If you’re already convinced that social selling and employee advocacy are worthwhile for your company, then this is the blog post you should be reading to help prepare you in launching your program. But if you need a refresher on what social selling and employee advocacy are and why they can help you increase your revenue, this is a good blog post to start.
Before you can launch your employee advocacy program, you have to take the time to plan. The following will give you an overview of how to craft a social media policy, identify your goals, assign roles, and select an advocacy platform. If you’re interested in reading more, our Employee Advocacy 101 ebook provides more in-depth guidance on how to set up your program.
What are your objectives?
It’s really important to establish your objectives before you start planning, and ultimately launching. What do you hope to accomplish by empowering your employees to be active on social media?
To give you an idea, common objectives include:
- Decrease ad spend
- Increase engagement on social media
- Generate more leads
- Nurture existing leads on social media
- Increase brand awareness
- Attract new hires
- Empower your salespeople to engage in social selling
- Create a uniform brand voice
- Help employees build their personal brands
- Build thought leadership
What’s your social media policy?
Before you jump into a social selling and employee advocacy program, you’ll want to create a social media policy for your company. It ensures your employees comply with your program, and outlines the rules of what employees can and cannot do.
As you create your policy, here are some things to think about:
Laws – It’s tempting to ask your employees for their usernames and passwords so that you can correct any inappropriate or inadequate social updates. In addition to undermining your trust in your employees, this practice is illegal in many states.
Tone – Make sure you write your policy in a tone that matches your company’s culture. Also, don’t dwell on the things your employees should not do. It’s important to be clear about those limitations, but the overall tone should be encouraging of employees sharing on social media.
Length – Would you read a 3-page list of rules? Your employees wouldn’t, either. Keep your guidelines as concise as possible.
Presentation – Would you read a 3-page list of rules in 8-point font? Make sure your list is digestible. Some companies create graphics to highlight the major tenets of their policies.
Who’s going to be part of your advocacy team?
The composition of your employee advocacy team is crucial. The social selling team is obvious (i.e. the sales team). It’s the advocacy team that requires a bit more thought.
There are eight key roles that you need to fill. Before you launch your advocacy program and
implement your platform, make sure you assign roles and know who is doing what. Here are a few tips on how to go about starting your recruiting process:
1. Start with a customer-facing department (or two).
Typically, it’s best to start with the departments that are accustomed to sharing your company’s messages. These might include marketing, public relations, sales, customer success, and business development. Remember that each department in your company has different needs.
To ensure the success of your program, limit your first group of advocates to a department or two. That way, you can target your content and messaging to the needs of a select few groups.
2. Identify the employees who are already on social media.
According to the Pew Research Center, 74% of all internet users have a social media account. So, it shouldn’t be hard to find employees who use social media. The trick is to find the employees who understand how to use social media for professional purposes.
Speak to the department heads in your company. Typically, they will know which members are power users of social media. These employees are the ones who bring up Twitter and LinkedIn during meetings. They want the company to be more active on social media. You know the type.
3. Keep your pilot group small.
It’s tempting to launch a large-scale advocacy program right away. The more people who amplify your messages, the more people you reach. But your program will suffer if you start too big, too soon. Your program will be hard to manage, and adoption will be slow. So, start small. Create best practices. Show some early results. Then, expand. Granted, the term “small” will depend on your company size. Generally speaking, you will want to start with 15-50 employees.
Here are the most common types of roles within an advocacy program:
Executive Sponsor – Acts as a vocal champion of the program, legitimizes the project’s goals, stays up-to-date on major project activities, and provides feedback on the project.
Project Manager – In charge of articulating the vision to stakeholders, project planning, maintenance of the project plan, status reports, team meetings, and oversight of deliverables. Also coordinates with the vendor’s customer success team.
Content Creators – Writes and designs content for early, mid, and late stage campaigns. Most likely a part of your marketing team.
Content Curators – Selects content and pairs it with the right message for the right social network. There are several ways to structure your curation team.
Trainers – You need someone to train your employees. This might be someone in your human resources department. It could be your project manager. It could be an experienced advocate. Trainers are responsible for standardizing best practices.
Employee Advocates – Your employees who are dedicated to being active on social media, representing themselves and the company well, and identifying and nurturing prospects on social media.
Metrics and Analytics – Reviews metrics and analyzes them for success. Focuses on which advocates are the most engaging on social media, which types of content (e.g. infographics, blog posts, videos, etc.) are resonating, and how your advocacy program is performing against your objectives.
Vendor’s Customer Service – Helps with project planning, guidance for deployment, creating best practices, technology migrations, and training. Shares subject matter expertise.
How to determine your curation strategy
There are several paradigms for distributing content amongst your advocates. A good employee advocacy platform will be flexible enough to accommodate your needs. Below, you’ll find descriptions of three different models for content curation.
Choose the paradigm that works best for you and your company culture:
Centralized – One person (or a few) selects content pieces and pairs them with pre-approved messages. The advocates then shares that content with their contacts on social media. This works well for companies with compliance regulations and a strong concern for brand equity.
Vertical – Each vertical has its own curator. That way, the employee marketers can ensure that they are supplying their prospects with the latest news about their vertical’s industry. In turn, the advocates position themselves as experts in their field. This is good for large sales teams where knowledge of a specific vertical is a must.
Democratic – All advocates select content pieces and write their own messages. This allows the advocates to tailor their interactions with each and every prospect. A democratic approach works well for companies that value personal and professional branding for their employees, as well as highly personalized interactions with buyers.
How to determine your content strategy
Content is a key ingredient for any employee advocacy program. Without educational blogs, white papers, infographics, survey reports, and videos, your employee advocates will not be able to build trust with buyers, nor will they add value to their potential customers’ lives.
To create the right content mix, make sure that you familiarize yourself with the 4-1-1 rule. This means aiming to post four pieces of content written by others for every one soft promotion (e.g. a link to a webinar, an e-book download, etc.) and for every one hard promotion (e.g. a demo request).
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, has championed this approach. And we’ve found it to be a helpful guideline for our employee advocacy program. This rule prevents us from exhausting our prospects with pitches and promotions. Instead, it allows us to build trust and educate our audience–without seeming too pushy.
Think of sharing content on social media like going to a dinner party. You don’t want to be the loathsome guest who can speak about only one topic: himself. Yawn. So, make sure you balance both your company’s branded content and other people’s content. A good employee advocacy platform will help you do this.
In fact, we’ve found that many advocates are reluctant to adopt an employee advocacy platform if they can share only their company’s content. They want balance, and they don’t want to spam their followers with corporate messages.
The other important steps to creating your employee advocacy program include promoting employee adoption, and how to choose the right type of platform that will enable you to execute and evaluate your program.
The Employee Advocacy 101 ebook describes in detail how to go about launching your program. It provides step-by-step instructions, and has easy-to-use worksheets so you can kick-start your planning process. And for those of you ready to start research platform providers, it goes through the 10 most important questions that you need to ask vendors when choosing the right platform.