When I worked in magazine publishing, I assumed the entire staff read every issue from cover to cover and was as intimately familiar with the content as those of us on the editorial team. After all, the magazine was our company’s primary product, so why wouldn’t they read it?
Because they had their own jobs to do, because some of them weren’t really the magazine’s target audience, or simply because they never got around to it. So, while most of them skimmed each issue and read an article or two, almost no one read every word.
The same is true for corporate blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. Even your most loyal employees are not reading everything you post—not because they don’t care, but because they don’t have the time or simply don’t think about work while they’re on social media. And if they’re not reading it, they’re not sharing it, which means your organization is missing out on one of the most powerful marketing tools at its disposal: employee advocacy.
LinkedIn data shows that only two percent of employees reshare content from their companies. Yet, those rare sharers are responsible for 20 percent of the overall exposure that content receives.
Just imagine the potential for business transformation if you had even more internal brand advocates sharing your posts and generating their own.
In a recent post, “Why Companies Are Secretly Terrified by Employee Advocacy,” I shared several studies proving the value this strategy has for brands and why organizations should stop fighting it. But how do you encourage it?
What processes do you need to put in place to build advocacy from within your organization? How can you circulate published stories in a way that employees willingly share them, and maybe even write their own posts singing your brand’s praises?
Try these five tactics:
If you leave it up to employees to go looking for your content, very few will ever get around to it. They are busy doing the work they’re paid for, and outside of the marketing team, that doesn’t include promoting the brand on social media. On the other hand, if you fill up their inboxes with requests to share everything you post, you will essentially be spamming them. And we all know what happens to spam mail. (Hello, trash folder.)
The best way to engage without pestering is to streamline the process. Advocacy tools such as NextBee, Circulate.it, and SocialChorus make it easy to share relevant content with the team members who are most likely to enjoy it and pass it along.
You could also pull together a weekly list of top stories you think they’d like and share it via email or internal message boards. Include a list of relevant hashtags, Tweets, or Facebook subject lines.
This does not mean you should offer financial incentives or job perks. In fact, doing so means they have to explicitly state they’re being paid to share the content. And if someone forgets to disclose this information, you could end up in legal trouble.
Instead, provide content that’s worth sharing—that will engage their networks and help to build their personal brands and set them up as thought leaders.
For example, HootSuite’s eBook, “How to get employees to (willingly) share your social media content,” recommends including a mix of content types in your employee advocacy efforts. Here’s their suggested breakdown:
A 20-30-50 division of content is a useful rule of thumb.
- 20 percent: Product-level messaging—Content that promotes product launches, updates, feature and benefit campaigns.
- 30 percent: Culture-level messaging—Messages that demonstrate what your organization believes in: your new four-day workweek, how your teams stay passionate, and your company philosophy (such as a remote work culture).
- 50 percent: Market-level messaging—Interesting data about your industry, thought leadership, and PR about where the market is headed.
Participation in employee advocacy programs should always be voluntary. You’ll get far more traction if people actually want to share your content. But more importantly, individuals’ social networks are private property, and companies don’t have the legal right to dictate what workers say or don’t say online.
For those who want to be part of your customer-engagement efforts, many would prefer to simply share content created by the marketing department. But others might want to generate their own posts. Consider giving interested employees the chance to “guest star” on company blogs or social media accounts. And empower them to write about the company on their own social sites by providing writing tips, a marketing overview, and guidelines to keep them from getting themselves or the company in hot water.
Which brings us to number four…
Employees who don’t know what to share—or how to share without getting in trouble—may just avoid the issue altogether. Help them protect themselves and the company by circulating a list of social media policies that explains what’s cool to share and what information must remain confidential.
Include these in advocacy platforms, your employee handbook, and in any emails asking employees to share content.
As you’re creating the list, keep policies simple and straightforward, and be sure to review state laws and/or run them past an attorney before dispersing. New York lawyer Arkady Bukh explains why in his Entrepreneur.com post, “Writing Social Media Guidelines for Your Company? Tread Carefully.” He writes:
Companies should become familiar with the National Labor Relations Act’s rules protecting employees’ freedom-of-speech rights. The act protects the rights of all employees (not just those in unions) to enjoy freedom of speech in relation to collective bargaining or other discussions of mutual aid. The act is usually interpreted broadly and companies have already been swatted down when they have fired employees for saying and posting things on their personal social media accounts. A rule that controls what employees may post on their personal social media accounts is in danger of being struck down. This applies even to remarks that would have resulted in an employee’s being fired if said in person.
However, companies can ban the release of confidential information, such as trade secrets, financial or legal details, or customers’ personal information. Freedom-of-speech laws also leave wiggle room that enable companies to prohibit customer bashing.
For inspiration, check out this HireRabbit.com blog post, “5 Terrific Examples of Company Social Media Policies.”
A little acknowledgement goes a long way. If employee advocates know their efforts are making a difference, and that you appreciate them for it, they’re more likely to keep sharing. Send out occasional updates with engagement metrics that show advocacy efforts are working, and let them know you couldn’t have done it without them. For particularly zealous sharers, consider sending personalized emails or handwritten notes that thank them for their time and efforts.
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