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Social media employee advocacy.
It’s a buzzword that has been floating around marketing teams for the past couple of years.
While these types programs can be dramatically effective for a plethora of different reasons, including…
…teams are still hesitant to adapt them because…
Whether you’ve started a program with your team and it’s turned into a chaotic mess, or you’re simply not sure how to start, you’ll learn about the resources and tools you need to turn your own employees into your biggest brand advocates.
Before we start, make sure you download our Social Media Employee Advocacy Startup Package. When you download it, you’ll get:
That’s right, we did all the work for you.
A social media employee advocacy program allows you to use your employee’s vast social networks to help promote your company or brand. These employees are called “social employees” or “employee advocates.”
There are a lot of definitions of social employees, but the definition that captures it best is from The Social Employee by Mark and Cheryl Burgess:
“Social Employees can utilize social media tools to act as authentic brand ambassadors in order to cultivate unique relationships with individuals where the end goal isn’t simply a purchase action but a dynamic exchange of ideas.”
It’s a long definition, I know.
But, the definition above captures both what a social employee is, and their purpose within your organization.
It’s also important to note before we continue that when we refer to social media employee advocacy platforms, we’re talking about Twitter and LinkedIn.
Let’s continue, shall we?
Now that you know what an employee advocacy program is we’re going to move on to how to start your own program. The following steps will walk you through how to convince your team to join you, and the process you need to follow in order to get your program off on the right foot.
Whether you’ve started your program and it flopped, or you’re just trying to get your feet off the ground, having the right people on your team is crucial to the initial success of your program.
Therefore, check off the following before you start:
Depending on the size of your organization, the number of your initial adoptors may vary.
We would recommend starting off with five, and growing the program from there. Five may seem like a small number, but there’s a lot of work that goes into setting up this program. Start small, you can always grow. Not to mention, you could run into a too many cooks in the kitchen type of problem. Don’t create that problem for yourself, trust me on this one.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. What qualities should I be looking for the initial adopters of my employee advocacy social media program?
A potential employee advocate should check off at least three of the following:
These are just a few of the qualities you will want to look for in your new social media employee advocacy program participants. Remember, you want to narrow it down to the best of the best so your program has a great jumping off point.
A quick warning before you start your list.
Do not, under any circumstances, force an employee to be a part of your employee advocacy program.
No one likes being forced to do anything.
It’s like forcing a 4 year old to eat anything that’s green.
It’s not gonna happen.
If you force your employees to become your brand advocates, your program becomes in-genuine, and your potential consumers will see that coming from a mile away.
So how do you approach your employees so that’ll they come and hear you out?
Grab your free email template that complements this post to customize and send to potential employee advocates. Feel free to personalize it to each person you’re sending it too. It may take a bit more time, but the personal touch really helps.
Or you could just copy and paste the email from the social media employee advocacy kit.
Why do you need to introduce the program to your employees?
Well, first of all, you need to ask them if they want to participate. Check out that email template from above to help get your started.
Secondly, think about their schedule. They’re probably already swamped with a giant list of things to do. Imagine if your boss came to you and said, “Hey, I need you to spend about 3 hours a week tweeting about our company.”
You’d probably say no. Who wants extra work? No one.
Being an employee advocate is not an easy task. It’s one that requires dedication and time. Most importantly, it’s a task that needs to be taken on voluntarily.
So how do you convince your employees to take on extra work?
I’m gonna get personal here for a second. When someone puts a competitive twist on things I’m immediately hooked. I have to win. I want to come out on top.
Obviously, I’m pretty competitive person.
Maybe your employees are the same way, and if so you can capitalize on that. Whether it’s a bonus, fun retreats, or even company swag, having a way for your employees to get rewarded will help them be more open to the possibility of participating in the program.
So you’ve got everyone in the room.
A presentation, maybe?
You don’t have time to create that.
Don’t worry, we did that for you. Download it here.
If your employee advocates sound like a corporate robot, that’s what your consumer/customer fan base is going to think of them as.
That’s not a good thing.
Your employees need to bring their unique voice and perspective in order to breathe fresh life into your content.
So how do you do this?
Bring your employees to the table.
Schedule a short meeting, 15 minutes maximum to brainstorm and finalize an employee voice. You could even just swing by their desk when they have a minute or two to spare.
Remember you want these meetings to be effortless and easy. The less this program interferes with their daily schedule the better.
Once you’re in your meeting ask the following two questions and have them record their answers on the one-pager that is in the attached kit.
Once they have those written down have them pick their top three. Those become the voice of the employee online.
An example is below.
For a sales manager (let’s call him Bill), his list could look like:
Let me use myself as an example.
I created my professional Twitter profile during my senior year of college because I wanted my potential new employers to know that:
So when it came to creating my voice I had to answer the following three questions:
Have your employees try and think along the same mindset.
Remember, don’t give them the answers. This is all about them.
Have them fill out the worksheet in the kit that complements this blog post, and attach it to a desk, cubicle wall, or wherever they will see it often. This will act as a gentle reminder in case they get stuck on what to post.
When most companies start their social media employee advocacy program, they’ll usually identify their employees with a naming convention. Usually this means incorporating the company name into the Twitter handle somehow.
It is important to note that once you pick a naming convention, you stick with it.
For example, our friends at Onsharp, a digital marketing and website development company in our home state of North Dakota, has an active social employee program. The handles for each of their employees is @Onsharpname.
They cover a wide variety of topics, and are also able to show off their company culture. This not only helps increase their overall credibility, but if you have a potential employee looking into the company, they have a chance to see genuine interactions that happen within the team.
But it’s not just small businesses using username conventions.
Discovery Benefits is making a huge mark on the insurance industry. We recently interviewed their marketing manager, Abby Boggs-Johnson, for our Actionable Marketing Podcast. In it, Abby mentions how her sales team has started a series of social media employee advocacy profiles that are helping them connect to their customer base.
By creating these unique connections between the sales team and their customers, Discovery Benefits is able to showcase genuine interactions which can allow people to build trust in the company. Like Onsharp, Discovery Benefits has a naming convention @DBIname.
It would be easy to say, “Well, these are smaller companies.” What about big Fortune 500s? Have they tried a social media employee advocacy program? Actually, some Fortune 500s were a few of the earliest adopters. One of them was Adobe.
Adobe’s program still exists but unlike Discovery Benefits and Onsharp, Adobe doesn’t have a naming convention. Most of their employees have the @Adobe programming they work for listed in their handle.
Why would Adobe forgo a naming convention? The company is huge, and because there are so many different official Adobe product accounts, it would be impossible to keep one single convention among all the different products.
So if you’re a smaller company with one main Twitter account, you should have a naming convention. But if you’re marketing for a major corporation with multiple official Twitter accounts, use your bio to identify which major company profile you are associated with.
But Breonna, how do I create my naming convention?
Don’t worry, I have you covered.
Below is a list of ten naming conventions. Pick one that you think will work best for your company. Some names will be too long. Remember, Twitter has a character limit for it’s usernames, so don’t be afraid if you have to use initials or abbreviations.
One of the great ways that you can help distinguish your social media employee advocates is to have a matching profile style image and cover photo.
Not only does this help distinguish your actual social employees online, it gives it a nice, clean, polished and professional look to your social accounts.
Profile images should be:
Here are a couple examples from our team. This is Chris St. Amant, UI/UX Desginer:
And Tyler Brazier, Software Engineer:
Like the profile images, cover photos should be:
They should look like this:
Everything is clean and consistent.
Just the way we like it.
It’s important to note that once the standard is set for the profiles, it needs to be followed throughout every single one of them.
Why is this consistency important?
It helps users and your customers find your profiles. It also acts as a minor defense system against people who may try to impersonate the account.
Once you’ve got your headshots and cover images created, you can move on to account set up.
Now that you’ve got your team on board and their voice has been determined, you’re ready for the fun part. Setting up your profiles.
Whether your team is working with Twitter, LinkedIn or both, how you set up the accounts is incredibly important. For some people, this will be the first interaction they ever have with one of your employees.
You want your bios to be short and sweet, as well as original. Everyone talks about how they love coffee and traveling. Challenge your employee advocates to think outside the box with another brainstorm session.
Have them write down or think about the following:
Have them think about some of these questions so they can incorporate them to make a unique bio for their profiles.
For example, my professional Twitter bio looks like this:
In it, I talk about my field of experience, my passion for theatre, my current position, my alma mater and for good measure I throw in a bit about my Harry Potter obsession.
This simple bio does a few things:
Some of you may have noticed there’s something missing in my bio.
Can you see it yet?
I don’t have a disclaimer in my online bio. Many people will tell you that your professional social accounts need a disclaimer that runs something along the lines of:
Many people will add these disclaimers to their social bios in order to protect themselves and the company they work for.
It seemed like a simple solution that would protect the employee in case they tweeted something that their employer disagreed with. It’s also thought that adding this disclaimer would protect the employer from public backlash if an employee tweeted something inappropriate.
I’m sorry to say that these phrases will rarely protect either the employee or their employer from backlash if something inappropriate is posted on social media.
What can protect me, you might be thinking to yourself? Honestly, nothing but solid common sense.
And on that happy note, we’ll continue into step 7.
If I had to tell you to take away one vitally important piece of information away from this blog post, it would be that if you decide to develop your own social media employee advocacy program, determine your posting rules before you start.
It may seem like a nonsense task. Why would I have the team take time to write everything down?
Because, while great, social media can turn on you within seconds if you or a team member sends the wrong tweet or message. It doesn’t take much to remember some of the biggest blunders that a company has made on social media. United, Cracker Barrel, or Pepsi ringing a bell at all? The internet can be a merciless place, and will never forget anything you posted.
Yes, even if you delete it.
Having established rules in place can help you avoid those costly mishaps and give you the peace of mind that content being sent by your team is appropriate, timely and most importantly, connects with your customer base in ways your normal advertising won’t.
With that in mind here is an example list of posting do’s that your team can start with and expand on:
This is just a starting list. As your program continues to grow, your list will change and grow as your employees find their niche.
When there is a do list, there’s also a don’t list. This list is not extensive and what you add to it will depend on your company’s social media policy. This list should help your get started determining what inappropriate content will mean for your company.
I always ask myself the following before I post:
If any of those can be answered no, or even if I hesitate in the answer, I don’t post it. It takes an extra minute or two to think about. Is it a pain in the butt? Kind of. Is it necessary? Absolutely.
So, you have your advocates, you have the accounts set up, the rules are listed and you have content waiting in your backlog to be posted.
You can start posting now right?
Hold your horses, we’re just about there.
There is one last step you need to take before you unleash your employees onto the internet.
Determine your posting schedule. Having your employees post consistently helps with three things:
Thankfully, we did the heavy lifting for you.
Here are the best times to post on Twitter.
And the best times to post on LinkedIn:
No, you don’t need to be up at 2am to post to Twitter every morning. That’s what social media scheduling in CoSchedule is for. :)
Now that you have your advocates out sharing information across their social networks, you need a way to track those conversations and interactions.
Simple. One or two company specific hashtags.
By creating company specific hashtags you are able to track conversations, mentions and potential leads all in one spot. As a bonus, when your fans want to connect with you they know the perfect hashtag to use to connect with you.
At CoSchedule we use #OverheardatCoSchedule to talk about what’s going on in the office, from industry conversations to hilarious quotes from our fellow co-workers.
"pop chop and crop it." #overheardatcoschedule
— Janelle Hartford (@jnhartford) May 2, 2017
'- Standing is not exercise
– It is these days' #OverheardAtCoSchedule
— Gustavo San José (@tavosansal) April 28, 2017
"The code I wrote says it'll work."#OverheardAtCoSchedule
— Ashton Hauff (@ashtonhauff) April 24, 2017
Onsharp uses #TeamOnsharp to showcase their culture across their social employee profiles. Whether they’re celebrating #NationalMargarita day or a co-worker’s birthday, Onsharp does a great job of capturing the extra perks of joining their team.
— Onsharp (@onsharp) May 2, 2017
They may be new to the social media employee advocacy world but Discovery Benefit’s #DBICulture is helping showcase why Discovery Benefits is a great place to work. Showcasing their culture allows Discovery Benefits to not only establish their presence as an industry leader but also humanize their brand.
How you create your hashtags will be up to you, but we suggest following these guidelines:
Your employees are posting, you’re gathering your data, and your program is running smoothly. You’re done now right?
Not quite. Although, I promise we’re just about done.
It’s important to set a trial period so you can see and evaluate the successes and failures of the program.
We suggest that you run the program for at least 30 days, so you have enough time to gather data.
You may wonder, what types of data should I be tracking? We would suggest tracking the following:
By regrouping the team and tracking your data you can establish a baseline. From that baseline you can determine a variety of things including:
You can also use that time to determine what’s working for your team and what isn’t. Ask questions like:
So what does a great social media employee advocacy program look like? Here are some examples that will hopefully inspire some tweets of your own.
One of the great ways that Onsharp is able to increase its content reach is through shares from their employees. Whether it’s a simple retweet like the one below, or a completely separate post with the link back to the content, these actions can help extend the life of your content.
— Onsharp (@onsharp) April 7, 2017
Another thing that Onsharp does really well is showcase their company culture through the eyes of their employees. Why is this important? You can talk about your culture all you want but showcasing it through the eyes of your employees makes it genuine.
— Jazzy Lara (@JazzysContent) April 26, 2017
Why do we love this tweet? We love this tweet because Justin found a way to connect information his clients may need to an emotional aspect of their lives. Kids and child care expenses are a huge part of a family’s life. From this one tweet, Justin is able to empathize with his target audience and showcase how he can help.
Are you parent? One way to save throughout the year and on taxes is with a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account. https://t.co/hy8MudeTpO
— Justin Warren (@DBIJustin) March 16, 2017
This tweet from Ashley is a great example of how your social media employee advocates can help build the credibility of your company. It’s one thing for a company account to tweet about its accomplishments but it’s another thing entirely if an employee does it. It adds that extra amount of credibility and doesn’t come across too braggy (as long as it’s phrased right).
— Ashley Seitz (@DBIashley) March 14, 2017
For our final example, we’re showcasing our own social media employee advocacy program. Our program isn’t as formalized as some of the others, but there are some great examples of the tactics that we’ve mentioned throughout this blog post.
And I didn’t even tell them beforehand!
We’re a little silly here at CoSchedule sometimes and that translates into how we tweet about our day. This tweet from our blog manager Ben captured some of the fun we have here in the office.
— Ben Sailer (@Ben_CoSchedule) April 14, 2017
CoSchedule is relatively young, especially when you compare us to some of the bigger platforms that have been around for awhile. What sets us apart is our story, which our co-founder Garrett got to talk about just a few weeks ago. By tweeting and showcasing what sets us apart from our competitors we begin to stand out among the crowd and in people’s memories.
— Garrett Moon (@garrett_moon) April 26, 2017
That’s it! We’re done!
You have all the tools you need to start your own social media employee advocacy program.
And now you’re looking at your giant to-do list and back at this blog.
Am I going to give you more advice or is that it?
What if I told you there was a way to drastically shorten that to-do list, optimize your content and make sure that every single one of your social employee’s posts are optimized and following company standards?
Oh and I could cut out the constant email chain that is likely going to fill your inbox after the start of the program.
Our calendar will let you:
And that’s the short list.
From ReQueue to task lists, CoSchedule will help get your social media employee advocacy program off the ground in half the time.
See what we can do for your team, and schedule your demo today.
Plan content and automate publishing to save tons of time now.
Start your 14-day trial to get organized with CoSchedule today.