocacy program, while the value proposition for an employee to develop his/her modern communication skills should not be underestimated.
Handing over the Reins
Another key aspect of the talks on employee advocacy centered around the level of trust. It's inherent in every communications and marketing professional to want to ensure brand consistency on all touch points, and social media is no exception. Most social media management platforms have approval flows in their publishing tools, because it's seen as a means to avert errors, crises or inconsistency in tone of voice. With employee advocacy you're giving over the reigns to your employees, they push the publish button - so how do you approve?
Natanya Anderson, Director of Social Media, CRM and Customer Care at Whole Foods, put it very cleverly:
"I trust my employees to talk to our customer in store, so why not on social media?".
This touches upon a core realisation that all program directors of employee advocacy need to make - we trust employees to do their job and face our customers everyday, social is no exception, it's just a new medium.
Dell, IBM and Whole Foods amongst others have done a great job at developing employee advocacy programs that engage employees in order to help them become skilled active advocates of their employer, though there are still some kinks to be worked out to ensure scalability.
Advocacy at Scale
As Teresa Caro put it today, content is expensive. Both curated and home grown content takes a lot of resources to keep flowing at the level of quality that the consumers have gotten used to. CenturyLink's Christa Gorham says that they have a full-time employee just to curate content and feed the content streams to the employees in their advocacy program. Finding an intelligent (semi-) automated way to curate content that matches the interests of each of your target segments is a yet un-tapped opportunity for most to increase the cost-efficiency of content marketing.
Speaking of cost, almost every single social media program director I've met has articulated a constant struggle to document the business-level ROI for social, not only to get budget, but to get the leadership level buy-in that is needed to drive social adoption across functions - whether it's social selling, customer service or HR. Most marketers report on engagement metrics and earned media value, but how does that relate to the C-suite? Tying your employee advocacy program data to your CRM or system of record seems to be the only way for social-first business professionals to document the contribution to the bottom line. Connecting the dots in the customer experience not only serves as an attribution reporting model, but as an insights framework to improve the experience even further.
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