I recently had the chance to interview Rhonda Hughes, Corporate Social Media Manager for Citrix (disclaimer: I am a proud GoToWebinar user). Many companies I know still struggle with Employee Advocacy or have yet to establish a program that has meaningful impact in their organization. Rhonda has a compelling story to tell that has more than a few takeaways for all of you to better understand employee advocacy best practices.
Forming Your Employee Advocacy Program
We all know about the importance of advocacy marketing, but a lot of companies face a challenge when launching their employee advocacy program, but they don’t have to if they adapt it to the social activity that their employees are already organically doing in social media. Sometimes a little internal awareness can go a long way. This is exactly how the program at Citrix began. In the words of Rhonda, “The idea for our employee advocacy program actually came from employees.”
“At the time, I was the community manager for the Citrix SaaS division (GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, etc.). Our marketing team created really interesting content on broad topics such as how to be a better presenter or a better communicator – skills most business professionals want to improve on. I noticed when I promoted the latest article, eBook or webinar via our social channels, I’d see positive comments from my coworkers –they were excited to hear what marketing was creating and wanted to know more. I realized we had an internal awareness issue.”
“We were creating all of this interesting and relevant content that employees were eager to share, but most of our team didn’t know about it.”
Setting KPIs for Employee Advocacy
Citrix began their program with the end in mind, that is they set goals for their program that were simple and made it easier for employees to:
- See the latest Citrix content & news
- Share the things they find interesting with their social networks
A lot of marketers go for the jugular when they just want employees to share their content, but from an internal communications and employee engagement perspective, simply having them view the latest news from their company also has immense value for large organizations and helps keep all employees on the same page.
Adopting an Enterprise-Grade Tool to Foster Employee Advocacy
Citrix knew that in order to launch a formal program, they would need to adopt an enterprise-grade tool that would allow them – and their employees – better share their content. Citrix went through the process by building an internal proposal, outlining requirements and evaluating vendors before selecting one to partner with.
Their key requirements came down to:
- Easy content sharing. As Rhonda said, “this was #1 — employees are first.”
- Robust governance which would allow for multiple administrators and content managers
- A variety of reporting options, not only from an overall level but also by group and individual
- A scalable solution to grow together with the growing needs of the program
“We chose to partner with EveryoneSocial because they met all our requirements at a low cost relative to the other vendors. Beyond meeting our requirements and being cost efficient, EveryoneSocial was focused on taking our feedback as we grew our program to influence their product roadmap. Plus, we really liked that EveryoneSocial was “employee-centric” with functionality geared towards helping employees be better at social media.”
Rhonda mentioned that this key functionality included:
1. A personalized content library: To be able to not only see content streams from the latest internal Citrix news but also to be able to create streams from any other blog, hashtag, etc. source they chose.
2. Social content scheduling: To be in full control of scheduling their content to be published at specific times that made sense across the social networks that they chose.
3. Social analytics: To be able to understand the impact of the content they shared to understand what their networks found most interesting.
Employee Advocacy Best Practices in Launching Your Program
The rest, to paraphrase the famous quote, is history.
“In Spring of 2013, we started with a small pilot program with 40 employees. The response — traffic to the website, webinar leads and also qualitative feedback from our pilot participants—was fantastic. We used the results to make the case for further investment extending an invite to the entire SaaS division. Shortly after I was promoted into my current role within the corporate communications team and where I continued to grow the program across all divisions and geos to its status now at over 1000 employees.”
Note that the current number of employees that list Citrix as their employer on LinkedIn is 10,625, so when launching your employee advocacy program, start at getting around 0.5% of your employees involved as Citrix did. Assuming this initial group represents your most passionate and socially active employees, it doesn’t take a large number of people participating to show results that can lead to greater expansion of the program as it did in the case of Citrix.
Evolving Your Employee Advocacy Program
“At the start, our social advocacy program was focused on employees receiving weekly content emails featuring 5-10 Citrix-related articles. Employees were encouraged to ‘click to share’ the news they found interesting with their social networks. But, as we’ve expanded to teams across the globe, it became really difficult for me to select content that would appeal to everyone. That’s why our program has continued to evolve.”
“In January, we shifted focus to encourage use of the EveryoneSocial web app so employees can personalize what content/news they see. Like before, we started with a pilot. We’ve seen significant increase in content sharing. Employees really find value in having in having the content library that they can personalize, being able to schedule social posts in advance and seeing analytics. Here are a few of comments from our participants:
“I want to compliment you and the team for implementing this great platform. It’s really great and easy to use. Getting very positive reactions from my network (which is actually growing fast after using EveryoneSocial).”
“I have 3x more new followers in February than the previous 4 months, which is great for me, personally.”
“I really like this app. It helps tell me what posts resonate with my network.”
The Secret to a Successful Employee Advocacy Program?
Every corporate employee advocacy pro like Rhonda that I have spoke with, moderated a panel with, or heard speak at a conference like the Social Tools Summit all echo the same advice: Successful employee advocacy programs rely on the education of their employees. It is one of a few definitive employee advocate best practices. Citrix is no different.
“We’ve learned that an important element to the success of the program is education. In addition to giving employees an overview of EveryoneSocial we provide more broad social media education with the goal of helping them understand how they can use social media to build their professional brand. In the trainings we stress the importance of focusing on your audience so you “create value, not noise” and that content sharing is only one part of building your influence. “
Outside of education, Citrix does also gamify their program by running monthly leaderboard competitions with fun prizes to keep employees engaged.
Rhonda was generous enough to share the results of how her program is doing as to help benchmark the results of your organization. These are Citrix’s results for January 1, 2016 to August 22, 2016.
- Total participants: 1005 (398 web app/ 607 email)
- Total shares: 62K
- Engagements: 30K (Tracked for web app users only)
- Clicks on shared content: 104K
- Traffic to our websites: 53K
In this day of limited organic reach, companies are spending more in Paid Social while also augmenting their organic efforts with Influencer Marketing. The results from Citrix are a great reminder of the potential economic value, in addition to the intangible employee engagement benefits, of promoting a robust Employee Advocacy program internally to augment other external social media marketing efforts. In doing so, you will hopefully find these employee advocacy best practices to be of value to your organization, and you will also see why I believe employee advocacy is the final frontier for social media marketing.
Do you have any other employee advocacy best practices advice to add on top of what Citrix has experienced?