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#SMACTalk Episode # 32 – Employee Advocacy: You Have a Branding Problem!

What is employee advocacy? Is it social employees or perhaps employee engagement? And what should brands and companies be doing with employee advocacy? A lot of leaders wonder what employee advocacy is and employees ask themselves, “Who am I advocating for?”

Often the response to discussions and events around employee advocacy is fractional compared to other topics like social selling. For instance, Brian were part of a Social Selling Summit and the response was tremendous because the topic is widely understood. On the other hand, we have an employee advocacy webinar coming up with panelists that are possibly more impressive than the social selling webinar, yet it’s a harder sell. I’ve concluded that this is because many people don’t understand what employee advocacy is.

A lot of employees aren’t motivated to talk about their companies on social platforms but business leaders are starting to ask them to do this.

How Can We Get Employees to See Value and Management to Have a Better Approach?

Brian says, “If your brand is hiring and firing for culture fit today, the idea of a social employee makes sense. Why would you not want to brag that you want to work [or did work] somewhere?” Part of the problem is that we’re trying to put people into little buckets where they don’t fit. Instead we should ask, “What does success look like for an employee who builds their personal brand and for a brand that empowers that employee to do things with that personal brand?” We need to take a step back and look at what success looks like for the individual and how business leaders can help them succeed.

When companies put employees into buckets, it’s often met with resistance from employees. This is compounded when company content limited or scripted. The employee is more likely to feel as though his/her audience will lack interest or connection with what’s being shared. This can also result in the company’s efforts seeming canned – as in numerous individuals sharing carbon copied material.

Brian often talks about “tools, trust and training.” What I’m seeing right now is a heavy emphasis on tools with very little dedication to trust and training. Brian says that these three things really need to be in the right order. It should start with trust, followed by training and lastly tools. Tools are there to amplify and scale great things. If you’re not great, why scale? The loyalty and enthusiasm really need to be there first.

The Future of Business is Community.

Community starts internally and then moves to customers. Leaders need to trust their employees and invest in training continually – not as a one-time effort. Too many companies offer training at onboarding and stop there. But Brian says the onus is on the employee to own and cultivate their own brands and personal education.

There’s an intersecting point between the employer and employee that I believe is what will make this work. The CEO is the purveyor of a business’ brand yet we see organizations with CEOs who have little experience and training with social media trying to fill the role. But each person who becomes a social employee becomes like a miniature CEO for your brand. Employees can reach new audiences that the business itself can’t reach. There’s no longer a hard demarcation between work and life. Each time an employee advocates online for his/her organization, those tweets and posts become part of shared presence. With this in mind, when businesses fail to provide training to employees, they’re risking employees portraying the business in a way that may be unfavorable (whether intentionally or not).

Brian points out that startups have an advantage because the relative distance between the CEO and the employee is shorter. Many larger companies don’t realize that their employees don’t even understand the brand story and message. Leaders need to simplify their stories and trust their employees.

Businesses Are Great When They Have Great Employees.

Companies should support and promote their standout talent. This shouldn’t be forced it should happen naturally. But talented employees are not only attractive representation of the brand story but they’re one of the best recruiting tools in existence. When a company truly drives collaboration and makes its employees feel as though their voices matter, employees will be excited and want to take ownership. They’ll list their employer in their social bios and talk about their employer in a way that shows they are invested.

Leaders shouldn’t ask their employees to talk about content that doesn’t interest them or their audiences. But a good education on hashtags and how to use social platforms can be very helpful. Company culture needs to support everyone’s understanding of the “why” in addition to the “how.” This should all be collaborative. Brian pointed out a failure in his past where he got buy in from employees for a change but he forgot to get management buy in. He says this was a critical mistake. Everything needs to line up.

Without Trust, The Tools Will Never Work.

Brands can train their employees on how to use each social network and tools. Not everyone truly understands how Twitter works or what Periscope and Meerkat are. Education can start here.

“If you claim to have a great culture and your culture is great because of your employees, why are you not empowering them?” Brian asks. Empowered employees are much more likely to advocate for a business.

Revisiting the topic of buckets, Brian says it would be a mistake to assess a CEO, a social media staffer and a coder using the same criteria as social employees. Their stories will likely be very different and the company shouldn’t try to force them otherwise.

I believe that you can’t really force things in business and that when you do, you’ll see short term results with long term collateral damage. It can take years to rebuild trust when this happens. With the speed of technology, social is at the center. It’s the way that humans collaborate by choice. A social interaction is no less a business interaction than a phone call is. If we don’t start embracing this interaction, we’ll never get to the second phase. If we try to do this by demand or edict, the results will be paltry at best.

It’s a Philosophy Change.

Change your philosophy to create a new experience. Today’s employee wants to work for a company that cares about quality of life and about them as an individual. People not only want to make a difference but they want to be a part of something good that is bigger than themselves. When a company is genuinely on board with this, transparency can amplify it. On the other hand, when the culture is bad or the underlying cause or product isn’t good, transparency reveals it. Being scared of transparency might be an indicator that your business is lacking in one or more important qualities.

Think about what your message is and how you’re getting it out there.

If you are interested in learning more about powering your social with the help of your employees, join this exciting free webinar on July 9th with The Marketing Scope, Altimeter and Dynamic Signal. Click here.

Sign up for the webinar and make sure to check us out on Meerkat and Periscope. We stream our SMACTalk recording sessions live there and tweet using the hashtag #SMACTalk.

photo credit: With A Megaphone By A Wall via photopin (license)

Daniel Newman

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change how business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 5x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group and President of V3 Broadsuite, a family of marketing and media agencies that help companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world. I also give keynote speeches around the world on the topics such as digital transformation, technology and marketing.