Five critical steps to launching an employee advocacy program

Why is it so difficult to have your unique brand message heard by your potential buyers? Companies are rebelling against the traditional sales methods of the past by not taking calls or deleting impersonal, irrelevant pitch emails. Quite simply, buyers don’t trust brands.

However, people still buy from people. Companies will often purchase products and services based on a recommendation from someone they know. More buyers are now taking to social media to research and engage with experts. Research from SiriusDecisions shows that 67% of buyers execute their journeys digitally. As a result, suppliers are often pushed out of the conversation until a final decision has been reached.

So, how can your business be engaged in the conversation early to influence a potential buyer?

Your most valuable company asset: your employees

Most employees have a B2B social media account with hundreds, if not thousands of connections and followers. If you added up all your employee connections, the reach would far exceed that of your company social media networks. Further evidence shows that just 60 employees sharing content can increase your company’s reach by 1,000%.

Many companies are now implementing advocacy programs to empower their employees to spread the word. Employers are arming their staff with ready-to-share company-branded and third-party content on their B2B social media networks. Such an employee advocacy program is a massive undertaking for any organization, so it is vital to ensure a robust launch plan is well thought out and executed.

At Orange Business Services in 2018, we launched our International Employee Advocacy Program in conjunction with a third-party application, Sociabble. We have learned a lot along our global journey. In our three-blog series about empowering employees and executives in digital platforms, we start by sharing our experience with the first critical steps to implementing a successful program.

Here are your five critical steps for implementing a successful employee advocacy program

1. Program objectives and KPI’s

Let’s assume you have decided to start your employee advocacy journey. Setting objectives at the outset is essential to maintain the focus of your program.

Objectives could include new leads, recruiting new staff, increasing company awareness, followers, influencers or website traffic.

Next, assign a tangible measurement against each objective, checking first that you can report against the KPI’s you set.

2. Choosing the right tool

Numerous advocacy tools are available on the market with different features. With Sociabble, we offer our employees a platform to share a variety of company and third-party content from a browser or mobile app. For our users, it is effortless to use in the office or on the move.

The great thing about Sociabble is that it allows users to personalize post captions before sharing and also to suggest content. We feel this will enable individuals to use their own voice to amplify our messages.

3. Executive sponsorship and governance

An employee advocacy program cannot survive without senior support. Not only do executives need to endorse your program, they also need to be actively involved and motivate participating business units. Participation sets a positive example, and employees will be encouraged to follow suit.

Culture can be a sticking point with organizations not proceeding through fear of giving employees the freedom to share views or content. Our key stakeholders, including HR, legal, marketing, and social media, cooperated to agree on an overall compliance model and a clear set of guidelines to move ahead.

4. Launch Plan

This next critical step has many components. We want to highlight a few key ingredients that should not be missed.

  • Ground zero – the proof of concept: Bring in stakeholders who will animate the advocacy platform going forward. Ensure that you have a community manager and a steering team that builds the proof points and runs a short proof of concept to test out the capabilities and features and creates initial best practices
  • Start small: We commenced with a pilot launch, targeted at our customer-facing organization. As a result, we were able to test various scenarios, learn from feedback and make necessary improvements for a full launch
  • Core members: This is absolutely critical. We assembled a team of established social advocates across the marketing and sales spectrum with drive and enthusiasm to make it happen together with the supplier
  • Create buzz: Drip feed communication to your target audience. Create awareness, stir interest and show clear benefits that compel them to join your program. Keep an open and relevant approach with current and tribe-like mindset that shows how easy it is to volunteer for the program
  • Content is king: You need to consider your target audience. What are their objectives for using social media to share your messages? What type of content do they need to help achieve this?
  • Following feedback: It is important to have a mixture of information to avoid your advocates “spamming” connections, which could result in potential buyers refusing to engage. Sociabble was populated with Orange and third-party content relevant to current market topics and key industries
  • Onboarding: It is so important to test the process (and try and break it) to ensure it’s robust for employees to register and start using your program with ease

5. Ongoing strategy

A big mistake is to launch the program and walk away, assuming it will run itself. Employee advocacy programs require a dedicated team to maintain momentum and develop for the future. The following ongoing actions should be considered to keep the program alive and see success in the future.

  • Regular communication: Newsletters, internal blogs, hints, tips, onboarding packs and nurturing campaigns should all become your business-as-usual activities.
  • Incentives: Our program runs monthly competitions to recognize users for advocate behaviors. Winners are awarded a digital certificate and also applauded by our senior management team. Such recognition, we find, has a positive impact and increases the user’s advocacy. Consider that if you offer financial rewards, this will be expensive and may not generate the right behaviors from users.
  • Super users or advocates: Through your program, several key influencers will start to appear. These ambassadors play a pivotal role as internal use cases to help you drive new adoption and increased usage. Also, do not forget to nurture these advocates towards becoming recognized external influencers.

We hope our step-by-step approach helps plan your future employee advocacy program. In our next blog, we will share the benefits that employee brand ambassadors can bring to an organization.

“Build it, and they will come” only works in the movies. Social media is a “build it, nurture it, engage them, and they may come and stay.” - Seth Godin, sethgodin.com

My thanks to Maria Lehtman for collaborating on this blog.

Tracy Wilks
Tracy Wilks

I am European PR and Social Media Manager and also UK&I Marketing Manager supporting my local account team. In my spare time I love to travel and live on a replica Dutch barge on The River Thames.