We recently sat down with Jessie LaHaie from TechSmith, a visual communication software company, to discuss how her team approaches employee advocacy. Jessie explained how they viewed the initial opportunity, what went into the launch and how they effectively foster adoption with the help of Bambu. Check out the success the organization has seen through employee advocacy.
What does your current role at TechSmith entail and what are your goals and responsibilities?
I’m the Influencer Relations Coordinator. I manage our employee advocacy program, work with influencers in different industries on guest blog posts and garner product feedback from our customers. I also look to connect with people in target markets we’re looking to grow or break into, such as marketing and technical communications.
What made TechSmith decide it was time for employee advocacy?
We noticed that there was a lot of hesitation for employees to post anything about TechSmith on social media because they were always afraid they were going to say the wrong thing. We started out with a kind of road show that included a series of meetings with different teams to get them comfortable using social. We offered help to set up their Twitter or LinkedIn accounts and advised just to use common sense.
TechSmith trusts its employees—we hire smart people, and we want those people to be an extension of the brand and proud that they work for our brand. As a result, we started sending out emails when we’d have a product release with some sample social copy that employees could paste to their social networks. Though our advocacy program isn’t a requirement, we want people to feel empowered to talk if they so choose, so Bambu helps to support this.
How did you get buy-in for Bambu? Were there specific features that were particularly attractive?
As far as features go, ease of use was a big one for us. We wanted it to be easy for people to add content and easy to share to social.
For the buy-in process, it all started when I was networking at a conference and learned that there was such a thing as an employee advocacy tool. We saw Bambu’s impressive capabilities, making it an easy sell along with the fact that we were already familiar with the concept—we just needed help because we were manually running the program. We knew a reliable tool like Bambu was going to make it easier and help get more people on board. Also, we were already a happy Sprout customer, so it was a really simple choice for us.
What are the biggest benefits you foresee or have already seen from a formal employee advocacy program?
One of the biggest benefits is that it encourages employees to grow their own personal and professional network and be thought leaders in their respective fields. They also act as brand advocates on an individual level which is more powerful than a brand, even if it’s a similar message. This program makes it really easy to support these efforts.
Do you track the growth of employee networks or overall impressions?
I’m not tracking network growth specifically, but anecdotally, our Marketing Director has been impressed by her increase in followers. She understands that the number of followers isn’t the most important thing, but it keeps her inclined to keep sharing and growing her audience..
So that’s encouraging- you share more, you get more engagement, you get more followers and you just naturally grow.
What do you find the biggest challenges are with an advocacy program?
The biggest challenge for me is keeping people engaged. It’s making sure people remember that the program is there and then getting new folks into the program too. We have a couple of teams that include advocacy as part of their onboarding, which is great because we get to introduce them to Bambu right away.
Another way to foster engagement is to stay top of mind. Every quarter, I do a big training meeting where I’ll invite every employee to attend and learn. Our program is completely opt-in, so though we have a smaller group, they’re all pretty active. We have great participation from the executive leadership team and that really helps to encourage people to join. Our CEO is super active in Bambu. She frequently sends me articles to curate.
You can’t expect full adoption just by launching an employee advocacy program—you have to continually nurture it. It’s a new behavior and there is definitely a challenge to get people to integrate it into their day to day.
What advice would you have for someone just getting started with employee advocacy?
I would start rolling it out to teams in small chunks at a time. That was something that really helped us get some pretty good adoption. We started with our Channel Sales Team and saw really good results, so we expanded it to the rest of the Sales Team. We then went to Marketing and additional teams from there. This made it really easy in regards to the initial trainings because we could address different use cases with specific teams.
What advice would you give to someone looking to increase engagement or adoption of an existing program?
Our quarterly trainings have been the most impactful. We had another event “Bagels and Bambu.” It was only about 30 minutes total. We invited everyone to attend for an informal way to get to know the platform. We included a homework assignment for completion during the session so they would retain what they learned.
Who do you think should lead an employee advocacy program? Which team(s) should help support it?
For my role, it makes a lot of sense because I’m already working with influencers. The relationship is very similar to that with employee advocates.
It’s really helpful to have someone from each team actively contributing content to encourage cross-departmental participation in a top-down manner. We’re looking at enlisting champions for each team who would help with content contribution and thus foster more adoption. I think this also makes them feel more included with the role of contributor—it’s critical to get others excited about the program, because they end up holding more of a stake in its overall success.
Which verticals do you think could benefit most from employee advocacy?
Any industry could have a successful employee advocacy program as long as they can effectively encourage their employees to be brand advocates. There’s always content to share to grow your personal brand and show thought leadership. And many employees are proud of where they work and the projects they’re involved with.
Do you anticipate any negative effects from employees posting the same content or sharing messages with similar copy?
No, because the chances that all employees have the exact same audience and that a follower is even going to see every one of your posts is pretty slim. A tweet has around a 12-second shelf life, so it’s probably not going to annoy your followers if you and your colleague are sharing the same content because of that short window.
Additionally, employees can always craft their own messaging as long as the post text isn’t locked down. Bambu makes it easy for users to customize copy, and the suggested text helps as a starting point. As long as there are clear expectations up front, I don’t see any detrimental effects.
Why do you think now is a good time to foster advocacy? What do you anticipate for the future?
People trust people over brands. We’re seeing this trend where brands are looking towards influencers and advocates to spread their messaging. Influencer and advocate efforts are much more impactful and genuine, so it’s very beneficial for a brand if you can have your people out there talking to others.
In the future, I think that this trend of people trusting people will continue. Whether they actually know them or not, they see other people as more relatable. A brand’s reputation is becoming much more about what people are saying rather than the marketing coming from the brand itself.