Employee Advocacy part 1: Your employee as brand ambassador
In English it is called: Employee Advocacy. But in the Netherlands, you often hear the apt name: branded workers. To put it simply: promoting your company through your employees. In this blog, digital strategist Wilco lists the opportunities and possibilities of Employee Advocacy.
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What is Employee Advocacy?
Employees as brand ambassadors, is that new? No, on the contrary! In the last century, too, employees were often proud of their work and employer, and also often (unconsciously) promoters. Whether it was at parties, in the pub or along the line. But with the rise of online, especially social media, the opportunities have increased enormously. Think of an employee who shares a vacancy ("Are you going to be my new colleague?"), or employees who invite their personal contacts to an event of your organization. This can happen spontaneously, but there are also many ways in which you can facilitate employees to bring your company to the attention of their network.
The examples already show that not all organizational content is suitable for this purpose. Asking employees to share the latest offers with their personal network every day will not be received with enthusiasm (not even by the connections of the employees). Also, not every employee will be at the front of the queue to share business content in all his networks. Marketers and managers can also be the inhibiting factor: "How do I know that they say the right things and don't harm our image by saying the wrong things or saying the wrong way?
I will explain this subject in two parts. In part 1, this blog, I describe the principles and the main forms of Employee Advocacy.
Employee Advocacy: The principles
Of course, Employee Advocacy starts with truly enthusiastic employees. Employees who are intrinsically positive about the organization as an employer, as well as about the products and services of the organization. Do you have no idea if they are satisfied? Then ask them with the classic NPS question: "On a scale of 1 to 10, what is the chance that you recommend our organization as an employer to acquaintances? And what is the chance that you will recommend our products and services to your acquaintances?"
Are many people not really satisfied? Then I think you have other things to do first.
A small example: A few years ago, I gave a presentation on the possibilities of social media in recruiting personnel for a large insurer (let's call him X). If you searched in Google for 'working at X', page 1 of the results showed a social media profile that started every Friday with: "Fortunately, it was almost weekend again", but every working day also started with a countdown. "Only 5 more days before it's weekend again". At that time, the listeners were still mainly looking for the legal possibilities to stop this person. Of course, there are, but I personally think that a good conversation with his manager and the question as to whether this person is in the right place, works better.
The best thing is of course when all employees are potential ambassadors, but you can also start with a smaller group.
Another basic requirement is that you make it clear to yourself and your employees what you stand for. What are your core values? And, how do you translate them into your (social) updates? What do we do and what don't we do? And that without losing the authenticity of the updates.
An example: at Loyals, one of the core values is: 'ahead of the game'. We want to be at the forefront of our field of expertise and how nice it is to see an employee attending a conference, realizes that we find it important to stay at the forefront and decides to share an update on social media about his visit to the conference and concludes with #loyals #aheadofthegame.
The employee as ambassador
When we talk about Employee Advocacy, we distinguish three different forms: Employees as advertisers, advisers and authors. We discuss all three of them, including the most important considerations.
Employees as advertisers
The free visibility of company pages on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram are getting lower and lower. A personal update, with for example a link to a vacancy, has a much higher reach and often more involvement in terms of reactions. To put it very simply, the deployment of employees is a good way to get more free reach. And much cheaper than advertising. Win-win!
A weekly email to all employees with the request to like and preferably share all corporate content is not really going to help make a difference. It may be a good start, but it also has risks. Are they actually going to do it? Probably only a small percentage. And what if we make it part of their KPI's, assessment and reward? And/or make it very easy by our to have content marketers propose a standard update and push it to all employees via a smart tool? Before you know it, all employees do it because they have to, and you get a bunch of 'content parrots' that pump exactly the same message around. Great for your reach, but whether you really achieve your goals with them?
No matter how good the opportunity is to reach many more people through your own employees almost free of charge, I would like to tempt you to treat the employees not as advertisers but as advisers.
Employees as consultants
People trust a recommendation from a friend much more than a company update and/or paid promotion. Employees who are enthusiastic about a new product or their workplace have much more impact than the standard promotion: "Have you read our 5 must-do activities in Milan yet? Super nice tips. Number 3 and 4 are my favorites! And an insider's tip: from December, we'll have great offers again and you can book a return ticket for less than 100 euros."
In short: give employees room for an authentic recommendation. Give them the choice to share what, where and when. Encourage them to make it personal and to give it their own twist and not to be afraid of it (after all, they share it on their own channels).
Another example: an employee of a company was asked to help find a new colleague. She did not choose the sample text provided, but provided the link to the vacancy page with her own photo of the empty chair opposite her and used the text: "Do you dare to occupy this empty chair and from now on sit with me in a room for 32 to 40 hours a week?"
Where the organization benefits from the visibility of and through the employee, the employee himself has relatively more visibility and a greater chance of being seen as an advisor. Without necessarily having to discover or create all the content themselves. And make no mistake: we don't mean that you only have to use your advisors for this role. It can be done in almost any role.
Employees as authors
It's great when these employees not only become a part of the organization, but also become more visible themselves. This means not only sharing the organization’s updates, but also creating content themselves. In short: the employee as author. That's Employee Advocacy at its best!
Think of writing blogs and vlogs. This form of Employee Advocacy is closely linked to subjects such as: social selling and personal branding. After all, most organizations are the sum of their individual employees and the better they are on the personal map, the better it is for the organization.
"Yes, but by no means everyone can and will write, let alone flee!" That's right. But your employees can help with that. From blogging or flew training to ghostwriting. Or simply by not having them write themselves, but by interviewing them.
In short: even more authentic visibility for both the employee and the organization.
Just a brief comment: before you know it, you focus on the account and sales departments, but this can also work well from the shop floor: in the production process, at the delivery or the service department in particular.
Here, too, an example: the crane operator who takes a nice picture of his view of the city every morning during the construction of an apartment complex, which even makes it into the newspaper and indirectly creates attention for his profession as well as for the project and company in question.
Getting started with Employee Advocacy
Now you know exactly what Employee Advocacy means, how to use it and what the biggest pitfalls are. In my next blog I will share some important tips that you can use when you start working with Employee Advocacy.
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