Looking to vastly grow your content marketing results? Ready to learn about a technique that is only just beginning to gain traction, yet can blow your social media goals out of the water? It’s time to embrace employee advocacy, the stealth ninja tool for amplifying content marketing efforts.
Employees are already talking about their work on social media. It’s time for you to take control of the situation by making it easier for them to work with you than without you.
Employee content a great way to grow customer confidence. It is far more trusted than corporate content. It’s generally seen as more authentic and relatable. Why is this so? The fact is that content from a person feels more human and real than content from a marketing or sales machine.
In order to get the greatest content marketing benefit out of your employee advocacy program, build a solid plan for success by following the steps below.
1. Develop Employee Advocacy Goals and Metrics
One of the first things you need to do when starting any program is to have a vision. In other words, you need to understand why you are doing it and what your measure for success is. If you don’t establish benchmarks for success from the start, how will you ever know if you achieved your goals?
Social media is complicated because there are many ways of measuring return on investment (ROI) and demonstrating success. The angle you take depends on what’s most important to your business success.
Generally, you are best off embracing the complexity of the situation and setting several metrics to watch. For example, you can monitor:
- Engagement or followers by geography
- Media or influencer followers or engagement by industry
- Number of followers, shares, or reach by social channel
- Amount of engagement (e.g., re-posts, replies, or commentary)
- Number of click-throughs resulting in purchases
You may even have different goals for different channels. For example, you could track:
- Retweets and replies on Twitter
- Followers and reach on LinkedIn
- Click-throughs and purchases via Facebook
Remember, you can change these goals over time if they don’t work for your business. It’s less important that you start at the right place than that you at least start someplace. Don’t let decision paralysis hold you back. Just be flexible, learn, and adjust as you go along.
2. Get Buy-In From Management For Your Employee Advocacy Program
Once you have laid out your goals, start by getting buy-in from management. If the management team doesn’t buy into your content marketing program, you will have a difficult time convincing employees that it is a priority.
In order to get executive buy-in, you need to prove the benefits of the content marketing program you are developing. For example, you can create talking points around:
- Trust – Employee content is more trusted and shared than that which is posted by a business.
- Visitors and visibility – Content marketing efforts bolstered by employees can improve keyword ranking, site traffic, and interest in your business.
- Reach – An employee engagement program can help lure in guest bloggers who know that their posts will get a much larger reach than usual.
- Visibility – Social programs can have a big impact on brand perception and awareness, which can be useful for attracting customers, partners, and influencers, as well as getting included in round-ups and reviews.
- Scalability – When more voices are involved in content marketing, you have better program scalability, often at a cost lower than paid media.
3. Get Buy-In From Employees For Your Employee Advocacy Program
After management has approved your employee advocacy program, it’s time to show the rest of the company that they can get a lot out of becoming involved. While you cannot require employees to participate in engagement programs, you can encourage them.
To get more buy-in, pitch the program as a benefit to individuals rather than a corporate marketing plan. And there are real, powerful benefits that employees participating in employee content marketing programs receive.
For instance, they can:
- Improve reputations as an individual who shares valuable and engaging content.
- Amplify their voices through approved content.
- Gain personal branding as an expert and thought leader.
- Grow skill sets and share subject matter expertise.
- Find new opportunities for corporate career growth and mobility.
- Build a personal network for better audiences and opportunities.
- Create deeper connections to other the business, employees, customers, partners, and friends.
Next, it’s time to create the framework that will enable employees to be good digital citizens and provide them with the basics they need to succeed. That means you need to develop a solid social media policy.
4. Create a Social Media Policy
Creating a social media policy can be challenging, even though it doesn’t have to be a complex or long document. Your social media policy has to result in the behavior you want but not be so convoluted that people won’t participate. It’s a fine line to walk.
Start by recognizing that your job is to educate employees, not police them. Make employees the center of your program, as though they were your customers. Consider the questions and issues they are concerned about, and build your policies and programs around solving those challenges.
Here are a few points to remember when developing or updating your social media policy for your employee advocacy program:
- The policy must be set up to protect both your company and your employees
- Write your policy in plain language that even a child could understand
- Underscore the benefits of following the policy (like protecting the brand, employees’ positions/reputations, growing the company, etc.)
- Remember to include the “don’t be stupid” sections (e.g., don’t share financial information, don’t say bad things about our competitors or customers, don’t use inflammatory language, don’t be racist/sexist, etc.)
Of course, even the best social media policy won’t guarantee good behavior. It is a guideline that employees should follow, but you won’t always be able to control what employees do or say. That’s why it’s also good to have a link to your general corporate policy that includes guidelines around expected behaviors and their consequences.
Looking for more education around creating a solid social media policy? Read this article on Social Media Policy For Employers: 6 Additional Key Policies to Update.
5. Onboard and Educate
In order to launch your employee advocacy program, you will need to provide education around a variety of aspects of the program. Your education system could include guidance on how to get started, brand language certification, best practices, and tips on how to become a power user.
At the same time, you need to make it as simple as possible for each person to participate, while still addressing employee needs and pain points. Let people know that social sharing will be made easy for them through education, supporting technology, engaging content, and training, all of which are connected to business objectives.
Educate your employees to vary their activities by their job and what feels most comfortable to them. For instance, you could encourage:
- Sales and customer service employees to connect on LinkedIn with clients.
- Marketing to interact with influencers.
- Engineers to interact with a more technical crowd on GitHub or Quora.
- All employees to understand how to talk about your brand and interact on social media using a professional voice.
One last point: this is no “set it and forget it” program. Your social media policy and educational program will have to be ongoing. You, therefore, need to update both on a regular basis.
6. Empower Your Employees
As you teach your employees how to navigate on social media, empower them by allowing variety in behavior. Be certain to address:
- Timing – People will end up engaging on social media at work. As long as this doesn’t interfere with their other job objectives, this should be an acceptable practice.
- Social media channels – Different people like using different channels. Allow employees to engage on the channels on which they feel most comfortable.
- Types of activities – Not every activity has to be promotional. For example, employees can be encouraged to recommend a fellow employee on LinkedIn or cheer for a local team.
- Content marketing – What employees share may have nothing to do with product or services, yet it can still be valuable. For example, content could be based on recruitment needs, partnerships, client support, professional or technical knowledge, or thought leadership, all of which can help the company meet specific goals.
- Authenticity – Different people will share in different ways and that’s OK. If a person loves what they do and is enthusiastic about a niche, they make a good advocate.
- Personality – Personal voices will be mixed in with professional ones. That’s part of what makes employees more trustworthy and believable: they are authentic.
7. Incentivize and Scale
One way to encourage additional employee interactions is to incentivize the program. For instance, you can:
- Offer monetary rewards to employees who contribute the most to your social media efforts.
- Create monthly contests in which you offer trips or electronic products as the rewards.
- Maintain a leaderboard so everyone can see how they are doing in comparison to others.
- Develop team advocate programs, in which an entire team can win a reward.
For more ideas on how to gamify your employee engagement content marketing program, read this article on unleashing the power of gamification to harness brand advocates.
As more employees take part in your program, make sure you can scale it up. Live training for employees is a good place to start. However, plan to eventually create repeatable, short, programs as well as guides and training that can be used to teach additional employees on-demand.
8. Provide High-Quality Content
Of course, every content marketing plan has one essential piece in common: it’s centered around content. In an employee advocacy program, it is especially important to offer a wide variety of compelling content. Because you are catering to a broad audience, be aware that different pieces will resonate with different employees and not every person will share every piece.
Segment your content by themes, so people can decide which themes best fit their needs. This kind of content segmentation can also lead to opportunities for employees to learn about what other teams do. For instance, a very technical piece might be perfect for an engineer but less so for a salesperson – yet that salesperson may learn quite a bit from reading the technical piece.
Another way to vary your content marketing efforts is to ensure that some pieces are high level while others are deeper dives. For example, you can provide content around events that your company is attending, speaking engagements, relevant influencers, hashtags, webinars, certifications, videos, and curated pieces.
In addition, employee-written or bylined posts and videos are particularly authentic. They often get strong buy-in and more shares. You can also use content marketing to show customers love by answering their questions or sharing emotional stories.
9. Let Employees Know What Content To Share
There are a variety of ways to let employees know about what’s happening in the content marketing program and which content they can share. For example, you can use:
- Newsletters – If you are a smaller company or just getting started, you may want to start out with a monthly newsletter that provides information for people to share, as well as shoutouts to people who are doing a great job sharing.
- Activation guides – If you are ready to get a little complicated, you can put together an activation guide each week that provides information about what employees need to know to engage around your content.
- Tools – As you get further into your program, you may decide to use a tool like Bambu, GaggleAmp, PostBeyond, or EveryoneSocial to automate your content marketing process and improve your ability to track results.
10. Be Aware of Global Requirements
One other key point to keep in mind is that if your company has international offices or does business globally, you need to be hyper-aware of other cultures and language differences. Here are a few tips to make sure the content you ask employees to share plays well worldwide:
- Pay attention to idioms and colloquialisms.
- Be aware of the tone and communication style of different cultures.
- Note that cultures may use social platforms differently than you are used to.
- Be sensitive to the fact that some phrases and words don’t translate well (for instance, watch out for idioms).
11. Test, Modify and Learn
The fact of the matter is that you will never perfect your employee advocacy content marketing process. Platforms, tools, employees, and even company culture will change over time. That’s why you have to consistently measure the impact of your content marketing efforts, make adjustments, and come up with fresh content that resonates with your employees and audience.
Don’t be trapped by your metrics. Instead, use the data you collect to improve your content marketing processes. Have periodic checkpoints and embrace questions and input from your employees. Be collaborative and accountable, treating your employees as valued clients, and share information about your wins. It won’t take long before your company is seeing the benefits.
Equally important to meeting corporate goals is the fact that more engaged employees are also more productive. Employee advocacy programs can bring your company together, allowing everyone to play an important part in moving the business forward. The more valued they are treated, the happier your employees will be, and the more successful your content marketing program – and your business – will be.
Do you use employee advocacy as part of your content marketing program? If so, share your stories with me in the comments section below or Tweet me up at @HollyChessman.