In Part 2 of our series on the power that social media can have on your brand, Janine Buis explained why you should you leverage employees as ambassadors for your company. Here, she explains how to do so.
The opportunity for HR to tap into social media to support talent initiatives is great, and while these benefits are significant, according to a Hinge and Social Media Today survey, 51.7 percent of employee advocacy programs were owned by the marketing department, and Altimeter research found that only 19 percent of respondents said HR was regularly engaged in a cross-department working group.
Successful employee advocacy programs depend on policies and guidelines that empower employees to initiate and engage in conversations about the company.
HR has a significant role to play in employee advocacy. The foundation for the success of any employee advocacy initiative is creating an environment that enables employees to come to work energized by the company purpose and their role in fulfilling it. HR and marketing can partner on employee advocacy initiatives in five critical areas:
1. Senior leadership support. Make sure there is support at the top levels of the organization for employee advocacy, with leadership serving as role models. Support leadership to become active internally and externally on social media. Altimeter research found that only 27 percent of respondents reported that executives at the VP/Director level were active on social, and only 9 percent reporting participation from the C-suite,
2. Social media guidelines. It is important to establish the rules of social media engagement for your organization and communicate them. According to Pew Research, half of all full-time and part-time workers (51 percent) say their workplace has rules about using social media while at work and only 32 percent report that their employer has policies about how employees may present themselves on the Internet in general (63 percent say their employer does not have these policies).
Successful employee advocacy programs depend on policies and guidelines that empower employees to initiate and engage in conversations about the company and provide a framework for monitoring and compliance management. Your guidelines should educate employees on the consequences of social media on the brand—both positive and negative. For example, even something as simple as liking their employer’s Facebook page, or following the company on Twitter or Instagram, can send a positive message about the brand to friends and family. We have all seen tweets, posts, and stories that have had adverse impacts on the brand.
Guidelines as to what behavior is (and is not) acceptable so that there is no confusion or uncertainty. Be sure to include disclosure policies around the employee/employer relationship, as well as specific guidelines around what content is acceptable to share, and how to deal with confidential information. By providing clarity, employees will have the confidence to share appropriate company content and be certain that they are not exposing sensitive or confidential information.
3. Employee advocacy strategy. Research by Hinge Research Institute and Social Media Today suggests that less than 20 percent of companies have a formal plan in place for employee advocacy initiatives. Set your goals. These could be recruiting related, or marketing and sales related. Having a plan in place is key to ensuring that employees understand the goals and objective of the program, the role that they play, and benefits of their engagement. Training on the use of social media and relevant metrics is needed to help employees become more proficient and build the confidence to engage as a representative of the company and manage potential risks. Be sure to provide a contact to support employees if they have questions. Consider integrating information on social media engagement into the employee onboarding process.
4. Content strategy. Having a content strategy and plan is also critical. Content should be educational, relevant, and visually appealing to the audience. A variety of content should be available including stories about the organization’s purpose, customer impact, values and culture, information about the employee experience and value proposition, the opportunities available, as well as company news, including awards and recognition. Employees can be encouraged to propose and create content themselves as well. Make sure that there is someone who responsible for curating employee generated content. Promotional content and offers should be kept to a minimum in an employee advocacy program.
5. Monitor and measure. Don’t forget to capture data to track the participation and results. Fortunately, many platforms help manage content and track activity. Some metrics to consider include:
- Number of active sharers. The number of employees that shared content
- Number of posts shared. The number of posts and specific content shared
- Presence/Reach. The number of people receiving messages through employee networks
- Clicks. The number of clicks generated by shared posts
- Website visitors. The number of unique visitors that came to the site as a result of content shared (e.g. to the career site)
- Social sentiment. The reaction to the content e.g. comments (positive, negative), reshares, likes, etc.
- Number of applications. The number of applicants generated by shared content
- Earned media value. The value and effectiveness of the reach compared to other forms of messaging
Social media plays a vital role in business success. Your people can be your best advocates for your business. Their engagement on social networks can help differentiate your brand and cultivate relationships with customers and candidates. When they share content, they demonstrate their confidence in the company and commitment to its success. Empower them to support the company and help them enhance their personal brand in the process.