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Shawndra Russell

Start an Advocacy Social Media Program

Shawndra Russell

With the first-ever Employee Advocacy Summit taking place on September 15 in Atlanta, you could say that it’s a hot topic in the world of online and digital marketing. It just makes sense: while your company spends time reaching out to customers trying to create brand advocates — which should continue to happen, by the way — you have brand advocates right under your nose in the form of your employees.

So, why you should you start an employee advocacy social media program?

The simple math

Forbes contributor Ken Krogue recently stated that “if a company can leverage the network of the average everyday employee, they will tap into 2,500 people they might not have otherwise,” according to a collaboration with Kitedesk CRO Sean Burke. Using that statistic, if you have 10 employees, you could tap into 25,000 people that your company social media channels might not.

10 employees X 2500 connections = 25,000 potential customers for you!

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Size and industry don’t really matter

This concept applies to companies of all sizes and shapes (unless you’re a solopreneur, and in that case, you are already your own advocate). If you own a restaurant, every waiter, hostess, bartender and chef should be a brand advocate. But this goes beyond brick and mortars. Sure, guidelines are needed so that they don’t neglect tasks at hand, but everyone can be given a nudge to engage more with your company online from their personal networks.

Look to branding leaders

IBM. Dell. Oakley. Intel. H&R Block. Fidelity.

These companies are empowering their employees to become brand advocates by giving them the tools, training and guidelines that are increasing their brand reach exponentially. They’re not speaking as the brand, but instead tagging these brands or using specified hashtags to propel conversations further and longer online.

Social Media Today recently shed some light on the number of employee advocates activated at each of these companies. Using the same 2,500 number, here’s an estimate of the combined reach of these brand ambassadors:

IBM: 500 Employee Advocates (EAs) X 2500 connections = 1,250,000 combined reach

CISCO: 1,300 EAs X 2500 connections = 3,250,000 combined reach

DELL: 10,000 EAs X 2500 connections = 25,000,000 combined reach

Now, you might think as a company of only five or 100 employees that these staggering statistics don’t apply to your business. But every new person made aware of your company is one more potential customer — and it’s a whole lot easier to leverage your employees’ networks than building your own from scratch.

But expanding your reach isn’t the only benefit.

Additional benefits of employee advocacy programs

Not only does your company enjoy more exposure, but employee advocates have shown increased productivity, engagement and job satisfaction — when an employee advocacy program is structured correctly, of course. Sending a company memo that everyone needs to start hashtagging your company isn’t going to make employees jump into action. But, getting the ball rolling can be broken down into five simple steps.

How to implement your employee advocacy social media program

1. Send an employee survey to see who are your natural social media users

Some of your employees might not use social media or care to, and forcing them to create accounts just so they can talk about your company online is not the way to go. With those employees, you can utilize other methods like the freedom to give out gift cards or company swag.

2. Hire an expert for a training session

Maybe it’s tough to get all your employees together at once, but it’s crucial to start things off on the right foot. Many of your employees will have never been involved in an employee advocacy program, and they might be leery of saying the wrong thing or get reprimanded. By having an expert come in and break down the best practices for each social media platform and sharing the whys and hows of your employee advocacy program, the buy-in and participation will be much higher.

3. Create guidelines

Of course, creating guidelines for dos and don’ts is an important part of giving you and your employees peace of mind. Clearly stating goals, expectations, and consequences is important for getting things started smoothly.

4. Create and share your editorial calendar and send reminders

Implementing an employee advocacy program means you have to be diligent about planning ahead with your social media campaigns and then sharing those plans with your employees. It can be as simple as sharing a weekly or monthly focus, such as a hotel encouraging employees to show off dog-friendly spots in your city. Organize the focus around a specific hashtag or by having employees tag your company in their updates across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and any other networks you utilize.

5. Give recognition to those employees for doing a great job

This step should go without saying, but recognition must be continuously given to those employees doing an excellent job as well as those that are making an effort but might need some more guidance and training. Recognition can be public or private, such as:

• a thank you tweet from the CEO or owner

• paid training or conference admittance

• bonus

• more vacation

• swag

• more responsibility

• training new employees

Really, the sky is the limit in terms of showing your appreciation of their public advocacy — and for the impact a solid employee advocacy program can have on your bottom line.

What are your fears about starting an employee advocacy program? Share in the comments below!

Author bio: Shawndra Russell is a writer and social media educator for businesses, professionals and college students with the intent of stopping outdated me! me! me! marketing. Her latest works are "51 Ways to Help Your Social Media Manager Crush It!" and "How to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days." Read about her services and projects at www.shawndrarussell.com and connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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