Overcoming employee advocacy challenges could determine the long-term success of your social media advocacy programme. Employee advocacy is a long-term process that aims to engage and influence employees within an organisation such that they acknowledge the need to advocate for their employers in an online setting. It is therefore, not transactional or an “event” so you cannot do it once and move on.
Hence, at the centre of every employee advocacy programme is the need to continuously communicate why employee advocacy matters, and to overcome the challenges that prevent long-term success.
Do the rewards outweigh employee advocacy challenges?
With the increase in employee advocacy in recent years, companies have encountered a host of challenges that could limit success.
Companies that adopt employee advocacy as part of their overall strategy reap many benefits. A Hinge Research Institute and Social Media Today survey reveals some of the benefits. Let’s start by enumerating some of the benefits to the company:
- 79% of companies see an increase in brand visibility
- 44.9% realise increased web traffic
- 11% say that their sales cycle has shortened
And that’s not all. Employees of these companies report direct professional benefits because of taking part in employee advocacy programme:
- 87.2% of employees expand their professional networks
- 76% say that the programme helps them to keep up with industry trends
- 47.2% have developed skills in high demand
With these benefits, it is no wonder that companies strive to overcome the barriers to success in employee advocacy. In this post, we identify the four common challenges in employee advocacy, and how companies might overcome them.
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We have no content to share
Generating content for employees to share is daunting for many companies. Part of the challenge might be about who will write, approve, curate and manage the content. A good content marketing strategy will support a lot of the effort that goes into developing engaging content. Have an owner for content management and a process for collecting and approving content. Remember that not all your content needs to be written by your company. Look out for other content by third parties and industry news feed that your customers will find relevant.
Our leaders are not active on social media
It is difficult to sustain an employee advocacy programme without the buy-in of your leaders. The ideal situation is that your CEO and senior executive are active on social media, and advocate alongside employees. But the reality is that this is not always the case – and it’s a challenge! Whether or not your leaders are active on social media, leaders should openly support and recognise the value of employee advocacy. Drive engagement through middle managers who can be role models, and are closer to the day-to-day operations. Middle managers are often more visible to employees.
Employees think being on social media is Marketing’s job
The Hinge and Social Media Today survey also reveals that 51.7% of employee advocacy programmes are owned by the Marketing department. While it is common for Marketing departments to own social media programmes, it is not the sole role of marketing. The benefits of social media transcend just marketing so it is important to help employees see why employee advocacy matters, while keeping participation completely voluntary. This is arguably the greatest challenge to companies. The most impactful incentive for motivating employees is the continuous communication of the importance of social media as reported by over 40% of companies.
Employees are worried that they will do the wrong thing
A social media policy and a set of guidelines is one of the first things a company needs to put in place before any employee advocacy programme. If your guidelines aren’t clear or they contradict what you are asking employees to do, you are unlikely to generate participate from your staff. Nobody wants to inadvertently do the wrong thing and risk disciplinary action or worse. Ensure that clear guidelines are easily accessible to employees looking for more information. Have a contact person that can answer any questions about the use of social media in an online business setting. This person should be visible, able to give or organise training at a basic and advanced level for all employees who intend to take part in employee advocacy.
You might look at the benefits of employee advocacy and think that there is probably just as much in it for the employees as there is for your company. That’s correct! Therefore, communicate why employee advocacy matters and equip your staff with training and guidelines. Ensure that everybody knows where to go to for resources and support. That way, common employee advocacy challenges will not hinder your success.
A version of this article was originally published on the Smarp blog on 13 June 2017.
Enter social media advocacy
In my last blog post, I listed 12 content ideas for knowledge-intensive companies e.g. engineering and manufacturing. Engaging an audience through content is one of the main strategies for driving B2B sales. Social media advocacy is another strategy. Do this by empowering employees to develop good behaviours such as listening and sharing online.
Rackspace is the #1 managed cloud company based in San Antonio, Texas. It has engineers, scientists and researchers, helping businesses to tap into cloud computing without having to manage it on their own. There is also great content at Rackspace. Employees get involved in a number of ways. Last November, I caught up with Elizabeth Jurewicz (call her Liz!), Social Enablement Strategist at Rackspace. She created and delivers the social media advocacy programme. I ‘met’ Liz online and started following her tweets and comments on the topic. We are now in regular contact and I’m learning a lot from her. Here is my 16-minute podcast interview with Liz.
Podcast with Elizabeth Jurewicz
If you’re short of time, here are some key takeaways from the podcast:
- Establish formal training social listening as a way to engage employees who don’t want to share content directly.
- Measure your performance internally first e.g. Are employees engaged? Is the messages you are sending being received and understood?
- When leaders get involved, you know you are on the right track.
- As a new company, start at the beginning to cultivate a culture of knowledge sharing.
- Give yourself to develop the right culture in your company.
Elizabeth Jurewicz is Social Enablement Strategist at Rackspace. She helps professionals find the words to express not only what they do, but why they do it. You can follow her on Twitter @CreatingLiz.
Even in so-called boring industries, there is great content. But finding new content ideas can be a real problem for marketing teams. Particularly in engineering companies, getting fresh content often means being creative.
Photo credit: unsplash.com
For instance, any content must be technically sound and easily digestible on online platforms. But as engineers usually don’t like to create content, it is often up to the marketing person or team to do it. I have found a camera phone and a listening ear could be all you need to develop great content. Take notes as your engineer discusses his product. Record a one to two minute video about the launch of a new product feature. Ask your customer support team to answer one frequently asked question by customers and expand on it in an online blog. These are just some of the ways to generate content. Here are 12 content ideas – one a month for 2017!
1. Primary research on topical issues in your industry.
Have you done a survey? Do you have data that you could use to show preliminary findings? If confidentiality is a concern, strip out client names and anything that can identify them. Ensure your client knows they’ll have anonymity
2. Video interviews with experts.
Ask your Chief Engineer or technical expert to discuss an engineering challenge he is solving. These days, a camera phone is enough to record short, great content at work
3. Secondary research for various sources.
An article that collates multiple viewpoints could be powerful. It allows you to look outside your company for other research and perspectives on the same issue. Don’t worry if you find conflicting opinions – that’s actually a good thing. Put out thoughts for your customers to engage with and respond
4. How-to articles.
Your customers probably struggle with a gazillion things. Create an article that teaches how to do something in a step-by-step guide. Point to additional resources on your website such as a video, case study or white paper.
5. Price comparison.
Think about how grateful you are when you find a price comparison article when you are trying to make a decision on a purchase. Your customers will appreciate this too. Write an article that compares the overall costs of a technical solution across similar products. Review the cost of a bespoke solution versus off-the-shelf options, for instance.
6. Ways to complete a task.
Show your customers a number of ways to complete a complex task. Highlight the pros and cons of each approach. Link to more resources and offer to answer further questions via an email address or discussion thread.
7. Podcast series.
You can build a strong audience with a regular podcast series. People listen to podcasts at work, more so than video because they can keep working, with earphones in. It could be the same guests each time (discussing a different topic) or you could ask different people to feature each time. Consider bringing in partners, suppliers and even customers to feature
These can be downloaded from your website or made into hard copies for your customers to take away. Use e-books to provide more detailed guidance on a complex subject, product or service
9. Case studies.
Showing who else you have done work for, and the outcome is a good idea in B2B sectors such as industrial engineering and manufacturing. Case studies are one way of advertising your success on a past customer project. You can describe the situation, benefits and outcome of your solution to the customer.
10. Photo with quote.
We can’t always develop elaborate content. Photos are a good way to be brief and still have impact. They also work well across all social media channels. But photos need to be meaningful. Capture what it is like to work at your organisation. Pick a great quote from your CEO or Product Engineer and put it on a great photo. Avoid stock photos as they appear unauthentic. Take your own.
11. Article inviting opinion.
People love to be asked what they think. Write an article that raises key issues around an emerging trend or technology. Ask for opinions and other viewpoints. Then watch the magic happen.
12. Slides explaining an idea.
A slide deck is a great way to distil complex information. This style of presenting information forces you to focus on simplicity and conciseness. Use platforms like Slideshare to showcase your content or create a document that customers can download from your website. Remember to put your company logo, website and contact details. This way, your brand follows the content wherever it goes, signposting all that read it back to you.
Why We Are Here
Five years ago, I couldn’t imagine YO! Marketing ®. I had a few clues about how I might make a difference to the market performance of engineering ideas. I was surrounded by great ideas that needed a little something more to translate to sustainable revenue streams.
One clue was my ability to translate complex ideas into simpler terms, drawing out deeper insights. I was an engineer with a desire to go out and meet customers. I research what the market needs and successfully position market solutions. The translation of ideas into marketable terms is my passion. I am not your typical engineer. Neither am I your typical marketer. Hence, YO! Marketing ®.
Where We Add Value
At YO! Marketing ®, I’m particularly interested in business-to-business marketing of complex solutions (products and services) in a global market heavily influenced by technology drivers. Within these markets, it is crucial to:
(1) Monitor and keep ahead of industry peers
(2) Understand (and anticipate) the needs of customers
(3) Involve customers in product development
(4) Ensure that you have the technological capabilities to provide future products. Such capabilities are not built in a day or even a year.
For instance, the ability to provide a subsea pipeline that can operate in 3,000m of water, under high pressure and high temperature could take several years. You’d need to build, test, get qualified and bring to market. If your customers will need this in three years, you need to have already started the R&D work! Similarly, gaining insight into your competitors’ commercial situation and factory loading outlook could mean a competitive advantage for you when bidding time comes. Hence, YO! Marketing ® strives to operate at the intersection of marketing, product management and commercial strategy, our sweet spot.
What We Do
There are a number of tools for analysing the market. But at the forefront, you will find product or market positioning. What problem does your solution solve for your customers? And then there is market intelligence, which should be a constant stream of monitoring and updating. Ideally, delivered to your management team on a regular basis. This is a great way to keep abreast with movements in the market. And also how your solution (product or service) captures the market. The lack of such intelligence, and more importantly, not taking action on vital market movements could be tragic for business.
Think Nokia. Great product (I still have 2 Nokia phones, solid). But the company ignored market movements and customer behaviours, thus losing market share that was once 40% globally.
Once you have a product position and market intelligence, other activities follow such as a commercial strategy, branding and tactics for spreading your relevant messages e.g on social media. I’m a fan of employee social media advocacy. It’s not easy to relinquish power to employees to share content online. But with the right training, content and trust, a company can amplify brand reach a hundred fold. Furthermore, recent research shows that 78% of companies achieve increased brand visibility through employee advocacy. Another survey of 875 engineers reveals that 42% of engineers get information from social media, second only to a company’s website where 57% get information.
Who We Collaborate With
I often hear marketing criticised for being vague and wishy-washy. Sometimes, it can appear so. Marketing can be a parallel universe, failing to impact on the real business issues on the ground. At YO! Marketing®, we are all about collaboration for smarter marketing management. Product positioning needs to be aligned with R&D, Commercial, Business Development and Sales.
Employee Advocacy has to involve Communications, Social Media and even HR functions in order to ensure an effective onboarding process, ongoing content production and employee engagement.
© All illustrations are the creation of Yekemi Otaru of YO! Marketing ® and must not be copied or distributed without prior permission from the creator
Yekemi Otaru is Managing Director of YO! Marketing Limited, a B2B marketing agency with combined experience in engineering and marketing roles. Recently named as one of 40 Under 40 by Scottish Business News, she is a published author and has contributed to business innovation in Scotland in roles at Schlumberger, GE Oil & Gas and Lloyd’s Register. She particularly adds value when there’s a blank sheet of paper so she’s the one to call when you’re not sure where to start.
This post was initially published on LinkedIn on 17th September 2016
Why Run An Employee Advocacy Pilot?
Launching a social media employee advocacy often begins with a pilot. This is a good idea because it allows you to test out the initiative. It also drums up support and participation within the organisation. It is also a great way to get a buzz going. But most importantly, it’s a great way to gather initial metrics to get leadership buy-in by showcasing early success.
Here are 20 tips to get you to a flying start with your employee advocacy pilot (pun intended):
Get Employees To A Great Start
You don’t need an army of employees to take off – focus on early adopters. Ensure there is an onboarding process that includes training and ongoing support.
One Last Thing
Experience, case studies and research show that the greatest influence on employee advocacy initiative success is leadership buy-in. And the most popular results have been brand awareness and visibility. Leaders within your organisation need to understand the potential impact on business performance.