You've decided to start an employee advocacy program. Or maybe you're just here to learn a thing or two? MAYBE you've already started a program and want to perfect the launch or learn more about employee advocacy strategy?
Whichever stage you're at, it pays to know how to launch an employee advocacy program properly. That said, getting up and running can be a piece of cake, and most programs will see a return on investment within the first month. But if you want the best possible results, it certainly doesn't hurt to have a tried and tested employee advocacy blueprint to success.
So, why the first 60 days?
Well, the first two months are crucial to the continued success of an employee advocacy program, and you've already covered step one by looking for a guide!
So, from week one to the launch process and beyond, here's everything you can expect.
At the beginning, it's always hard to know what to focus on and prioritize. Here are our suggestions to ensure your advocacy program gets a strong start.
Rethink your social media policy
Since the early days of social media, employees have been told not to post about their employer. There have been countless public instances of employees getting into trouble for speaking inappropriately about their employer online.
Times have changed, and, now more than ever, companies are trying to leverage their employees' influence on social media. However, employees normally assume posting about their employer is still discouraged unless you let your employees know that it’s not only okay but encouraged and beneficial for them.
Try to write a brief social media policy that clearly outlines what’s okay and what isn't when using social media for work. Also, factor in the benefits of personal branding. Employees must understand what's in it for them from the start. This way, when you launch your employee advocacy program, they will be more inclined to adopt a tool that makes working on their personal brand and social media presence much more manageable.
Make your employee advocacy platform look awesome
Okay, so first, make your employee advocacy platform look awesome. Why (other than because it looks brilliant)? Personalizing your platform improves employee engagement and helps employees find and share content easily.
Look for a platform that offers extensive customization options, such as adding logos. You want this new tool to feel familiar to your colleagues when you invite them to join. Consider naming the platform too. A branded name gives the platform an identity, which can also be included in your initial awareness communications. If possible, have your team create a logo for the platform to build familiarity before you start inviting people to the platform.
Choose your content sources
A content source is wherever you store your organization's content. You can have multiple content sources to pull content directly into your platform. For example, if your company blog is a content source, your latest blog posts will automatically be pulled to your platform for your colleagues to share.
Consider choosing some third-party content sources too. The best and most successful employee advocacy programs include a combination of company content and industry content. When a company's employees share the latest industry news, their networks start seeing them as experts in the field, which is a huge boost for your brand.
Most employee advocacy platforms allow you to create and choose teams. Selecting the right teams is essential so that the right people see the right content. For example, your teams could be based on department or seniority. Based on this parameter, your marketing team will see marketing content, sales will see sales content, and senior leaders relevant content to share.
Take your time, as it's helpful to get this right from day one. As you scale your employee advocacy program, you need the right teams to grow it without friction.
Choose your initial users
Start with a small group of employees before you roll out the platform to the wider company. This lets you get initial feedback and iron out any creases early on.
Try thinking about where it’s easiest to start. For example, if you're in regular contact with people within your team or department, a group of such people could be your ideal first users. They will be easier to onboard as communication will be frictionless.
Alternatively, you could consider inviting a group of colleagues who you know are already very active on social media and getting good engagement. Not every company has people who are more attuned to social media. It saves you time communicating the meaning or rationale of the program to such employees.
Invite senior staff members from day one. They will lead by example, and if they lead a team, their team will be more likely to sign up.
The next four weeks
Here are the steps you should take in the next four weeks before implementation to ensure success. Let's dive in!
Training and admin access
Now comes the fun part! It's time to familiarize yourself with your employee advocacy platform. If your tech partner assigns you a customer success manager, lean on them for better support. Sure, most employee advocacy platforms are simple to navigate, but an expert can show you all of the platform's capabilities.
This is an opportunity to become a platform master and real employee advocacy expert. You’re in the clear until you invite your colleagues and do just a pilot run.
Start sending awareness communications
Awareness communications spread the word about your employee advocacy program before you begin the rollout. Many people gravitate toward email to send out awareness comms but consider where your colleagues usually receive company news. You want to get as many eyes on this as possible, so it's not always necessary to reinvent the wheel.
There's nothing wrong with being creative. Take an example of a client who, let’s say, works the announcement into their yearly sales kick-off. Not only could this be a company-wide exposure, but it could also get the attention of senior individuals and prompt them to become the platform's early adopters.
Send invites and offer training
After you create some buzz and sign-up users, you can start sending out official invites to the rest of your colleagues to join your employee advocacy platform. Thanks to awareness communications, your colleagues should already be familiar with the platform and may even be anticipating the launch. The best employee advocacy technology providers will even provide you with an invite link for your colleagues to log in for the first time.
Most companies email invites, but every company communicates differently. For example, if your colleagues spend more time on Slack or an intranet, these might be your best options. Essentially, you want to send your invites via a channel with high engagement rates that’s more likely to get your colleagues' attention. After all, email inboxes get cluttered at the best of times, and things might slip through the cracks.
Some employee advocacy platforms offer a built-in invite system with automatic reminders for those who didn't respond to the original invite. They also let you track the results of your invites. Once you send invites and see people signing up for the platform, arrange training sessions. Without training, people might log in to the platform, realize they don't understand how to use it, and lose interest. Wait no longer than two weeks to arrange training webinars or meetings.
Validations communications are essentially a way of saying "well done" to employees for their efforts.
For example, after a few weeks, you discover that a particular employee (or perhaps a group of employees) has driven significant website traffic from their shares through the platform. It’s important to share their progress and motivate them to continue using the platform.
Some employees may dismiss this as another marketing or company initiative, so they must see the impact they generate.
Don't think about stopping or slowing down after you launch the program. Ideally, "rinse and repeat" this awareness or invites process for as long as you can.
Typically, after a launch, you experience buzz around the platform, and people start noticing that their peers (who use the platform) are more active on social media and generate good engagement. As a result, Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) sets in, and they might want to get involved too! Capitalize on that post-launch buzz and get more users involved.
Also, after the first few weeks, you may see impressive results from your employee advocacy platform (most notably for marketers and for demonstrating ROI as your website traffic will spike as employees begin sharing links). More users equal more engagement. You can achieve double the results if you get twice as many users.
So don't take your foot off the gas!
The two weeks post-launch
Let's look at the ways you can ensure post-launch success!
Keep the content coming
While this might sound like a no-brainer, it ties in with the message we finished the last section over – DO NOT take your foot off the gas!
More content results in more shares, which equals better performance. So, consistently upload content to the platform to keep generating the results after the initial launch.
Some employee advocacy tools allow you to schedule your content in advance. So, you only have to log in once per week (or month if you're super organized) to upload and schedule content for later. It's time to start thinking about what content will resonate with your colleagues' networks.
Eye-catching and carefully curated content generates the most clicks. But employee advocacy programs aren't all about clicks. If you want your employees to grow their personal brands and demonstrate both industry expertise and your company culture, you need to keep your content varied.
Your colleagues' networks can quickly spot inauthentic posting if all your colleagues share are high-intent call-to-actions CTAs, such as "download this" or "read the latest article from our blog".
The best employee advocacy programs aren't just about sharing company content. They involve a mix of content types, including:
Senior employees have to lead by example, and this is especially true post-launch. Suppose employees notice a lack of participation from senior leadership. They may think the program is losing traction or becoming less significant.
From a performance standpoint, it's worth considering that senior staff members usually have the largest social media followings and generate the most engagement. Not only this, they’re connected to other senior leaders at other potential companies that may be a huge part of your audience. You don't want to miss out on getting in front of these networks!
Validation communications aren't just for junior employees. They’re beneficial for senior leaders to be aware of their business or financial impact. Senior leaders have less spare time, so validation communications can be a great way to encourage them to share with their network!
Analyze content performance
Most employee advocacy platforms offer an analytics tool. It lets you track content performance and optimize your strategy based on what’s performing best for you.
Use these four metrics to analyze content performance. These may vary depending on your provider.
Active users: Shows how many people regularly use the platform and allows you to gauge adoption and usage.
Shares: Tracks employees logging into the platform and sharing the content.
Clicks: More clicks indicate strong content performance.
Earned media value: Demonstrates ROI by measuring the financial impact of your colleagues' efforts. It compares what it would have cost to get the same results using traditional advertising methods.
Anticipate a dip in performance
Don’t worry if you see a dip in performance after the initial launch. It’s a regular and expected part of an employee advocacy program than a setback.
Post-launch, you may see low engagements. Although your overall results might be affected initially, keep driving more employees to join by showing them the right value. Some people lose interest or don't have the time to continue participating, and that's okay! Contact your platform provider if you continue to see low engagement. They can offer different features to reduce user loss within the platform.
Remember, success depends on your employees' engagement
Successful employee advocacy comes from employees sharing your content because they want to and know what's in it for them. Consider conducting additional training or webinars on social selling or personal branding to reduce the risk of employees losing interest. They MUST know what's in it for them.
So that's what the first 60 days can look like! This might seem like a lot at first, but each step should take you seamlessly to the next, and you should be able to follow this guide with ease once you get started.
Want to learn other methods for keeping your employees happy? Check out how to build strong bonds through employee relations.
Start advocating today
Check out how employee advocacy software can turn your employees into loyal brand ambassadors.
Lewis Gray is Marketing Manager at DSMN8, an employee influencer platform. He has worked in different industries, including travel, commodities, and tech, and is an expert at marketing both B2B and B2C brands.
Start advocating today
Check out how employee advocacy software can turn your employees into loyal brand ambassadors.