Employee Advocacy is the promotion of a business / organisation by the employees who work there. Employee Advocacy is often encouraged by the company themselves as a way to help promote their business to potential candidates and customers, however the most effective form of this actually occurs as a result of creating an environment that fosters the highest levels of employee engagement.

Now there has been a bit of debate over this in recent years. Where as once companies put up barriers for their employees use of social media, in fear that it would both distract them in work as well as give them the free rein to say whatever they like in the name of a company, many are now realising the potential benefits of employee advocacy instead. Here we examine just a few of the pros and cons of adopting a strategic approach to Employee Advocacy.

THE PROS...

Better Social Media Reach and Presence

Posting to your social media profiles is great if you have a strong following, but if not you may find yourself investing a lot of time and money into things like Facebook and Twitter adverts just to reach more people. Instead of throwing a large chunk of your budget at social advertising, employee advocacy can open up an untapped audience of potential candidates and customers for your business without having to cost you a thing. If you’re using this as a tool to attract candidates for your organisation then the plus is that a lot of these candidates will be living locally, they may be people who your employees studied with (so will hold relevant qualifications) or even be ex work colleagues who may be considering a new move!

Food for Thought: Each employee has on average 400 connections across their social media profiles. If you have 1000 employees, and ask each one to share a single post you’ll have a potential reach of 400,000 people without having to spend a penny on social advertising.

Empowering Employees

Instead of shutting down access to social media in the workplace, why not seize the opportunity to both demonstrate trust in your employees and use it as a platform for them to build their own personal brands? Chances are you have a number of employees who are both expert at their job and passionate about what they do, so why not tap into this and empower your employees to share that information through blogging / Facebook campaigns / Twitter discussions? It’s great publicity for your organisation as a whole and it can also give your employees a sense of pride and ownership of their work too!

Food for Thought: Your workforce could be a pool of industry experts in the making! Use your employee appraisals to pinpoint those employees who are passionate about what they do and are willing to go the extra mile to showcase their expertise online! Empowering people to represent your employer brand will help to boost engagement levels too!

An Authentic View of your Employer Brand

Getting your Marketing / Recruitment / HR teams to post regular content across social media is a fantastic way to showcase your employer brand. The only problem is this content is usually created by a handful of people so it may not give an authentic view for every location and every department. An employee advocacy program allows every employee to become part of the content story, meaning you can quickly share images and updates from locations around the country and from departments that may be overlooked such as the IT team! Getting an insight into each department will also provide useful information for your future recruitment drives!

Food for Thought: If you are concerned about retaining control over what content is posted, invite your engaged employees to take part with a unique hashtag and only re-share chosen posts to your corporate social platforms.

A Friendly Face to your Brand

It’s fairly simple: what would you buy into more – a sponsored Facebook advert posted by your marketing team, or a recommendation from one of your friends on Facebook? While we definitely don’t want to discourage you from your usual recruitment marketing activities, an employee advocacy campaign can put a friendly face to your brand and get more buy in than the usual marketing spiel!

Food for Thought: According to the Nielsen Global Online Consumer survey, they found that 33% of buyers trust brands, where as 90% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know. Employee advocacy is the perfect initiative to help build trust in your employer brand.

An Increase in Consumer Sales

Employee advocacy is a fantastic way to spread awareness of your employer brand to attract potential candidates, however these same principles can be applied to your consumer brand. If your organisation is an online retailer for instance why not encourage your employees to share updates of any offers or exciting product launches you have? If each share has the equivalent reach of 400 people, and has the ability to build a higher level of trust than a simple marketing post then just consider the impact this could have on your bottom line!

Food for Thought: You need to strike a balance so that you can encourage employees to share selected content rather than forcing people to share. A small incentive for a re-tweet will often go along way and you’ll find that people will share and engage off their own back more than you’d think!

Increased Employee Engagement

For employee advocacy to work you must have engaged employees, so use this as an opportunity to ensure your company is creating a working environment that fosters positivity and is an all-round enjoyable place to work. The employee advocacy initative you introduce will encourage more interaction between yourself and the employees, invite more creativity and help make all employees feel valued as everyone has an opportunity to become part of your employer brand story! This in itself will increase your employee engagement levels even further.

Food for Thought: Employees don’t become engaged overnight, and according to a report from People HR only 13% of employees consider themselves as “highly engaged”. Read this blog to get started on improving yours.

THE CONS...

You’ll need a Solid Social Media Policy

The reason a lot of companies shy away from employee advocacy is for the fear of letting everyone loose on social media to say whatever they want! To avoid a social media disaster it’s important that you have a solid social media policy in place, and that you ensure all employees read, sign and fully understand any guidelines you set. It’s not about policing what people say but about ensuring your brand is being represented in the right way at all times.

Food for Thought: Make sure your employees sign the official social media policy on day one, but consider sending out monthly tips on using social media to back these up. After all how many of are guilty of skimming terms and conditions only to forget them ten minutes later? Keep your tips light-hearted though, if you come across as policing your employees on social media nobody will pay attention! Instead offer advice such as useful dates to note for trending topics etc.

You can’t Force it

It’s extremely unlikely that every single employee will want to become an employee advocate of your organisation. Maybe they aren’t active on social media, or they prefer to keep work and personal life separate, or perhaps they aren’t very happy in their role so probably don’t feel like promoting you to their friends and family? Whatever you do, don’t try and force employee advocacy. It can upset the few that don’t want to take part and can actually have an adverse effect if it comes across as forced to your employee’s social networks!

Food for Thought: Instead of forcing, encourage! Use a small incentive or competition to encourage employees to share and engage, but be clear that this is a choice, and that taking part is not mandatory.

Bad news travels faster than good

We’ve all seen it, someone receives poor customer service and they take to Facebook / Twitter to publicly vent their frustration. The exact same thing can happen with an unhappy employee. You can almost guarantee that a negative post will attract more attention than ten positive ones, so if you have any concerns of a disgruntled employee letting loose on Facebook then perhaps don’t encourage them to take part!

Food for Thought: If you are worried about unhappy employees then you need to look at your internal process to improve employee engagement and satisfaction, but note that this isn’t going to be changed quickly! In the mean time concentrate on encouraging those happy employees to share online, if you can increase the volume of positive shares it will help drown out any occasional negative ones and improve your overall sentiment online.

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