Increasing your employee advocacy strategy through social media

By Daniel Ku, director of marketing at PostBeyond

If you run or manage a business – whether it be an SME or corporate – social media should be used as a platform for marketing. However, you can take it one step further, creating a strategy where employees share company content on their personal social media.

The likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are growing each day and they have become a fundamental way businesses connect with their customers. In fact, every second of every day, on average, 6,000 Tweets are sent. That’s nearly 360,000 Tweets per minute. And, by implementing social advocacy, you can use these platforms to represent your business in a more engaging and authentic way.

A recent survey found that 67% of people considered their friends to be a reliable source of information on social media. This suggests that, if done correctly, your employees can help your business increase brand awareness, as well as impact sales. Further, if potential clients and customers see your brand being positively communicated through the unbiased voices of your employees they will be more inclined to collaborate and join forces.

Using social media as a platform for your employees to share their own views about your organisation demonstrates that you trust and value their honest views, as well as their ability to positively communicate and share business news. However, having your brand discussed on employees’ social media – and reaching potential customers – requires guidelines to ensure both you and your employees are comfortable and working in sync,

Here are three ways you can use social media advocacy to have a positive impact on your business:

1. Create guidelines for sharing on social media platforms for staff to follow

Before anything else, it’s important to mitigate any possible risks with social advocacy. Tackle this by creating guidelines and principles for your employees to follow when sharing work-related content on their personal social media platforms, so that there’s no blurred lines.

It’s also important to make your employees feel comfortable with the idea of sharing work related content on their personal social media channels. Communicate the personal benefits they can achieve through social sharing, as well as simplifying the social sharing process as much as possible.

Why not set out a few guidelines for employees from the outset? For example, you can suggest a list of appropriate hashtags for them to use, preferred brand terms, competitor products/services that should not be mentioned and easy cheat sheets that help explain the nuances of each social medium.

Don’t forget that employees that are happy in their work environment and aligned with their organisation’s vision are naturally more likely to share their brand’s content with friends and family. Successful employee advocacy should be organic and authentic, and not a forced program pushed by management, HR departments or other team members.

2. Make sure employees have a genuine reason to promote your business

In order to gain social media shares and coverage, it is important for brand mentions to happen in an organic way – what opportunities do you have that will give your employees a reason to amplify the company?

To become advocates for your organisation online, your employees need shareable content. Think about the type of content you need to create that employees will be inclined to share across their social media platforms – what do they feel most proud of as a member of your business? Whether this is visual content such as photos from recent team events, a post about recognition or an award they’ve received at work or a news release about an exciting new partnership, your employees need to have a connection with the content in order to want to advocate it.

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Let’s take a look at an example of how a well-known brand has used social advocacy – Starbucks. Although they have an entire team of social media strategists, one of their best-kept secrets is that a lot of social media interaction and mentions come from their own employees. Starbucks’ ‘Tweet a Coffee’ Twitter campaign was advocated by their own employees and managed to have a direct impact on sales and boost it by $180,000 in just one month.

This goes to show that, if you treat your employees right, they’ll genuinely want to promote their workplace, which can have a direct impact on sales. With that said, 92% of consumers say they trust products and services recommended by friends and family, so employers should be investing in making staff happier. Happier, engaged employees will be more inclined to share on social increasing both organic social media coverage.

3. Keep your brand’s image as your utmost priority

To be successful, a key component of your employee advocacy strategy must include that the content employees share online should not conflict with the organisation’s vision. Although organic and representative images of a business are needed, social media sharing spreads like wildfire and can often spiral out of control. If you’re an organisation in a highly regulated field, in particular, there should be a focus on educating and encouraging employees to understand and closely follow the guidelines you created in the first step.

We live in a digital world, and people want to work with brands that are highly thought of and known for treating their employees and customers with respect. If your employees are translating this onto their own social platforms, not only will it showcase a great image for your business, but it will also promote and build on potential clientele relationships.

Maintaining a brand image doesn’t always go to plan and ex-employees – or even current employees – can negatively represent or shame brands online. A former Google+ UI Designer recently suggested on his personal twitter feed that the reason for the network’s demise was due to incompetent management.

Information shared online by both current and ex-employees has the power to either strengthen or dilute your brand’s image – they are your own social influencers. If each employee shares a joint vision of using employee advocacy to promote the organisation through social media, it will appear more sincere than if advocacy is forced upon employees; freely offered communications will come across as more genuine to prospective customers.

Whatever way you choose to use social media in your business, ensuring your employees have an incentive to promote your business on their social media can have a major impact on customer engagement, promotion and monitoring competitor activity.

Showing your employees that you appreciate their hard work in a tangible way could increase the possibility of them actually wanting to share content and praise the company via social media – they genuinely believe in the brand and so want to share it with their peers.

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