Are your employees doing your brand more harm than good?

If you’re a savvy marketing leader, you’re already implementing or thinking about implementing an employee advocacy program.  Employee advocacy is a popular topic with B2C and B2B marketers these days. It should be. But are your employees doing more harm than good?

What is employee advocacy?

Employee advocacy is not a new concept however the name and the tools to implement it are relatively new. Employee advocacy is empowering your employees to extend your brand’s reach to their network. Not so complicated, right? And thanks to social media and platforms like Dynamic Signal’s, employees can quickly and easily share corporate-approved content with their online networks.

What are the benefits of employee advocacy?

If you’re a marketing leader, it’s probably already obvious. The benefits of employee advocacy are increased reach, stronger customer relationships, increased search ranking, attracting top talent, and more “feet on the street” to spot business opportunities.

Did you also know?

– Buyers trust people more than brands, 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer

– Employees have 10x the amount of social media followers than corporate social accounts, Cisco study

– B2B buyers expect access to subject matter experts yet less than 3 in 10 agree they have as much access as they need, ITSMA/CFO: How B2B Buyers Consume Information, 2013

Are your employees doing your employee advocacy program more harm than good?

Tools and platforms to enable your employees to share your brand content and messages via social media are critical to your program success, but what if your employees:

– don’t have a vibrant online network ready to listen

– lack social media know-how and etiquette

– frequently sell and market to their network, but don’t listen and engage

– do not understand how to integrate their professional with their personal social media presence

Buy-in and success for your employee advocacy program will suffer if your employees do not have proper social media skills to listen, network and engage.

What are the landmines of employee advocacy?

Should you invest in an employee advocacy program? Absolutely. When you do, it’s important to be mindful of these potential landmines:

Company culture shortcomings: Does your company foster a culture of trust and respect for its employees? Does it encourage transparency and employee authenticity? If the answer is no to either of these questions, employee advocacy efforts will fail or appear contrived. For employee advocacy programs to succeed, your employees must be empowered and trusted to engage purposefully and authentically.

No clear goals or expectations for employees: Employees can’t read your mind. They don’t know how much or how little time you expect them to spend engaging in social media. Some fear if they spend too much time there will be consequences. There are also employees who fear not investing enough time.  There are no hard and fast rules for optimal time spent engaging in social media. Profitecture recommends employees target about 15 to 30 minutes a day; sellers and marketers will likely spend more than that depending on their target audience and role.

Expecting 100% buy-in: It’s important to recognize not all employees are going to be comfortable with social media. With training and support, most will, but not all. Respect personal boundaries and focus on employees open and willing to participate, otherwise you risk otherwise you risk unhappy employees in the social sphere.

Insufficient employee training: Learning the tools is easy. Knowing what to say, how to say it and when to say it requires training and practice.  Employees retweeting and sharing brand posts are a nice start, but they can get spammy (the Urban Dictionary is so colorful!), especially if a few hundred employees tweet the exact same comment.  You start losing connections, not growing them.  Arming your employees with social media best practices and short cuts helps build buy-in for your employee advocacy program, and, more importantly, showcases your employees’ expertise in an authentic and positive way which grows trust, preference and referrals.

Do you have experience with implementing an employee advocacy program? What advice would you offer others? I’d love to hear from you on Twitter @RobinScharpf or on LinkedIn.

About Robin Scharpf

Robin is a senior marketing manager with 20 years of marketing and client management experience. She applies her in-depth marketing background with an eye on results. Robin is a natural leader, creative thinker and enthusiastic problem solver. Prior to joining Profitecture, Robin spent 10 years with IBM’s Channel and Midsize Business Unit where she monitored and analyzed market trends, developed business plans and marketing strategies, managed its emerging market portfolio, led global execution of integrated communication plans, launched a client advisory board, and coached executives and business partners on social media participation and social authority. A University of Dayton alumna, she is a seasoned photographer and dreams of being a blues singer in her next life.