An established employee advocacy program is beneficial to both your brand and your employees. Here are some tips for overcoming the main challenges of setting up a successful employee advocacy program for your own company.
There are numerous challenges in developing an employee advocacy (EA) program. From designing and developing a program to sustaining engagement, growing membership, and reporting program metrics back to stakeholders, each aspect has unique considerations to be conscious of while designing your EA program. Within each of these three main phases - development, growth, and reporting - I briefly describe some of the biggest challenges you'll face and several methods of combating these issues to ensure program success.
The biggest challenge in the first phase of an employee advocacy program, the development phase, is how to effectively communicate the benefits of an EA program to your employees. When employees share content, it's a win-win for the company and the employee. Loaded with an arsenal of content, employees can use an advocacy program to grow their own personal brand. It's important to make sure that employees are able to understand and realize the benefits they'll receive from participating in an EA program. Communicating these benefits to employees can often be a challenge at the start of an EA program. Frequently, the heart and soul of an EA program, a company's employees, lacks a general understanding of what's at stake for them personally in the program. It's vital to the program's success to clearly articulate key benefits to your employees. From developing a personal brand to displaying industry insight and emerging as a thought leader, the challenge of communicating the benefits of employee advocacy to your employees is actually as simple as informing them of the intent and purpose of the program and guide them on how to best take advantage of their opportunity.
Once you have an enthusiastic group of employees sharing your brand's content, the next challenge is how to grow your program and continue to increase overall engagement. During the post-launch period, engagement is the catalyst to program success. After you've launched your EA program, the challenge shifts toward increasing employee engagement and overall activity within the hub. There are multiple ways to spur engagement. One of the simplest methods is leveraging your employees to participate in small campaigns. These campaigns, normally lasting less than a week, are often aligned with your overall content calendar and marketing strategy. Campaigns include using hashtags or keywords, sharing specific content, or submitting topic-related content and rewarding members for participating in these actions. An additional form of engagement is surveying members. Once your program is live, it's never too early to reach out to members and collect feedback on your program. Whether specifically in regard to content preferences, general program thoughts, or specific campaign-related questions, collecting feedback is the easiest way to understand how your most vital asset is doing. Each outreach method provides a simple way for programs to keep members engaged and encourage more members to join.
The last major challenge in creating an employee advocacy program is turning member actions into a consumable set of metrics. From the beginning of a program, establishing a set of metrics to determine program success is as important as any challenge you will face. These metrics can range from general social media goals of impressions, engagement, and reach to program-specific goals of signups, form-completes, or referrals. It's essential to have a complete understanding of what to track, how to track it, and why you're tracking it. To address all of these concerns it's best to surround yourself with experienced program strategists and a platform that makes it simple to track, measure, and record actionable results. When you're able to develop a plan for reporting program success at an early stage with the knowledge and expertise of an experienced employee advocacy strategist, the process of translating employee actions into measurable return on investment (ROI) becomes infinitely easier.
The biggest challenges within employee advocacy may seem daunting at first, but addressing these concerns will actually serve as an invaluable guide to ensuring program success. Your response to each challenge will grow with the learnings of the preceding phase and over time each challenge will become easier and easier to overcome.
Russ Fradin is the co-founder of Dynamic Signal and a digital media industry veteran with more than 15 years' experience in the online marketing world. Russ co-founded and was CEO of Adify (acquired by Cox for $300 million in May 2008) and co-founded SocialShield. He was also SVP of BD at Wine.com, EVP of Corporate Development at comScore (NASDAQ:SCOR) and was among the first employees at Flycast (acquired by CMGi for $2.3 billion in January 2000). Russ is also an active angel investor in the digital world and is on a number of boards. Russ holds a BS in Economics from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
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