Workplace culture and employee engagement have been hot topics in the business world for a number of years now and for good reason. 

Corporate transparency has never been greater than it is today. Every move a business makes is exposed to the outside world. Organizational culture and employee engagement are the most important issues companies face in their bid to attract and retain talent and to maintain a competitive edge.

How businesses are viewed is more important now than ever before. It matters to employees and it matters to consumers. While employee advocacy isn’t a new concept, it is becoming an increasingly important component of business strategy and brings many benefits.

What is Employee Advocacy?

Employee advocacy is a method used to promote your brand and initiatives through people who work for your organization in an authentic and trusted way, typically on social media or other digital channels. 

It’s essentially a marketing tactic that leverages your business’s most valuable asset – your employees. People trust other people more than they trust brand accounts, which is why your employees promoting your messaging greatly expands your reach. In fact, many businesses are wising up to this potential and using employee advocacy software to amplify the actions of employees on social media.

“We work continually on our culture and take employee engagement extremely seriously,” said Mike Knivett, MD at Artemis Marketing. “We understand that valued, happy employees can elevate reach by sharing and endorsing our brand values and company vision.”

People view messages from your employees on social media as authentic, while they view messages from brand accounts the same way they view an ad. This is why people are more likely to engage with employees than your brand account. Brand messages are re-shared 24X more frequently when shared by employees vs. an official brand account, according to the MSLGroup. This results in messages having 561% further reach when shared by employees vs. the same messages shared by an official brand account, according to the same report. EA+EE=SA (14)

Why is Employee Advocacy Important?

When people who work for your organization say positive things about your brand, it carries a lot of advertorial weight.  

Imagine the difference between an employee sharing a positive message about a company versus spreading the word that the culture is toxic. A few bad reviews on social media could cost a business their next potential client.

There’s also a huge difference between an employee population that says positive things about your brand on social media and one that says nothing at all. When your employees promote your brand, it leaves a great impression and shows that people like to work there and they believe in your organization. It also drastically increases your reach on social media and greatly boosts your digital presence.  

Glassdoor, for example, has become a go-to platform for employees trying to find out more about a prospective company in the recruitment process. Glassdoor reviews posted by current and former employees can be extremely influential in attracting or deterring top talent. This type of employee generated content has huge potential in building authenticity and trust around your brand.

People also trust other people with job postings shared on social media, whether it’s from Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc, more than they trust a job posting shared on a job board by a brand. According to the Marketing Advisory Network, 44.5% of people say they are more likely to apply for a job they saw a friend post on social media than the same position on a job board.  EA+EE=SA (6)

What’s in it for Employees?

Employee advocacy programs aren’t just about promoting the brand. They offer huge potential as part of any employee engagement strategy. Employee advocacy programs help employees to understand the company mission and feel part of it. It brings more meaning to employees, which in turn influences motivation and a feel-good factor at work.

Sharing content also benefits an employee’s professional brand. It builds up the trust people have in employees to speak on industry topics and promote the business they work for. They are building their own reputation as thought leaders within the industry.

By consistently posting on social media about industry trends and challenges, and engaging with industry influencers, employees will build valuable industry connections. They will become more social media savvy and build a larger presence in the industry they work in.    

Three Steps to Implement an Employee Advocacy Program

Starting an employee advocacy program isn’t a walk in the park; it requires commitment and hard work. Here are 3 fundamental steps to get employee advocacy working effectively:

1. Make Sure Employees Understand Your Brand

Successful employee advocacy relies on staff knowing exactly what the company vision and values are, understanding the product or service offering, and having the confidence to talk about it. 

Sam Walton, founder of Walmart Inc., believed in the ability of employees to influence customer experience and knew that their daily behavior with customers was the key to success. To achieve this, he went to great lengths to build a successful organisational culture and get his employees to understand the Walmart brand. 

2. Set Clear Guidelines for Content Sharing

Offer continual training and support to ensure employees (new and long-standing) understand your brand and your company vision. An effective employee communication plan should be put in place to keep employees informed about what is going on in the business and offer guidelines for social advocacy.

Set sharing guidelines, but try not to be too strict as this could have the opposite effect and prevent employees from naturally sharing what they love about you. Don’t forget the content on their personal social media channels has to fit with their own personal branding, too. Any corporate speak will be spotted a mile away, won’t appear natural, and certainly won’t achieve the intended aim of promoting the brand.

Ultimately, you want any content shared by your employees about your business to be honest, supporting your brand, share-worthy, and of value to your employees. Natural, organic social media posts are much more likely to be interesting and won’t look like spam!

3. Create a Trusting and Open Culture

An enabling culture is a crucial backdrop for any successful employee advocacy program. Trust and honesty are desirable elements of company culture right now. As an organization’s culture broadly translates to ‘the way we do things around here’, it is easy to see how an open, honest and trusting culture is the natural way to build an authentic and positive employee voice.]

A strong organizational culture supports employees to be the best they can be. When employees are supported to grow, develop and flourish, they are natural brand ambassadors. 

This article was written by Dakota Murphey. All opinions and views are her own.