First published on www.mediaupdate.co.za in November 2015
What your employees think about your company, its products and services offerings, matters. Through their personal social media accounts, employees have the power to grow and define your brand. But they’re not going to do it by default.
By Remy Raitt
You have to earn their advocacy, something forward-thinking businesses are realising is well worth the effort.
Generally referred to as ‘employed advocacy’ or ‘employed media’, this type of online content marketing has been acknowledged as the fourth type of media, joining bought, owned and earned media, as a credible way to grow your reach.
In a downloadable eBook, strategic communications agency Cerebra, write that employed media is the term used to describe the “collective of socially connected people who work for your company”. Cerebra are encouraging businesses to put their employees at the front line and allow them to use their online reach, influence and credibility to spread brand messages.
How it works
It’s not as easy as ordering your employees to punt your product online. In fact, as Cerebra MD Craig Rodney says, for employee advocacy to work at all, it has to be authentic. This means you have to identify potential employees, then incentivise them to join your advocacy programme.
Head of strategy at Student Village, Duncan Collins, says this identification process is vital. “Your employees represent demographics your company might not.” It’s about finding the people who have reach that would realistically benefit your company.
Where to begin
Rodney says the easiest place to start is encouraging employees to hand over their social media usernames so that you can look into them online to ensure they’ll make effective advocates. Once they’ve checked out okay, it’s about encouraging them to get on board. “You can’t force your employees but you can provide incentives,” says Rodney. These incentives can range from extra leave days to a bar of chocolate; it’s totally dependent on the company.
Another crucial part of your employed advocacy programme is to ensure your employees are sharing content that’s relevant to their own interests, and consequently those of their social media connections. Collins and Rodney agree that the easiest way to do this is by getting employees to share their own work and accomplishments.
When it comes to work they may not have produced, Rodney suggests getting those involved in your programme to pick areas of interest, and building a points system around the idea that they will only receive credit when they share posts that fall within the scope of their chosen subjects.
How to manage it
There’s no denying that putting your brand into the hands of your employees can be chancy. “You do run the risk of your employees representing your company in a way that’s not true to its core values,” says Collins. But Rodney says this can be effectively minimised and even vanquished by ensuring everyone is always up-to-date on what is and isn’t acceptable.
Then it’s about tracking the success. In a guide on employed advocacy, Link Humans say this can be achieved by simply setting KPIs. “These KPIs will tell you whether you’re achieving your goals, and how well you’re doing. KPIs aren’t just any metrics – these are key metrics you’ll rely on to tell you how your plan is performing.”
Rodney agrees; “You need to track employee behaviour. People might think this is a bit big brother-y, but it’s all public information. It’s not about curtailment, it’s about understanding and informing.”
And once the programme works its way into the core of how your business communicates, employed media will become a tenant of your hiring policy says Collins, thus ensuring as many employees as possible become advocates and spread genuine brand messages.
Does or would your company utilise employed advocacy? Tell us why below.