The One Thing That Is Killing Employee Advocacy Programs

Employee advocacy is the topic du jour among social media experts. It’s a great way to increase brand reach, build brand awareness, and have conversations with target buyers. That said, encouraging employees to participate in an advocacy program comes with challenges.

Altimeter’s report on the state of employee advocacy sheds light on some of those challenges. Take a look at this chart.

Content has proven itself to be one of the hardest challenges for advocacy programs. In this post, we’ll take a look at why content is so important for empowering employees on social, why it’s so hard to get right, and how companies can overcome this challenge.

Why Is Content Essential for Employee Advocacy?

Social media runs on content. Sharing articles, posting images, and curating videos are the basis for the majority of our interactions online – be they personal or professional. If your employee advocates don’t have a consistent stream of content to share, they won’t be effective advocates for your company because they will have nothing to post.

Plain and simple, advocates need content, and they need lots of it to stay interested. Take another look at the chart from the Altimeter Group. After content, motivating employees and program adoption are the second and third biggest challenges. At first, they may seem like separate issues, but when you think about it, content, motivation, and adoption go hand-in-hand.

Without compelling content, employees will not join your advocacy program. And if they do join, they won’t continue to be a part of the program – unless they have enough content.

Starting an employee advocacy program without content is like starting a basketball team without basketballs or hoops. Sure, you might find some people who are interested because basketball sounds fun. But unless you start playing the game, they won’t stick around for long.

Seems pretty logical, right? But for many company’s, it’s harder than you’d think.

Why Is Content So Hard for Employee Advocacy Programs?

Part of the problem stems from the way social media experts define and think about employee advocacy. The logic goes something like this:

Question: What is the employee advocating for?
Answer: The company.
Question: What kind of content do they need to promote the company?
Answer: Marketing and recruiting materials!

When this kind of thinking is in play, problems arise. At first, newly minted advocates are eager to share marketing and recruiting materials. After all, they like your company and want to see it succeed.

But over time, the advocates’ interest wanes. They grow tired of being conduits for brand materials. They want more agency in the process. They want their needs to be met. They want to share content that reflects their career interests. They want to use social media to achieve their professional goals. And let’s face it. Depending on their department, advocates’ goals may not be exactly the same as the goals of the marketing and HR teams.

So, how can companies resolve this problem? They have to alter how they think about employee advocacy. They have to stop treating employees like a channel for the dissemination of marketing and recruiting materials.

Instead, companies must remember why advocates have joined the program. Sure, they are part of the advocacy program because they believe in your company and its mission, but they also believe in the power of social media to do their jobs.

So, to run an advocacy program means getting to know the employees, their roles in your company, and their goals. Then, it means showing them how social media can help them achieve those goals.

Curating the Right Content

So, how do you do it? How do you find the right content mix? To get a better grasp on this subject, we surveyed 400 U.S. employees in August 2015. These employees were either managers or senior managers, and they earned at least $75,000 per year.

Here’s what we found: While employees want to share company content, they don’t want to be corporate parrots. They also want to share third-party content on social media. 55% of respondents indicated that sharing a mix of third-party and company-created content is best for social media.

When we asked respondents to indicate their content preferences more forthrightly, the most common answer was related to third-party content. 33.7% of respondents indicated that they want to share news articles about their industry on social media.

In other words, employees want to look knowledgeable on social. They don’t want to be corporate shills. So, if you want employees to continue to advocate for your company, balance the company-related content with content from around the web, especially industry news. And when you’re looking for an employee advocacy solution, ask them how they can help you solve your content problem.

Want to Learn More about Employee Advocacy?

Check out our ebook Employee Advocacy 101 to start planning your strategy today!

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