The 4 Stages of Employee Advocacy Transformation [Infographic]

“Each employee is doing her own thing.”

“Our CMO wants to control the message.”

“As a department, we need to standardize best practices on social.”

Speaking with our buyers, we’ve found that employee advocacy is not static. It’s an evolutionary process, with several distinct stages along the way. To help us gauge the maturity level of our buyers’ advocacy programs, we created a classification system.

We thought that we’d share our system with you so that you can assess your company’s situation. Ready to take a peek?

What Are the Four Stages?

As we developed our four stages, we turned to Altimeter’s research on social media and social business. In fact, the title of this post is a reference to Altimeter’s study on the Six Stages of Social Business Transformation.

Yet, even though we loved Altimeter’s taxonomies of social business, the stages for employee advocacy do not align with those of social business. So, we created our own model.

The following infographic captures the degrees of structure and empowerment that advocacy programs possess.

(Click here to enlarge the image.)

Stage 1: Random Acts of Social

Have you glanced at your employees’ tweets, Instagram accounts, or LinkedIn updates? Chances are that they’re committing random acts of social.

Unbeknownst to you, your employees – 50% of them, to be precise – are discussing your company on social media. By their own volition, they are building brand awareness and speaking with potential buyers. You just don’t know it.

By sharing blog posts, posting photos of your workplace, and doling out coupon codes to friends, your employees are helping your business. But they have no direction. No coordination. Your company’s advocates are on their own, and some are doing a better job than others.

Sound familiar? There’s nothing to be ashamed about. This is where most companies start on their employee advocacy journey.

Stage 2: Spoon-Fed Social

Once companies realize that their employees are posting about them on social, they then consider ways to organize their efforts.

Often times, the company’s first reaction is to control the message. If the company has a social media policy, it is focused on what employees should not do.

Additionally, during the second stage, social updates come from the marketing organization. Typically, a marketing manager feeds content and messages to their employees, which generates the following chain reaction:

  1. The marketing manager sends an e-mail to the employees, saying, “Hey! It would be great if you could share the latest blogs! All you have to do is copy and paste the link with the suggested copy. Thanks!”
  2. As soon as the employees receive that e-mail, they all rush to Twitter or LinkedIn and copy and paste the same message.
  3. All the employees post the same article, with the same copy.
  4. In the end, the posts look like corporate spam. And who likes to be fed spam, either of the electronic or food variety?

Of course, there’s a time and place for command-and-control social advocacy. Perhaps you’re in the pharmaceutical industry, and the FDA has approved three sentences about your drug, meaning that all marketing assets must include the approved language. Or else.

If that scenario sounds familiar, please, supply your employees with the exact verbiage they must use. Nobody wants to get into trouble with the legal department.

But, for the rest of us, we can mature beyond spoon-fed social.

Stage 3: Formalized Social

Once businesses decide to loosen control and empower their employees, they can create a more formal structure for their advocacy program. At this stage, companies realize that the “one-message-fits-all” method of social does not work, nor does the “one-piece-of-content-fits-all-followers” method.

Instead, companies with formalized social plans realize that it makes more sense to create teams of advocates with common interests. Perhaps you group your EMEA sales team together. Your APAC sales team forms another group, and your Americas team yet another.

Each team receives suggested content and copy that will be relevant to the team members and their followers. Note: It’s suggested copy and content. At this point, companies begin to provide training. That way, employees can start to take control of their own social networks and write their own updates.

To reflect this change in employee autonomy, the tone of the social media policies change. Not only do these policies mention what employees can’t do, but more importantly, these policies also mention what employees should do. (No one wants to live in a state of panic, asking himself, Is this against the rules?ˆ)

In sum, your employees are still learning about social during the third stage. There’s still some hand-holding, but with more training, your employees will arrive at the fourth stage.

Stage 4: Strategic Social

You know you’ve arrived at the fourth stage when your employees are no longer happy “just” being on social media. They want more. They want to understand how to master LinkedIn and Twitter so that they can meet their business objectives. They want leads. They want pipeline. They want new hires.

A stage 3 advocate becoming a stage 4 advocate is like a teenager becoming an adult. In stage 4, your advocates are fully grown social media users. Here are five signs that your employees are fully matured:

  1. They understand who they are, how to represent themselves, and how their online personas fit into their personal social media ecosystems.
  2. They understand that certain types of content resonate better with different groups on different social networks.
  3. They have started to grow their social networks and form deeper connections with their followers.
  4. They have the trust of their social community, and many will even be seen as thought leaders.
  5. They have nixed random acts of social from their lives, and there’s a purpose behind their social presence.

Which Stage Are You at?

Are you just getting started, or are your employees old pros?

Asking yourself that question is critical, especially when it comes time to choose an advocacy solution. There are many vendors out there, and each has a lot to offer. But we’d encourage you to find a platform that will allow your employees to grow and mature. Don’t settle for one that only allows you to spoon-feed content to your employees.

If you need help moving your business to the next stage of transformation, leave a comment below. I’d love to help you brainstorm ways to do so.


Want to Help Your Employees on Social Media?

Download our workbook on personal branding. This social media plan will your employees:

  • Develop their personal brands
  • Identify the types of content that they need on social media
  • Create an editorial calendar for their Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter accounts

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