Best Practices in HR

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Elyse Schmidt
  September 11, 2017

Employee Advocacy Ideas to Start Tomorrow

It’s no longer enough to be a great company – your company must be known as a great place to work. That’s bigger than your own EVP and what you say on your career site and what your leadership thinks about your culture. It’s a blend of perception, reality, reputation and delivering on promises.

Employer branding is a blend of perception, reality, reputation & delivering on promises.

So how do you become known as a top place to work and stand out to the people you seek to hire?

The best answer is sitting in front of you every day. No, not coffee (though caffeine can spark some ideas)! It’s your employees.

I know what you’re thinking: Do employee advocacy programs really work? How do I get my team to take part on top of everything else I have to do? At SmashFly’s Transform Virtual Conference this year, I explained how you can unleash your employees as powerful brand advocates. And I know it’s possible because I’ve lived it in different companies throughout my career.

Why Employee Advocacy Matters

Employee advocacy is a marketing strategy based on your workforce’s enthusiasm for the company. Even better than fueling trust and transparency in your marketing efforts, employee advocacy also elevates your employees and their personal brands, in turn bolstering loyalty, positive word-of-mouth and even referrals.

Simply put: You can’t make hires if people don’t think your company is a great place to work. According to Gallup, 70 percent of employees aren’t engaged at work, which is why they’re open to a better opportunity. That better opportunity has to actually be better for them to make a change. That’s why job seekers say a company’s reputation is one of the most important qualities in their job search.

If your organization solely relies on corporate messaging and official, branded social media accounts to drive awareness and connect with people, you’ll never build an effective employer brand reputation. Sure, your messages, tweets, and posts are important; they’re just not trustworthy.

Survey after survey shows people trust other people, not brands:

Your employees are naturally the best channel to market your brand because they’re more trustworthy to the public. They’re human, not a company. Who better to toot (or tweet) your organization’s horn than those who work there? They’re already on social media, sharing their lives with their network – friends, family, colleagues, old coworkers, college alumni. If your company creates the right brand, compelling content, an intriguing purpose, useful resources, your employees will share it.

Fueling Your Employees With Content

“OK Carrie, so how do we find or create that content?”

Well, I can tell you they don’t want to blast out your sales pitch or your employer brand mantra or a formal paragraph from your About Us. They do want to share content that is personally relevant to their values, purpose and career goals, and helps establish them as thought leaders.

If you don’t know what your employees are willing or interested to share, just ask them.

It must be a balance of what you want to share, what they want to share and what your potential candidates want to hear (skewed toward the latter). If you don’t know what your employees are willing or interested to share, just ask them. Check out what they’re already sharing on their social platforms and use it as a guide. Here are some types of content that I’ve found to work:

  • Employee-generated content: People will share what they create, so involve employees in the content creation process, whether videos, blog posts, interview tips or their personal route to your company.
  • Inspiring human-interest stories: I’m sure plenty of your employees or managers have inspiring stories both in and outside of work. Your team will share great things their co-workers are doing!
  • Educational content: People like to be educate and teach, and this type of useful content really showcases your employees and brand as helpful.

Since you’re asking employees to share, make it simple. Many people want to build their personal brand and even help their company, but don’t have the time to do it between work, family, hobbies and Netflix marathons. Consider using an automation tool for the advocacy program, whether a social sharing platform, brand advocacy tool or more holistic recruitment marketing technology, so they can share with a click and see who of their colleagues has shared as well.

Ideas to Get You Started

There are plenty of things you can do to drive employee advocacy, and most of them don’t require a lot of money or effort. When I worked at AT&T, we saw tremendous results by simply tapping into existing employee networks.

Start some (friendly) competition: The first thing we did was engage with employee resource groups (these are common in large organizations; almost like a social club for people with similar interests or affinities) within the company by providing content that was useful to both the company and the group. For example, we shared a list of jobs we had difficulty filling so they could share it with their members. To amp up some friendly competition, we created competitions between groups and offered incentives for the group that could drive the most opt-ins to our talent network.

Find your tribe: We created a “Twitter tribe” by identifying employees who were already tweeting about our brand, then invited them to share curated content we’d send every week. We fueled their feeds and made it easy, while they helped share our message. We had 1,200 employees participate the first year, and they sent over 10,000 tweets (think about that additional reach!). It was a simple request that paid off big-time.

Look to other advocates: Your brand advocates extend beyond your employees. We had an extensive talent network at AT&T, and we surveyed the members to learn what type of content they wanted. Most wanted to hear about company news, so we shared that content, and many ended up sharing it with their networks. Our potential candidates became brand advocates! We also partnered with professional organizations our employees were a part of, sharing their success stories to the broader members of the group. It was another way to expand our reach to a new audience.

These programs can work regardless of the size of your company because they don’t require a ton of resources, just a little creativity. You don’t have to start advocacy from scratch! Just examine networks where your employees are already engaged and leverage those opportunities. More often than not, your happiest and most effective employees are willing and eager to jump in, they’re just waiting on the encouragement and support to get going.

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