Are You Empowering Your Employee Advocates?
Employees working together in office

Are You Empowering Your Employee Advocates?

If you’re looking for the best way to spread the word about your organization to talented candidates, employee advocacy should be at the top of your list. We’re all familiar with employee engagement: That’s how you connect your team members to the mission of your company. Employee advocacy is the next step forward—it means taking that engagement to the next level and empowering your team to represent your brand through word of mouth and social media.

According to a 2016 report conducted by the Aberdeen Group, companies with an employee advocacy program report a 26% increase in year over year revenue. Guiding your employees toward brand advocacy isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a strategy that can make significant impact on your bottom line.

Empowering your employees to become brand advocates may start with engagement, but it doesn’t end there. Advocacy requires its own strategy and plan for encouraging and sustaining participation. At Sprout Social, we’ve found that our most successful social advocacy efforts have centered around four guiding principles.

Your Mission Is More Than a Statement

Sprout believes that open communication brings people and businesses closer together. This value is the cornerstone of our products, operations and business. This mission informs every aspect of the way we communicate, internally and externally.

Each cohort of new hires has a meeting with Justyn Howard, our CEO, at which they have the opportunity to introduce themselves, ask questions about our business and better understand Sprout’s history and values. This open line of communication doesn’t end once training is over. During each of our monthly, company-wide All-Hands meetings, Justyn holds an open forum. Employees ask him questions ranging from his take on McDonald’s McRib (he’s a fan) to the implications of Instagram for brands.

As our team continues to grow, it’s crucial we maintain an open line of communication between our team members and senior leadership. Employees across the organization are always encouraged to share feedback, voice concerns and offer opinions. This open door policy starts on day one as we welcome new employees and fresh perspectives to our team.

If your business is serious about helping its employees become brand advocates, your company mission has to be more than just a statement painted on the wall. It needs to be an actionable guiding principle placed at the forefront of your business decisions.  Most importantly, your mission needs to be communicated clearly to employees to ensure buy-in from day one.

Don't Confuse Perks for Company Culture

Like many tech companies, Sprout offers an array of employee perks. However, we don’t confuse these perks with culture. If you want employees to be proud to spread the word about your company, your senior leadership needs to understand that company culture is more than communal workspaces, exposed brick and free granola bars.

Don’t get me wrong, our team loves having unlimited LaCroix and a generous lunch stipend—but more importantly, they appreciate the value of working for a company that encourages them to grow professionally and personally. Culture—not perks—is what’s going to fuel retention and get your team to opt-into social employee advocacy.

Keep a pulse on your organization’s culture, especially if you’re growing fast, to ensure that team members are having a consistently positive experience. That means more professional growth opportunities, not necessarily more uniquely PR-worthy perks. The culture you build, and the way you share your mission and values, are what make your employees proud to say they’re members of your team.

Leverage Employees Who Are on Social During Work

Employees are recognized and trusted by the public as authoritative, honest experts on your company—both its public presence and what goes on behind closed doors.

But how do get your employees to engage on your brand’s behalf on social? First, disregard the notion that social media isn’t appropriate at work. The reality is that the average employee is going to login to their personal social accounts at work.

A 2016 survey from Bambu revealed that 67% of employees are actively using social media at work. The majority (40%) are on social during lunch and intermittently throughout the day for roughly 0-15 minutes. Instead of fighting social at work, embrace it.  

Encourage your team to use their time spent on social at work to familiarize themselves with the content you want them to be sharing. Once you’ve created a culture where a moderate amount of social media is acceptable, you can empower your team with the tools and training they need to succeed.

Empower Your Team With the Right Content & Tools

A formalized program paired with the proper onboarding and advocacy software will help amplify your advocacy efforts at scale. Whether marketing or talent owns your employee advocacy program, collaboration across teams will be essential for success. Make sure you have interesting, diverse content available to curate for your team on a regular basis so there’s plenty to read and share.

At Sprout, we share everything from job postings to industry thought leadership to community events where our employees are speaking. This gives us another way to recognize individuals and give kudos, as well as to amplify their expertise and contributions.

To make sure your employees are comfortable on social and know what and why to share, incorporate social media training as well as advocacy guidelines into the onboarding process for new hires. Start by explaining what social advocacy is, why it’s important to your business and what some of the personal benefits of being a brand advocate are. Highlight employees who are advocate standouts and reward them for their participation.

Employee advocacy may seem like a simple ask: Share our story with your social networks. But creating a thoughtful, strategic plan to encourage and support your team from their first day at your company is key to successfully implementing a program and actually empowering your employees to share. Build the right foundation and both you and your team will be able to reap the benefits of employee advocacy.

Want to learn more about building and maintaining a great company culture? Check out the Glassdoor Culture Codes of Best Places to Work eBook.

Jim Conti is the Director of Talent at Sprout Social, a Chicago-based software company. He was Sprout’s first talent hire and his role has since grown to include responsibility for overseeing recruitment, talent, culture, benefits strategy and growth across the organization. Prior to Sprout, Jim worked in the non-profit and education sectors. He holds a M.S.Ed. in Elementary Education from Northwestern University and a B.A. in Communications from Boston College. Jim dedicates time outside of work to the wonderful youth at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. Follow him at @SproutJim.