Any marketer focused on building a relevant and creative content strategy understands the equal need for a relevant and creative distribution strategy alongside it. After all, in order for content to be effective from an ROI perspective, it needs to be constantly finding new avenues to travel down in order to reach new audiences.

A powerful way to unlock these avenues is through employee advocacy, but to be successful requires more than adopting the approach and hoping for the best. In fact, program launch is only half the battle.

The other (and arguably, more challenging) part is closing the loop on employee advocacy attribution.

This step is one that can’t afford to be skipped. Without it, you lose sight into whether employee advocacy is actually driving the highly coveted ROI businesses are centered around—not to mention clarity into what is/isn’t working and the goals needed to keep progress on track.

4 Questions to Consider With Employee Advocacy Attribution

No matter how you slice it, marketing attribution is difficult in its own right. Now let’s layer in an additional element of employee advocacy and you’ve got what can be an unwieldy situation—that is, unless you take the time to set up employee advocacy attribution properly and at scale.

A top to bottom approach is the first step in orienting yourself around this mindset. Start by identifying and prioritizing your high level goals, and slowly move down towards the tactical decisions that will ultimately help you achieve said goals.

Once that groundwork is laid, you can move on to finding the technology that will actually facilitate strategy execution.

Here are a few questions you can start with to get the wheels in motion.

1. What goals should align with employee advocacy efforts?

There are a variety factors that can play a part in determining which goals are best for your team. Take B2B vs. B2C for example—the program structure of one will likely look totally different than the structure and goals of the other.

Another element to consider is purpose, what you’re ultimately hoping to achieve with advocacy. Is your goal to establish and grow quality relationships that need more mid-funnel nurturing, but have high-value potential as a future customer? Or, are you focused on driving an immediate impact to bottom line revenue, favoring sheer volume and speed over long-term value?

Both examples significantly change how you’ll need to structure your goals across the board. That said, there are a few common metrics across most employee advocacy programs, including:

Reach & Mentions

While reach tends to be a higher-level metric given how far removed it can be from actual revenue, it’s still important to keep a pulse on performance here (this is typically understood as the number of people who see your social posts).

Mentions, on the other hand, are generally rolled into reach and are defined as the number of times your company name, product or service, or other brand-related terms/phrases are brought up online.

One thing to keep in mind here is not to limit reach to brand impressions. Your employees are (hopefully) participating in discussion boards, engaging with their networks, writing or discovering content on their own, and taking control of their own voice to amplify yours as a brand.

Metrics like reach can be monitored inside your employee advocacy platform, as well within Google Analytics for a higher level view into traffic sources and referrals. Once you’ve established where your baseline falls, you can then use reach to dive deeper into identifying which factors most contribute to your ebbs and flows and why.

Post Engagement

Measuring engagement (likes, shares, comments, retweets) is one of the most important metrics in determining how well you’re reaching your audience. This has become even more recently relevant given the algorithm changes that social networks are starting to deploy in order to align closer to the needs of their users.

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High brand activity on social is said to be a decision maker for 81% of consumers when evaluating companies to do business with. As a result, measuring and setting goals around how much engagement you should expect from your employee advocacy efforts is paramount.

Leads or Goal Completions

Depending on your marketing technology stack, measuring social media and employee advocacy efforts all the way to a lead form submission or a purchase can be difficult.

That said, if you invest a little time learning about how UTM parameters are used in employee advocacy, then your Google Analytics account can be easily set up to measure first touches, or subsequent touches originating from employee advocacy driven social posts.

2. How do you measure the ROI from employee advocacy?

Return on investment can be one of the most elusive metrics to accurately report on. And yet, isn’t it the gold standard to marketing performance measurement initiatives?

To accurately measure employee advocacy ROI, you need to have a strong grasp on your suite of analytics tools that help track inbound traffic, lead source, web behavior and everything up until (and after) any form fill or goal completion.

  1. The first step to measuring ROI from employee advocacy is to turn on Google Analytics (steps outlined here). If you’re capturing leads through an online form, as are most B2B orgs with a content marketing strateg, you’ll want to create a goal that triggers upon completion of that action (such as requesting a demo or starting a trial).
  2. Determine your hierarchy and nomenclature for URL parameter tracking. In the next step you’ll be setting up UTM based parameters on your inbound URLs, but before you do that you need to align your team around how you’ll classify each element within your campaigns.
  3. After determining the UTM parameter structure, it’s time to build the string. You can do this manually, through your marketing automation platform (most append UTM automatically) or with this Chrome plugin. If you decide to use the Chrome plugin, be sure to have a training session with your team on why it’s important to be used department-wide in order to be effective.

Assuming you’ve taken the above 3 steps, you’ll soon start to see social media channels showing up in your Google Analytics Conversion Reports.

3. What’s the best way to gauge program health?

Success is defined differently based on your company, which industry you work in, your role in the company, and so forth. That said, the two measures that most often come up in discussions about the effectiveness of employee advocacy programs are revenue generated and brand awareness gained.

Earlier we touched on strategies for setting up employee advocacy attribution (when it’s the original source of acquisition) to allow your team to tie efforts to bottom line revenue. On the other side of the coin is the more elusive brand awareness component.

This measurement is often looked at as one of the “softer” KPIs, but nonetheless, worth mentioning. Before launching your program, make sure your entire team is on the same page in terms of criteria for attribution and what you’ll consider a “meaningful” brand awareness touch or contact point (comments, followers, impressions, referrals, mentions, etc).

While difficult to measure, 79% of companies surveyed by the Hinge Research Institute indicated that they received greater online awareness after adopting a formal employee advocacy program.

4. What’s the best way to identify what is or is not working?

Making a determination as to which of your employee advocacy efforts are paying off, and which are not, is an easy one if you’ve correctly set up the UTM URL tracking parameters, as discussed above.

The easiest way to see campaign level conversion metrics, inside of Google Analytics, is to:

  1. Navigate to Conversions > Assisted Conversions, and then;
  2. Click on the “Social Network” channel grouping listed. From there you’ll see a breakout of the actual Source/Medium, which shows you the social network that drove the converting traffic.
  3. Now change the primary dimension “Other” drop down to Acquisition > Campaign and view the individual contributing campaigns that are creating revenue dollars.
  4. From there, it is simply comparing the campaign metrics inside of Google Analytics to the measure of dollars and time you spent on that campaign, to determine what is working and what is not.

Armed with meaningful goals, the KPIs to see if you’re hitting those goals, and the method of tracking and reporting on those KPIs, you are now able to prove the true value of your employee advocacy efforts.