At its core, an employee advocacy program is an ongoing communication plan. This plan involves curating content for employees to read and share with their social networks. The ultimate goal of this plan is to improve employee engagement, which research states is an important characteristic of best-in-class organizations.
Agencies have an opportunity to offer tremendous value to their clients through employee advocacy services. Many agencies already provide services aimed at helping their clients reach a new audience. Why not empower the client’s employees to help with initiatives like:
- Brand awareness and storytelling
- Increasing employee engagement
- Content amplification
Additionally, successful employee advocacy programs transcend the entire organization, not just one department. Agencies who offer services on the back of employee advocacy programs can build deeper, more profitable relationships with their clients.
3 Employee Advocacy Services Your Agency Can Add Right Now
Virtual & In-Person Event Marketing
Companies host webinars and attend trade shows (as speakers or exhibitors) throughout the year. One of the hardest parts of event marketing, especially on social media, is creating awareness. The speed and fluidity of social streams creates a challenge that your agency could solve with coordinated event content sharing by employees.
One key to success is creating groups of employee advocates who are most relevant to the event. Another is discovering conversations on social about the event into which employees can insert themselves, both before and during the event.
If your agency is already managing the content around these events, you can easily build in an advocacy component that includes:
- Event messaging (pre-written status updates for various social networks)
- UGC and event hashtag monitoring (so employees can make connections with influencers before and during the event)
- Coordinated content amplification (give company and employee shared content the best chance of visibility before, during and even after the event)
Social Influence Building
Empowering employees to act as public-facing ambassadors for your client requires some prep work. If there is no social media policy, your client needs one. Not every employee uses social media for professional reasons, but when they share company content they’ll be required to act as professionals.
As their status on social networks increases, the employees will be faced with new situations like how to respond to a customer service or PR inquiry, or even how to handle negative comments.
Agencies have an opportunity to guide this social literacy process by offering services such as:
- Training on engagement, social selling, social customer care and so forth.
- Social profile creation and optimization.
- Leveraging earned media connections to showcase all-star employees and their knowledge.
Coordinated Content Amplification
The most obvious benefit of employee advocacy is content amplification. On average, people have 846 connections across their social networks. Imagine the potential reach for the content you create by mobilizing an employee network of 50 or 5,000.
If you’re thinking that you could simply take out targeted advertising to reach the social networks of these employees, you’re right. Targeted ads are inexpensive, powerful and seamlessly fall into the service mix that agencies provide their clients.
However, they’re still ads and they still carry the avatar of a company that likely has no direct relationship with the members of the employee networks you are targeting.
By contrast, employee-shared content will be more likely to reach news feeds organically. Users who see employee-shared content from people in their own network will make a more positive association with your client’s brand, because the content is being posted by someone they know and trust.
Tips for Pitching & Positioning These Services
For the tactical examples above and in our guide to be effective, and for you to attain overall success with an employee advocacy offering, certain things need to be present in the client organization.
- Executive Sponsor: You will want someone with internal influence to understand the broader value of word-of-mouth marketing and employee engagement. Otherwise the program’s success will be evaluated under a shortsighted lens.
- Seed Group: It helps to have a seed group of employees (from anywhere within the organization) to act as pilot users and internal advocates for the program. These people should have an established digital and social footprint so they can generate results quickly. You then put those results on display for the rest of the organization to recruit new advocates.
- Sustained Participation: Understand that one of your primary goals is to make the employee advocacy program something worth doing for the employee. Encouraging and sustaining participation requires a plan that touches on areas like leadership development, basic gamification and content creation. The organization needs to have a culture that will allow these things to happen or your program will fizzle out.
It’s also important to align the services you offer with the type of client relationship your agency prefers.
Are you primarily focused on amplification and distribution? Choose services that can mobilize a workforce to meet those goals. Add incentives for clients who aren’t yet considered best in class when it comes to employee engagement or advocacy.
Does your agency do long-term partnerships to totally reshape a company’s brand strategy? Choose services that have a longer-term payout. Combine them with short-term campaigns that mobilize existing brand champions. Use the resulting stories to gain buy-in from the rest of the organization.
By now, you should have a general idea of how employee advocacy can improve your agency’s service mix. Talk to your team about what kinds of services would make the most sense within your agency. Then look at your existing client base to see if a specific service could be an immediate fit.
Once you are ready to open a conversation about how technology can help you implement these services, please reach out to the Bambu team!
Stephan Hovnanian is a content solutions architect at Bambu, an advocacy platform by Sprout Social. He has spent most of his professional career as an email marketer and business owner focused on helping companies build stronger relationships with their audiences.Find Stephan Hovnanian on Twitter @stephanhov.
3 Employee Advocacy Services Your Agency Can Add Right Now
Written by Stephan Hovnanian on February 20, 2017