The best way to connect with your customers is person to person. But how exactly can a company connect as a person? That’s right, through its employees. But not in ‘corporate speak’. To engage employees as advocates, companies need to take a step back and empower their employees to speak direct to customers via social media.

A big step

We have mentioned before that customers want to talk direct to people who know, not a customer service representative, and that this can help shorten the line of sight between business and customers. It’s also clear that employees want to talk direct to customers. After all, outside work, they are the empowered consumers. They understand the importance of talking person to person.

But it’s still a big step for companies. Greater Manchester Police has taken the plunge, and had both ‘hits’ and ‘misses’ in social media terms. So what can you do to develop employee advocacy, and how can you assess whether it’s working?

Jay Baer, a marketing speaker and coach, thinks that employee advocacy is something of a no-brainer. He points out that ‘if your employees aren’t your biggest fans, you have bigger problems than social media’ and suggests that there are seven key ingredients, without which no employee advocacy programme is going to work. These are:

  • A corporate culture that is rooted in trust;
  • Social media participation guidelines, so that people know where they stand, and what they can and can’t do. Oddly enough, such guidelines tend to encourage participation, rather than preventing it, as many people think, which suggests that people actually like to know what’s ‘allowed’;
  • Allowing employees to choose when and how to engage and act as your advocates. Advocacy at gunpoint is never going to work;
  • Software that helps the company share information and content easily with employees and vice versa, to ensure that employees are fully informed and aware;
  • A way of finding out whether employee advocacy is working, using metrics. It’s important to know what you’re going to track before you start;
  • A few ‘champions’ to start acting as advocates, who will encourage others to join in;
  • Providing coaches for employees, so that they can get immediate, direct and honest feedback and advice about their social media participation.

Engagement before advocacy

Pam Moore, CEO and founder of Marketing Nutz, suggests that the most important aspect is employee information and engagement. She says that fully 60% of employees don’t know how they fit into the organisation, or how they contribute to its goals and objectives. That’s a massive number, and those employees might need a bit more information before they’re going to act as brand advocates. Engaging your employees pays off financially, and companies with engaged employees have 2.5 times the revenue of those without. So it’s worth spending a bit of time engaging with your employees to make sure that they really will be your best advocates.

Measuring the power of advocacy

We’ve mentioned the importance of measuring engagement. But how can you measure the success of advocacy? After all, as with any activity, it’s important to be sure that it’s adding value.

The first thing to consider when establishing any advocacy programme is what you’re going to measure. There’s plenty that you can measure, such as number of posts, number of Tweets, or speed of responding to customers on social media. But the question is not what can you measure, but how can you measure how the activity is adding value. For this, it has to be adding to your revenues or decreasing your costs. Your first issue is therefore to establish the purpose of the programme, and how you can measure that: the metrics will be absolutely tied to that.

You also need to remember that different employees will be operating and advocating in different ways. Your sales staff and your technical staff, for example, will have different goals, and so will need different metrics to measure the effect of their advocacy.

Your best advocates: engaged employees

There is no question that engaged employees are your best advocates. But to capitalise on this, you need to put several things in place. First, you need to be confident that your employees are genuinely engaged. Then you need to put in place the wherewithal for them to act as your advocates, whether it’s via blog posts or social media, and ensure that they understand what they’re doing. Finally, you need to measure the impact of their advocacy. It sounds straightforward, but will your organisation meet the challenge?

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