As employee advocacy programs continue to gain momentum, we’re seeing signs of maturation among Bambu customers:

  • Companies are expanding their programs to include teams from throughout the organization, not just the department that started the program.
  • Content being fed into the program for employees to read and share isn’t just brand content. Stories cover industry, competitor and professional development topics.
  • More employees are contributing content.
  • Early efforts at basic gamification have lost their thrill, and employees are seeking rewards that are relevant and personalized.

This got me thinking, “If employee advocacy programs don’t grow with the needs of their employees, value will fizzle and participation will drop. So, what can I recommend that sets companies up for success as their programs mature?”

I believe we can meet this challenge head-on by thinking like a marketer. A marketer would recognize their audience has become more diverse, and that what motivates those audience segments varies greatly.

In other words, we need personas. And I need to bring in an authority on personas to help us flesh out this idea.

Introducing Samantha Stone

Samantha Stone is a revenue catalyst who helps unleash the possible in organizations that have complex selling processes. She’s a fast-growth, B2B marketing junkie, author, speaker, consultant and persona coach who has also managed to find time to raise four boys with her husband, David.

Throughout her career she has launched go-to-market initiatives and led marketing strategies for award-winning, high-growth companies including Netezza, SAP, Ascential Software and Powersoft. In 2012 she founded The Marketing Advisory Network to help savvy business leaders unleash the possible within their enterprises. Most recently she published Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook That Drives Sales, a practical guide for driving business impact, not just more activity.

Among other things, Samantha is a seasoned resource for all things persona. And since only two towns separate our Boston area offices, we got to talk about personas live over hot chocolate. Here’s what she had to say:

What kinds of personas might a company discover among their employees?

It’s really important not to assume job function will determine the persona. Not all salespeople are the same, nor all accounting staff.

I worked with a client a few months ago to improve employee advocacy. Before the research, they did what most marketing teams do–they sent a daily email out to the company with pre-written Tweets and LinkedIn shares for employees to push through their networks. At first these were helpful in boosting engagement with the target audience, but soon it became apparent the same 15-20% of the organization was participating and no one else.

That’s when we decided to do some digging. We wanted to know:

  • What type of information was the person willing to share?
  • What prevented them from sharing?
  • How frequently were they willing to spread company related news?

During the research we discovered a few interesting things. First, employees behaved more aligned to their personal brand than their role in the company:

  • Some wanted to be seen as industry experts.
  • Others were driven to brag that they worked for an excellent company.
  • Others still wanted to share news only when they could tie it directly to their personal achievements.

It was eye opening for us and changed how we engaged. Instead of daily blasts that went to everyone we aligned specific pieces of newsworthy content to groups of people 1-2 times per week. In some cases, the same news was shared across multiple internal personas but the wording and imagery in the suggested Tweets and shares was different.

How does this approach to segmentation affect what we measure in our employee advocacy program?

For the purpose of this topic, the metrics and results we’re measuring are not the company benefits, like brand awareness and website conversions. Rather, they are indicators of adoption and overall health of your employee advocacy program.

So, first and foremost, stop using basic activity as a form of measurement. Last login dates and the number of shares do not correlate with the level of enthusiasm your employee has about their work.

Second, measure the progression of enthusiasm. If employees are finding value in your program, there are behavioral signs:

  1. Time in platform (or engagements per login): It stands to reason that someone who is enthusiastically participating in your employee advocacy program will spend more time interacting with your employee advocacy platform than their less-enthusiastic coworkers.
  2. Login frequency: If your employee advocacy program is valuable, employees will make a habit of logging in. Establish benchmarks for various personas, then track how they change over time.
  3. Feedback: Creating a feedback loop for your program facilitates deeper investment from employees. They’ll start to ask questions, share ideas, and suggest content.

What can a company expect over time? Will employees stay in the same persona?

While it’s not likely someone’s core personality attributes or general persona will change over time, it is very possible that the context they are working within changes.

For example, might they be more or less excited about the company’s accomplishments, has their job role changed, etc.

In addition, the overall make up of personas might change–especially if the organization is heavily recruiting new employees and growing:

  • Has a new office been added?
  • Did you expand geographically? Cultural expectations in Singapore are very different than London then New York.
  • Did you recently grow an inside sales team full of young professionals just starting their career journey?
  • Were you acquired?

All of these things will have an impact on personas and therefore it’s important to thoughtfully maintain them over time.

How can a company start to develop personas for its employee advocacy program?

Personas are created with data through surveys and interviews. In addition to “demographics” like job title, team size and location, look to answer questions like:

  • What motivates an employee to share things about their company?
  • What kind of network do they have on social media?
  • What kind of influence–internal and external–do they have?
  • How savvy are they when it comes to social media?
  • Are they happy with their current levels of influence and digital literacy?

For best results, make this a collaborative process that pulls perspective from across the company. Don’t rely on input from a few people who think they have their fingers on the pulse of the organization!

Put someone in charge of being accountable to maintain them over time. I recommend it be the person who leads your employee advocacy programs. Usually that’s someone on your product marketing or communications team.

If you do the work, you will have a framework for what kind of content will resonate with employees, why it will resonate, and how that can translate into actual advocacy for the company. Good luck!