Get up to speed on some of the basics around Employee Advocacy, with expert commentary from my panelists Julio Viskovich (rFactr), James Nickerson (Dynamic Signal), and Aubrey Littleton (Altimeter Group.) You'll find highlights from our April 2016 discussion here. If you'd like to jump to the full discussion you'll find it here or at the end of the Slideshare.
Employee Advocacy & Engagement with Karyn Cooks, Julio Viskovich , Aubrey Littleton, James Nickerson
Employee Advocacy is increasing in popularity but don't lump it in with the "shiny object" category. In fact, it's likely to be your most steady defense against a shape-shifting social media landscape.
If you've already launched or are developing an Employee Advocacy program to amplify social reach where organic reach has fizzled, complement paid reach, or increase consumer trust through peer-to-peer sharing, that's smart thinking. You're ahead of the curve in an era where social is shape-shifting again and potentially challenging consumer confidence (see Facebook like-farming,Edelman Trust Barometer, and branded ads in Messenger). Your program, however, is leveraging your employees' authenticity and influence among their social followers and that's solid ground to build on.
Now enter the rise of messengers, one of the biggest shape-shifts. TechCrunch described messaging as the next frontier noting: "One important milestone occurred last year when messaging apps surpassed social networks based on number of monthly active users. As messaging apps grow in scale, they will continue to evolve as service providers with news being a key component of their offerings."
Adweek's advice to marketers is keep up with the trend. That's where young people are talking and shopping, they say, but to be fair I know plenty of people who no longer qualify as "young" who are far more comfortable sharing information through "old school" one-to-one PMs and DMs. Separately, not every brand should presume they have adequate content or permission to chat up customers in what is still typically perceived as personal space.
So what's Employee Advocacy's role? Up until now we've addressed advocates in social networks like Facebook, but increasing messenger adoption bodes well for advocacy/engagement programs since it respects both participants' time and their sharing preferences. Your advocacy platform is already a competitive newsroom hub, so you'll already have news that will effectively compete with unsolicited news sent as messages.
Employees don't want to appear spammy or bombard their one-to-many socials with a constant stream of corporate posts, so cue them with an option to share through a messenger. Some platforms, like Dynamic Signal, already integrate with WhatsApp but Tom Carr, Sr. Director Client Solutions, points out that it's only available through their mobile experience vs. web client ... which makes perfect sense! Social selling and recruiting teams might also benefit from the ability to share pre-approved, curated content directly to a prospect, and give it a personal touch.
If your advocacy platform hasn't already integrated messenger options into their menu I'm betting they will shortly. They'll want to support your program goals, particularly authentic, trusted, amplification of your message whether that's through one-to-many or one-to-one channels. Either way, Employee Advocacy remains a solid strategy in combatting shape-shifting social and sharing preferences.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to reach out if you'd like to talk about expanding your Social Media Strategy or building an Employee Advocacy program.
How engaged leaders foster a culture primed for the benefits of employee advocacy.
No doubt you remember George Bush's famous "1,000 Points of Light" speech, praising community organizations spread like stars across the nation doing good work. In each of those organizations there was surely a respected leader who inspired their team to greatness through clarity of vision, credibility, confidence building, and a connectedness to the team.
There's a lot of valuable thinking on leadership's impact on employee engagement, including this post on employee engagement from Dynamic Signal's CEO Russ Fradin; and this advice on leadership traits that inspire employee engagement from Andre Lavoi, CEO ClearCompany. What I find most fascinating about these engagement-centric leaders is they become a beacon of light for their teams, whether a startup SMB or a multi-national enterprise. The Beacon (with a capital B) continuously lights the path forward.
It's this aspect that I think is such a powerful metaphor when communicating the value of employee advocacy to an organization's leadership. Stats and data aside, each time a trusted CEO interacts with the community - on or offline - that light shines brighter sparking new lights along the way.
My "lightbulb" moment (pardon the pun) around this type of leader came while presenting the benefits of an advocacy program to this type of CEO. By her own admission, the feedback she's received about her visibility, clarity, and connectedness has further fortified and "shaped her as a CEO." I told her:
"You've become a beacon they follow and emulate. An employee advocacy program would intentionally create hundreds of those beacons out in the community by empowering them to share valuable company news, industry trends, job openings, programs and services, and more. Their authentic peer-to-peer reach into the community through social channels doesn't just amplify your brand message, but amplifies their confidence and roles as experts."
How could that not translate to greater perceived brand value in the community and greater potential market share, as well as greater employee satisfaction, improved quality hires and increased retention?
Do you know leaders who qualify as beacons? I'd love to hear your thoughts on engaged leaders fostering a culture that's ready to deploy an employee advocacy program.
What do Barbie™ and legalized canna-business have in common? First, both have been making headlines, popping up in my social feeds for the last several weeks, with news about revolutionizing existing products or launching revolutionary services. Second, I believe both are experiencing flashpoint moments in their histories that make them ideal candidates for peer-to-peer Employee Advocacy programs.
Cultural icon Barbie™ has a whole new diverse squad of pals whose squad goals and attitudes reflect a shifting society. On the opposite end of the culture spectrum is the brand new legalized canna-business industry, racing to shift beliefs and capture early market share.
Looking first at Mattel, Inc. Potential benefits include: improved brand perception, increased employee satisfaction, high quality recruitment and increased retention, increased revenue.
Mattel's Barbie™ brand has taken its fair share of lumps over the years in the press and the court of public opinion, with loss of market share reflected year-over-year on Wall Street. A simple search for "Barbie body image" tells what could be the whole story, but Mattel's strategic move to develop a contemporary collection of dolls makes room for a different story than the one the "internets" want to keep telling.
Newly energized with new product and new management, this is an ideal time to empower Mattel's most loyal employee ambassadors with brand approved content and tools, helping them share Barbie's evolving success story right now. Positive things are happening across the organization and keeping teams up to date through a transparent employee communications strategy has potential to:
Switching gears to the legalized cannabis industry's Pineapple Express. Potential benefits: Regulated business showing transparency and increased consumer confidence, undiluted brand value through carefully controlled content, developing franchisees into local experts and thought leaders.
Pineapple Express is a "publicly traded company that invests in, expands, and brands existing and newly established canna-businesses through expert consulting and cutting-edge technology." Talk about a revolution! Operating in a highly regulated industry could foster fears around social sharing, but when approaching this challenge through an employee or brand advocacy framework, those fears begin to melt.
Why? Because an advocacy approach sets up clear guidelines with pre-planned content that insures those who are sharing stay within legal (or brand defined) guardrails. This applies to employees or franchisees.
Like all franchised businesses, I'm assuming Pineapple Express will be responsible for providing franchisees with quality marketing and promotional material. Likewise, they may need to keep those "franchisees" up to date with any legal requirements at the national and municipal levels.
Their business will be under more scrutiny than the average start-up, and I believe a branded advocacy program can deliver:
A fresh notebook of thoughts on taking a social-first approach to modern marketing and the shifting sands of social storytelling. Shamelessly mixing metaphors on the way.