Beyond Engagement: The Value of Experience in Employee Advocacy
Where does an ounce of experience rank in the scheme of things? Top of your list? Nice to have? Unimportant? For me, experience, is an exceptionally valuable commodity, and learning from the success of others is about as good as it gets; that's why I grabbed the chance to talk to SAP's Sarah Goodall about Get Social, the company's employee-facing social-media initiative.
Too much published work, some of mine included, deals with the theory behind advocacy. I expect you've heard enough about how much more trusted employees are than the organizations where they work and how much greater their collective social reach is; let's take the "Why" as a given and take a look at the "How" - through the eyes of someone who's made it happen.
Goodall, an SAP employee since 2008, is the company's Head of Social Business, EMEA; she has long been convinced of the power of social media as a business tool, and sees her role as "helping business leaders understand the advantages to be gained through employee brand advocacy and enabling employees develop their professional brand online."
Where, I ventured, did the initiative originate?
SAP Gets Social
SAP's Internal Communications team, explained Goodall, used Dynamic Signal's VoiceStorm platform to implement a small-scale advocacy pilot in Italy and the Netherlands. Uptake was encouraging, but the sharing activity that resulted had no context. "It was clear," she says, "that people wanted to be social, but they didn't know how. We could see the potential, both for people and for the company, but we needed to make it effective and scalable."
She enlisted the help of Juliet Atkinson, a colleague based in SAP's Paris office; together, they formulated a program that underpinned the effective use of content. Atkinson's expertise in developing collaborative-learning programs shaped the tools for equipping employees with the social skills they needed, while Goodall's marketing background ensured an appropriate focus on exploiting the full potential of each item of content.
The result was Get Social, a four-stage, modular program that embraced every participating employee at any level of social maturity. The Get Social team administers the program using webinars and supporting video summaries delivered via SAP Jam, the company's internal enterprise social network.
Each employee registering for Get Social completes an initial "Get Started" module, designed to establish her position on SAP's social-maturity curve. Suitable for people with little or no social-media expertise, Get Started comprises a short series of webinars accessed via SAP Jam.
"We wanted anyone, regardless of current social-skill level, to have an opportunity to participate," says Goodall. "It's essential that people aren't disadvantaged because they lack experience in social networking. We publicized weekly webinars on SAP Jam with live follow-up chat sessions; on-demand recordings are also available for registered participants."
Focusing exclusively on LinkedIn and Twitter, Get Started covers "the basics," ensuring that new members are ready to take the next step before going public with their newfound skills. Understanding the mechanics and the professional value proposition of these two networks is a prerequisite for everyone.
Building an effective LinkedIn profile is an essential first step for people entering the "Get Active" module; reaching out and establishing a substantive network of connections is the follow-up objective. At this point, people are encouraged to limit their activity to listening, rather than sharing.
"We want people to be ready before they engage actively with their networks," Goodall tells me. Connecting with a limited number of known peers is excellent preparation, but we also expect new participants to spend time familiarizing themselves with channel etiquette and good practice, particularly on LinkedIn."
Finally, it's time to ...
"Initially, we promote three aspects of sharing," she continues. "Typically, people start by posting third-party content on LinkedIn; we emphasize the need for them to add context by including a personal observation with their updates. A bare link with no insight adds little value for the reader."
Sharing insights isn't limited to an individual's own posts. "Once people are sufficiently confident, they progress to engaging directly by commenting on their connections' updates and group discussions. It's here that their social personalities develop and mature."
Finally, the company encourages people to create their own content - once they feel sufficiently confident to do so. "Blogging , either on a SAP-owned platform or on a network like LinkedIn," says Goodall, "allows an individual employee to develop substantial authority in a specialist niche. We help each person identify the topics that are right for them, and offer editorial support where necessary."
The "Get Sharing" module also introduces people to Twitter as a business tool, and it's not long before they're taking the next step:-
"I'm Getting Noticed"
Goodall is unequivocal: "It's great to see people enjoying the personal growth that comes with getting noticed. Having your connections turn to you for comment or advice and citing your work is a real morale booster, and it also helps develop your professional standing.
"I'm in no doubt that helping our employees succeed is not only good for them in pursuit of their personal business objectives, it also makes the company successful - almost as a by-product."
Where Next for Get Social?
Goodall and Atkinson have established a library of training materials for Get Social, all of which is available on SAP Jam. Now, SAP worldwide is taking note of the success of this EMEA initiative.
"In the first 12 months, some 1,100 people completed Get Started and Get Active," Goodall tells me. "Of these, around 60 have progressed to the Get Noticed module. It's not an overnight process, but it's been hugely successful."
So much so that Get Social will soon form part of the official SAP Learning Program, with personal development credits awarded for achievement and additional recognition for successful progression through the various stages. At the time of writing, some 1,300 people had signed up to Get Social and Goodall expects the number to grow significantly once the program goes global.
"When we started," she says, "we intended Get Social to be a prerequisite for the SAP Social Matters initiative on VoiceStorm. In practice, we've found it to be just as useful for employees wanting to share content outside the platform; while we have around 500 Social Matters users, there are around half as many again who curate, create and share their own content.
"I'm really looking forward to working with colleagues outside EMEA and replicating the success we've had here."
I found myself wondering why many organizations don't take a leaf out of Goodall's book. For me, SAP's investment in its people is a no-brainer. You wouldn't set an employee loose on a new piece of equipment without adequate training - so why don't more employers take the same view of social media?
Why not indeed?
Beyond Engagement is an exclusive Social Media Today column published every other Thursday.
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