Participation is a cornerstone of successful employee advocacy programs. The more often employees participate, the more engaged they become, the better the overall health of the program.

There’s a way to increase participation beyond typical internal promotion tactics. While it has to do with how easy you can make it for your employees to share content through your employee advocacy platform, it comes in a form you might not have thought of:

Brand voice.

That’s right, the way you write the content you want shared can have a huge impact on how willing an employee is to share it.

They don’t want to sound like a corporate megaphone when they share company blog posts or job openings with their friends, family and colleagues. On the flip side, their friends, family and colleagues don’t want to read posts from someone who sounds like a corporate megaphone.

Developing an employee-centric brand voice will help you sustain and even increase engagement and sharing through your employee advocacy platform. Below we’ll talk about how to do this and provide some tactical ideas for different types of content:

Matching Voice to Intent & Trust

Any time you share something on social media, there’s intent behind it (likes, comments, shares, clicks, etc.). People will respond to the intent of the post if they feel it comes from an authentic place. Over time, that authenticity turns to trust and increased engagement on social content.

This is more important than you might realize when it comes to employee advocacy. To illustrate why, let’s take a step back and look at the different ways people can share and engage with all types of content on social media. We’ve ranked them by “strength of endorsement” from lowest to highest:

  • Liking a brand post
  • Commenting on a brand post
  • Resharing a brand post to their own profile
  • Sharing an original post from the website itself with a thoughtful introduction

As you move down the list, the level of effort increases. This means the relationship between that piece of content and your employee must increase. Otherwise, why would they share it?

Consider this: your employee advocacy program offers the ability to share content at the highest strength of endorsement, yet with very little effort, thanks to your hard work curating content into your employee advocacy platform.

So what does this have to do with voice? Everything.

  • You made it easy to depict the strongest level of trust and relationship with brand content. This means whatever your employees share will be perceived by their followers as something truly important. Additionally, they’ll trust your employees’ endorsement of that content.
  • To match the level of trust being depicted, and retain it for the future, the post needs to sound like it came from them and not some corporate marketing department.

Let’s put it another way–you’re renting space on your employees’ social profiles. Payment for that rent comes in the form of content that’s relevant to them and their networks. This reinforces the bond of trust that they’ve built with their networks.

Your company relies on that bond for two reasons: first, to retain the attention of that employee’s network. Secondly, you keep the employee engaged with your employee advocacy program.

The same applies to how the right voice builds trust with the audience of your brand profiles. But in the case of your employees, their “brand’s” audience consists of people with the strongest of ties: children, spouses, family, friends and colleagues.

Developing an Employee-Centric Brand Voice

The easiest way to create a brand voice for your employees is to use empathy. Here is a simple exercise you can do right now:

  1. Pull up a piece of brand content you would normally want your employees to share.
  2. Write down how your brand profiles might share it on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
  3. Email the content link and the suggested text for each network to yourself.
  4. Open the email and copy the suggested text and link. Then set up the post on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Before you click the “Share” button (or “Post” or whatever the social networks decide to call it today) ask yourself two questions:

  1. “Does this sound like me?”
  2. “Will my friends and followers on this network think it sounds like me?”

If you can’t answer “yes” to both of those questions, you can’t expect your employees to either. If you’re unsure, then scroll back and read the last 10-15 things you posted on that network. You might be surprised to hear what your own voice “sounds” like on social media.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve likely bought-in for the idea of an employee-centric brand voice that relies on empathy and personal touch. So how do you go about adopting this voice for your employee advocacy program?

Below I’ll share some ideas and techniques that can apply to all industries, even more regulated ones such as:

General Guidelines for Brand Content

Brand content can be broken down into different types such as promotional, earned media, recognition, recruiting, thought leadership, events and more.

For any type of brand content, the key to an employee-centric brand voice is to write suggested post text that makes a connection between the employee and the content being shared.

Remember that some employees won’t have as strong a connection to certain pieces of content as others. Employees might not know the executive who won that prestigious award or that they can’t attend the community event you’re asking to amplify.

This isn’t difficult, but it does require some practice. For example, consider the following two variations of the same statement:

  • Brand-centric: “Read our CMO’s insights on the future of workplace communication in this feature on Forbes.”
  • Employee-centric: “Have you noticed a change in the way people talk to each other at work? Our company’s Chief Marketing Officer has some insights on why.”

Connect Your Employees to the Content Being Shared

There are two things to notice about the example above. First, we made the employee-centric post about the topic of workplace communication, not about the CMO’s placement in the article. Now it doesn’t matter whether you or your network knows the CMO–this post is about the universal (and relatable) topic of changing communication at work.

Use a More ‘Spoken-Word’ Style of Writing

In the employee-centric version, we used a natural-spoken style vs. a headline style. This resonates with our own network of peers, friends and family. We also added a question to spark conversation. If you come across the article on your own, it’s more likely you’d share it with that text than the brand-centric example.

Tactical Tips for Different Types of Brand Content

Here are some more tips for finding the right voice for your employee-shared brand content:

  • Social Recruiting: Word of mouth referral requests on social media typically start like “do you know anyone who…” Use a more informal style of text for job listings and mix them in with posts that highlight the culture and team activities in your company.
  • Causal/Community Initiatives: There is a more emotional and personal connection to this type of content (as well a possible geographic aspect). So let your employees decide on their own if sharing it is right for them. The voice in your post text could focus on how proud or happy they are about what’s being accomplished in the story without being boastful.
  • Case Studies: To make case studies relatable to employees and their networks, focus on the most relevant outcome or feature that contributed to the success of the customer. You can also adapt the outcome or feature being highlighted based on the network the post is being shared to (i.e. LinkedIn vs. Facebook).
  • Recognition: If your company or an individual within achieves some earned media or recognition worth sharing, it’s only relevant to the employee and their networks insofar as they have a connection to the recognition. We also like the tactic of combining recognition posts with a call to action that the company’s hiring.
  • Events: First, limit the visibility of anything event-related to the people attending and those who are in the same geography as the event (for physical events). Then your posts become more relevant to the networks of your employees and give the employees an opportunity to say “come see me at…”
  • Thought Leadership: Here is where you can adopt a more authoritative and polished voice. This is because of the impression your employees will be trying to make with their networks when they share this content.

The takeaway here is to always be thinking about the intent of the post and what’s in it for the reader, not your employee. Then you’ll be able to craft suggested post text for your employee advocates that will spark engagement, generate web traffic and even increase their stature as authorities in their field.

All of that success leads to increased participation, loyalty and advocacy from your employees. So as a reminder, take a second look at how you’re curating content for them to share through your employee advocacy platform and ask yourself, “how can I make this sound more like them?”