We are often asked about best practices for engaging employees to become social media advocates. Before we get into best practices, let’s focus on dispelling some far too common myths. We’ve laid out the top 5 myths that cause problems for many social media marketers that fall into the trap of believing them.

5 Myths of Employee Social Media AdvocacyMYTH #1 : All employees are social media advocates.

This is about as true as saying all Americans love apple pie. Yes, we know a lot of people do, but not everyone does. We appreciate the old adage of “American as Mom and Apple Pie”, but we’re blueberry people ourselves, and yes, we are Americans.

Just because an employee may appreciate the company, they may choose to not be part of the company’s social media effort. It’s okay... really. We all know that there are people in companies that don’t believe in the goals or mission of the company. Others may just not be on social media. Yes, we know, sacrilege. Still others may "just say no".

Take solace in the fact that there will be plenty of people in the company that want to join you in on the company’s social media efforts. Cast the net wide and get as many people as you can, but 100% participation is not the number you should be going for. In fact, when you first start, the number may be lower than you expect. Don’t worry. It will grow over time. Creating a culture of corporate social media advocacy takes some time. With the right approach at your company, expect social media advocacy to flourish.

MYTH #2: Employees want to share everything you do.

Social media marketers are just like other marketing professionals. Sometimes, they forget that they are not the target audience and apply their own feelings, rather than data, to make messaging decisions. It is rare when a marketer is a typical buyer of the product or service that they market. So, why is it that we forget about this when we expect employees to share everything that we want them to share?

Just as you should not expect all your employees to be social media advocates, you also need recognize and be okay with employees not sharing everything you give them. Even your most engaged employee advocates are not going to want to share everything on every social network. Employees are sharing company information with their business colleagues, friends, industry contacts and other connections. They will share what is most important in their opinion and the information that benefits their audience the most.

Too many novice social media managers expect employees to follow the company Twitter account and Retweet it, yet on the other hand they are disappointed when they don't. Employees have a full range of opinions, experience and roles. Why then, do you expect that they will all think like a social media marketer? The goal of employee social media advocacy should be to make it easy for employees to share the content that THEY want to share. Then learn from the data you can collect with solutions like GaggleAMP to understand which messages employees want to share and which they don't. Finally, weigh this data against how effective the messages were in terms of click through, social interactions and lead generation. In most cases, your employees will have a great handle on what content will "sell" to their own contacts and followers.

MYTH #3: Employees want a complex social media dashboard.

There... we said it. Whew, the sky is still blue and the sun is still in the sky. Employees typically do not want any more work than they already have. Social media dashboards are powerful tools that can help combine social media activities like publishing, monitoring and analysis into one powerful tool. That said, it is rare when the rank and file employee will do this for their own social media presence. There is no reason for them to have to monitor their personal profiles like you would as a social media professional. Asking your employees to utilize powerful, yet complex dashboards only makes your work as the social media/marketing manager harder. This adds complexity to a job that really is a voluntary effort on their behalf. On the other hand, you become a help desk for people who point to you as the reason why they have to use the dashboard.

There are exceptions. Employees that do use social media dashboards are pretty savvy and tend to see the value social media as part of their job (even though it is not). Social media professionals really need dashboards as part of their role. For the rest, not so much. The more complexity you throw at employees on the social media front, the less likely they are to unitize any of it.

When you think about social media for employee advocacy, simplicity is best. At GaggleAMP, we see this all the time with the companies we talk to and serve. The companies that keep it simple for their employees, see the greatest participation and gains. That is why the employee view of our solution is based on a simple binary proposition... "share or no thanks". When it comes to voluntary participation in anything, complexity kills.

Imagine a world in which the company regularly Tweets and magically all employees Retweet it. While this sounds great, this myth guides is propagated by a point of view that is not based in reality. Let's peel back the onion on the 4th myth of employee social media advocacy.

MYTH #4: Employees just Tweet and share what the company already is doing.

This is thankfully, a less common view that we hear, but still exists out there, “We have a Twitter account, employees can just Retweet us when we Tweet.” Let’s examine this… you want them to watch Twitter all day long for your company Tweets or mass Retweet at the end of the day by looking at your corporate Twitter page. Let’s remember this. Your fellow employees have day jobs which are very different from yours. As with the other myths, this one is based on an assumption that employees are both as active and as social media savvy as you are. So, if you want them to help out, make it easy for them. When you assume that they will sit on Twitter looking for what the company has posted, you set yourself (and your company) up for major disappointment. Ask any number of random employees what the last Tweet your company made was. The answer makes my point nicely.

When you make it easy for employees to share great content the benefits are two-fold... corporate content is amplified through employee social accounts AND the employees see increased social influence. We spoke to a GaggleAMP customer last week about this very issue. Their social media manager was commenting on the impact that the company saw in terms of increase in reach, leads and social interactions. However, the thing that surprised him the most was the comments he got from his employees. They were thanking him for sharing the company content as it was transforming the relationships the employees had with their own social media followers and contacts.

MYTH #5: All Employees are great social media communicators

Most companies have a division of labor, even in marketing. Marketing is a big bucket that comprises product marketing, marcom, advertising, PR, social media and more. Each of these groups have their own skill sets and disciplines. Now, look outside the traditional marketing department and what do you get? Sales, finance, operations, product development and many more departments and groups. Each group can interact with customers and prospects at some level. However, these groups have never been responsible for creating the company messaging. Sales has traditionally been the closest to the prospect/customer. However, even the sales team usually looks to marketing for company and product messaging.

At some point, marketers fell into the trap that we described above with the Super Bowl. Only this is not about the employees seeing ads. It is about the employees having their own social media accounts. Just because someone has a social media account, does it qualify them as a social media expert? Other marketers realized this and created social media certification programs to "certify" employees on social media. When you look into these programs, the main goal is to define what NOT to say on social media. The training tends to be around do no harm, instead of message empowerment. Why is this? Simple, there is an understanding that the company cannot turn every employee into a superstar content creator that meets the social media marketing needs of the company.

We are often asked what the best ratio of company created messages versus personally created messages for a given employee. The answer is that it is up to each employee. Just as you can't force an employee to share company messages, conversely, you can't force them to create their own messages. The job of the social media marketer is to make sharing corporate content easy, fun and accessible. The job of the employees is to make the decision on what content to share.

Getting Started With Employee Advocacy