What can HR do to encourage social advocacy from employees?

Social advocacy
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This is a guest post from Rhiannon Stroud - strategist at Synergy Creative - explaining the benefits of social advocacy and the practical steps needed to implement it into your organisation. This is the second in a series of articles where we explore how HR can use social media to improve their processes; something Synergy Creative will also be discussing during their sessions at Social Media Week Bristol.

What is social advocacy? It's about making the most of the exposure that your employees can generate for you using their own online assets.

This is useful in two ways; for recruitment, and for general promotion and awareness of your brand and its products and services. Employees can be your biggest marketing asset - if you use them!

Why is social advocacy important?

80% of people research an employer before they even send off an application form, so what better way to show off your company culture than through the thoughts and online actions of your employees?

We’ve already mentioned that your employees can be your biggest marketing asset and there are two main reasons for this – influence and reach.

Influence:
Only 33% of people trust a recommendation from a brand, yet 90% trust a personal recommendation. When it comes to attracting talent, just imagine the influence of your entire workplace shouting about how great a company is. Not to mention the inherent promotion of your product and service this achieves. There’s a commercial benefit too, with recruiting via referrals proven to be around 70% shorter and 50% cheaper.

Reach:
On average, employees have 10x more followers than a brand. Multiply that by your entire workforce and you’ve got one persuasive figure. You’ll probably find that your social reach extends far beyond the channels in your standard marketing mix too. Employees are likely to be on a much more diverse range of platforms.

What’s the biggest challenge?

The main challenge with social advocacy is that it relies on your employees feeling passionately enough about the company and its products and service – and their role within the business – to shout about it on their own personal channels.

Social advocacy only really works if there is something to rave about!

Therefore, social advocacy only really works if there is something to rave about! Make sure you’ve worked on your employer brand and employee journey; you want people to promote day-to-day life and fun moments at your company, not their niggles or frustrations.

How can I introduce social advocacy into my organisation?

  1. Choose a hashtag and encourage participation: You’ll need a memorable and expressive hashtag which employees can use and that you can curate. Promote this to your colleagues and let them know that sharing is okay
  2. Set guidelines: Have clear guidelines that set boundaries but that don’t curtail creativity or result in loss of authenticity. Instead of having a big, dull document (which goes against the whole ethos of social advocacy) why not have social champions who can give introductory training to employees and explain what it’s all about?
  3. Focus on your company culture: Lift the lid on what happens behind the scenes. You’ll find new customers who appreciate how you treat your staff and create intrigue from curious potential hires. Promote the personal moments and unique environment of your business
  4. Set some goals: As with all communications, don’t miss out the metrics! Is it shares, connections, reach, traffic, lead generation, sales? Define what’s important to you and adjust your strategy as you test and learn  
  5. Reward and recognise: When goals are reached, consider payback to the people who got you there. Saying thank you is a great way to ensure advocacy continues
  6. Consider a social advocacy platform: There are lots of online tools out there to help you simplify social advocacy such as Dynamic Signal and Sociabble which could be worth exploring.

Who’s doing it right?

The American shoe company, Zappos, is a great place to look to for inspiration. They have a really open and social culture that they promote on various social channels. Have a look at @InsideZappos, @eyezapp and #insidezappos for some ideas – I’ve seen graduation ceremonies for new starters, interviews in ball-pits, desk birthday celebrations and lunchtime workouts.

It gives you great insight into how they treat employees, which makes you more likely to shop there and apply for a job if you were looking. Starbucks use the hashtag #tobeapartner which is another good example, as is Sky, who use #LifeAtSky and promote via @workforsky.

For social advocacy to work, you must have trust in your employees and what they will say and share.

Finally, The Co-op are leading the way across all social channels with #BeingCoop – this is almost constantly being updated by employees on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Key takeaways:

  • Trust: For social advocacy to work, you must have trust in your employees and what they will say and share.
  • Authenticity: Never try and buy your employees advocacy, instead focus your efforts on creating an environment where they want to shout about working with you.
  • Time: Social advocacy doesn’t happen overnight. Encourage existing employees and new hires to get involved, and over time you’ll see the difference.

About Gemma McGrattan

Gemma McGrattan Synergy Creative

19 years' experience in marketing, internal communications, employee engagement and business planning. Founding director of Synergy Creative - a creative communications agency focusing on brand engagement, from the inside - out.

Synergy Creative is a fast growing, ambitious creative communications, brand engagement agency employing 16 people. Working with global brands, Synergy improves business performance by planning and delivering creative communications that work for customers, for employees and stakeholders.

Synergy is an award winning company that plans, designs and implements creative marketing and employee communication campaigns for global companies. Working across a variety of industry sectors we offer a full agency service.

Specialties: Branding and brand engagement, creative communication campaigns, marketing, internal communications and employer value proposition, employee engagement and corporate communications. Includes strategic planning, branding and brand engagement, integrated marketing campaigns, employee engagement and internal communications.

Change/Transformation programme communications:
Planned and led creative change transformation programmes for global clients and the NHS. This has included manager and employee workgroups, development of creative campaigns to communicate and involve employees in change and implementation of phased communications plans and activities throughout transition.

Regular speaker on employee engagement, internal communications, engaging communications and committee member on the Chartered Institute of Marketing South West branch.

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