Company Culture

How To Create A Winning Employee Advocacy Program At Work

By
Rebecca Noori

It's not easy for companies to gain visibility online. Social media platforms are crowded with competing messages, and brands often lack the resources to reach their target audience.

That's where employee advocacy programs come in as a collective voice that your potential customers, job candidates, and business partners are more likely to hear and listen to.

Employee advocacy programs create an authentic connection between the brand and prospective customers that is hard to replicate with traditional marketing efforts. This guide explores the power of employee advocacy and offers best practices, expert tips, and successful employee advocacy program examples to inspire you.

What Is Employee Advocacy?

Employee advocacy happens when employees actively promote their company and everything it stands for. Advocacy programs usually occur via: 

  • Social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube 
  • Online reviews on Glassdoor, Indeed, or Blind 
  • Word of mouth with family and friends
  • Networking events in conversations with attendees or during a speaking opportunity   
  • Community forums on sites like Reddit or industry niches 
  • Personal blog posts 
  • Dark social networking in Slack channels, WhatsApp groups, and other membership channels where reach is notoriously challenging to track. 

Your employees might share career stories, product development releases, upcoming events, or customer successes. These activities contribute to a positive company image online and cut through the noise to generate intrigue about your brand.

Two employees chatting together in front of microphones

What Are The Benefits Of Employee Advocacy Programs? 

A Hinge Research Institute report found that only 16.6% of companies have implemented a formal employee advocacy program. The 83.4% yet to fully embrace employee advocacy would enjoy the following six benefits if they joined in.

1. Amplified Brand Messaging 

Employees extend your brand's reach everywhere they go. They keep you top-of-mind and push your message through various channels with their unique twist or perspective. For example, perhaps you want to change your brand colors or promote a new company tagline. Employee advocates can support and showcase the change, driving awareness and engagement.

2. Enhanced Credibility And Trust 

Employee advocacy adds a layer of authenticity to an organization's messaging, with Edelman research finding that the employee voice is 3x more credible than the CEO's.

When employees share content or speak positively about their workplace, products, or services, the message appears more genuine to their connections and networks. The benefits don’t stop there—Sprout Social reveals that 87% of millennials feel more connected to brands whose employees share about it on social media.

Millennials feel more connected to brands when employees share about their companies on social media, they also think it's important for employees to do so.

3. Tackling Crisis Management 

A network of employee advocates can be invaluable during times of crisis. Employees can improve the company’s reputation by: 

  • Countering misinformation
  • Assisting in damage control
  • Rallying support

4. Promoting Thought Leadership 

Your employee bench is already well-stocked with a wealth of knowledge, skills, and expertise. An advocacy program enables talented team members to become thought leaders by sharing content related to key industry concepts or trends. It's a win-win—along with boosting the company's profile, employees use their personal brands to establish themselves as industry experts.

Example: Grizzle's Head of Content Erica Schneider regularly offers editing and content strategy tips on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. The depth of her posts has established Erica as a thought leader in the B2B SaaS content space while promoting her marketing agency employer, Grizzle.

5. Generating Sales Leads 

It takes personal connections and relationships with prospects to convert leads into customers, and employee advocates can build that trust for your brand.

Employees’ personal networks have 10x more connections than an entire company has followers, which is an incredible resource for sales teams. Similarly, LinkedIn analysis reveals that the CTR (click-through rate) on a piece of content is 2x higher when posted or shared by an employee rather than the company's official account.

 

6. Attracting Top Talent 

Guess what happens when passionate employees spread the word about their positive experience working for you? They attract more highly skilled employees to join your ranks, leading to better employee retention rates too.

BuiltIn research reveals that strong employer branding speeds up your time to hire by one to two times, while careers company Flexa attests that 25% of its hires result from employees posting about how much they love working there.

5 Employee Advocacy Examples

Companies of any size or industry can benefit from a social advocacy program. Here are five examples of how big brands are running theirs:

Starbucks

Starbucks invests in advocacy training so employees know how to promote their employer. To acknowledge their involvement, Starbucks elevates their role from "employees" to "partners." The company's social media pages attract a great response—the Starbucks Partners Facebook page has 375k+ followers, and the Starbucks Partners Instagram page has 154K+ followers.

 

Starbucks Partners Instagram page is very active with over 150,000 followers.

Salesforce 

Salesforce built an advocacy program around the idea that all its employees are experts in their respective fields. The program nudges team members to become thought leaders by sharing their professional insights on social media. Using an employee advocacy tool, they have 25k+ employees participating in the social media ambassador program across 44+ countries.

Salesforce carefully guides its employees to share authentic content and actively avoids generic posts forced by leadership. The company has already achieved a 2,000% ROI, with a 1.9B reach on social in 21 months, 1.9M reactions, and 19,200 posts created.

Adobe 

In September 2014, Adobe discovered that employee shares on social media generated revenue and talent acquisition successes they couldn't ignore. In response, the company launched its Social Shift program, which trains employees to become exceptional brand ambassadors. The program guides content creation methodologies, best practices for sharing content online, and how to use appropriate hashtags such as #AdobeLife.

Reebok 

Around 80% of Reebok's workforce is also its target audience, so it makes sense that the company would embrace employee advocacy to extend its reach to a broader relevant market. Using the hashtag #fitasscompany, Reebok employees regularly create enthusiastic fitness-related posts on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

The company has also embraced "employee takeovers" of company profiles on these accounts to keep everyone engaged and on the pulse of the brand's positioning.

Google 

With one of the most famous and recognizable company cultures in the working world, Google has embraced the opportunity to turn its 190k-strong workforce into a talent and lead gen machine. Googlers regularly post company content on Instagram’s @lifeatgoogle page, sharing their wins, success stories, and career moments.

Life At Google on Instagram has over 750,000 followers

9 Tips To Ace Your Employee Advocacy Program  

Your employee advocacy program relies on your people being enthusiastic, committed, and understanding how to be great ambassadors for your company. Here are nine tips for designing a successful program:

1. Achieve Leadership Buy-In

Your program is more likely to gain traction when your C-suite team lends its visible support and is actively involved in the program. Support from company leaders is vital because advocacy often requires using company time. Employees chastised for spending time on LinkedIn won't feel excited to take advantage of your program.

As CEO of Digitech Web Design, Darryl Stevens offers some ways for leaders to create an environment where employees feel comfortable participating in the program. 

“Actively engage with employees to discuss the potential benefits of having an employee advocacy program and encourage them to be open and honest with their feedback.
Senior leaders should provide ongoing support for the program by promoting it in internal meetings or all-hands company gatherings. This ensures employees understand the importance of participating and will have increased motivation.”

Leaders might also create a Slack channel dedicated to employee advocacy to share examples of employees' social media content that positively reflects the program's spirit.

2. Create An Ambassador Committee 

Your advocacy program should be available to every employee regardless of rank, department, or tenure. But to maximize brand messaging, appoint a core group of influential and enthusiastic employees as part of an ambassador committee.

Normand Chevrette, President and CEO of CME Corp., gave us some tips on choosing employees to join your ambassador committee and training them.  

“Select passionate employees from diverse backgrounds who exemplify the values of your organization. These ambassadors should be knowledgeable, respected, and influential within their respective teams.
Provide comprehensive training that equips ambassadors with the required skills and knowledge. Empower them to take on leadership roles by involving them in decision-making and seeking their input on advocacy strategies. This gives ambassadors the confidence to drive campaigns, which allows them to amplify their authentic voices and share best practices with the team.”

From here, your ambassadors will:

  • Become the key faces behind your campaigns 
  • Drive audience and employee engagement by generating energy around your initiatives 
  • Create compelling content
  • Provide feedback to optimize the program 
  • Recruit more people to join your ambassador program

Denise Hemke, Chief Product Officer at Checkr, weighs in on this last point:

“At the risk of getting too meta, advocates can advocate producing even more advocates. If every employee advocate recruits two more, your ambassador program grows itself exponentially.”

3. Ease Employee Participation 

"If you build it, they will come." If only this were true when launching an employee advocacy campaign, but unfortunately, you'll likely have to persuade your workforce to participate.

Anticipate the following roadblocks from employees who:

  • Struggle to create content topics 
  • Worry they don't correctly adhere to brand messaging 
  • Feel demotivated when they don't see any post engagement
  • Don't want to blend their personal and professional social activities

Overcome these barriers with the following tips:

Provide Content Templates 

Create a library of content ideas and prompts so employees don't fall victim to blank-page syndrome. You might share pre-approved content to inspire them or use the following templates to get started:

  • I'm proud to work for X company because...
  • I'm excited to announce that X company just rolled out Y product… 
  • On this day X years ago, I joined Y company, and here's why…

Embrace Imperfection 

Assure your advocates that the most natural posts speak from the heart and often perform the best. Your team members don't need to worry if their posts contain grammatical errors or are filled with typos.

If they want to create more polished pieces, point them to internal and external resources. For example, they can use Grammarly to edit a piece or message a work friend to review an update before it goes live.

Share Success Stories

Nothing is more inspiring for an employee than seeing their work's positive impact on customers. Share customer success stories with employees and encourage them to distribute them with their networks.

Distribute Advocacy Communication Guidelines 

Internal communication about your employee advocacy strategy is crucial if your company works within highly regulated industries, such as finance or healthcare, where strict guidelines exist around the language used to communicate with customers or members of the public.

Create a simple brand guidelines document and show examples throughout. Reading this document should be easy, especially for employees outside your marketing department. Keep it to one page, and use headings and bullet points to showcase your main points.

Provide Training

Offer training on using employee social media posts to spread the word about your brand. Chief Marketing Officer Cath Brands explains how they've equipped employees with best advocacy practices at pricing platform company Flintfox.

“Businesses misunderstand the complexity of employee advocacy programs. What has always worked for us is explaining, training, and rewarding employees who actively and willingly participate. Each advocacy program, no matter how simple, needs to be clearly explained so everyone who participates fully understands it. They also need to be trained about best practices, overall goals, and success metrics.”

A group of employees sitting at a table with laptops and chatting

4. Consistently Reward Employee Advocacy Participation  

Advocacy programs only succeed when employees are motivated to participate. Turn your workers into cheerleaders by setting advocacy challenges and rewarding participation—both of which you can do with Nectar. Keep reading to learn how to reward your hard-working advocates using our tools.

Michael Alexis, CEO of teambuilding.com, recommends acknowledging employee contributions by giving shoutouts using internal newsletters or social networks to keep everyone engaged in the program. He told us: 

“By highlighting employees' achievements, their contributions will not only feel more appreciated but also create momentum for others to participate actively with enthusiasm.”

Be consistent with your praise so everyone feels recognized for their part in promoting the company, no matter how small their contribution.

5. Gamify Your Employee Advocacy Program

Evoke your employees’ natural competitive spirit by making a game of the program. CEO Marc Hardgrove shared how this has been integral to implementing a successful employee advocacy initiative at TheHOTH.

“When you combine employee advocacy with fun, the likelihood of active employee participation and the success rate increases by leaps and bounds. There are two tried-and-true methods for incorporating gamification into your employee advocacy program. You can either organize contests with a leaderboard or award prizes.
Both of these strategies focus on assigning points or scores to the activities you want your members to undertake, which might range from liking and commenting on a post to working with an influencer, writing a Glassdoor review, or answering Quora questions. Those who join these programs will be entitled to receive some form of reward, which could be gift cards, coupons, bonuses, prizes, and so on.”

6. Host Employee Events

Organizing virtual or in-person company events fosters community within your employee advocacy program. If your budget is tight, these gatherings can be small and inexpensive, but they should be inviting and emphasize the human side of your business. Some ideas include: 

  • Hosting talks or one-off networking events
  • Regular team-building activities such as yoga classes, board game nights, trivia competitions, or cooking classes
  • Employee volunteering events

Your get-togethers provide valuable opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration, brainstorming, and working on advocacy strategies together. Martin Potocki, CEO at Jobera, also believes they enable employees to relax and connect outside the office. He told us:

“These special occasions not only boost morale but also provide an excellent opportunity for your staff to share their positive experiences on social media, further enhancing your organization's image and reach.”

Take the opportunity for your employees to wear their company swag to your events, as Divvya Desai of Naman HR explains:

"When employees carry these items to meetings or events, it not only strengthens their connection with the company but also serves as a visible demonstration of their support for and promotion of the brand."

A group of employees sitting in a circle in chairs clapping/cheering

7. Prioritize Employee Satisfaction

Genuine employee advocacy posts come from happy, engaged employees who feel appreciated and connected to the company. Steven Mostyn, Chief Human Resources Officer at Management.org, reveals why prioritizing employee satisfaction to build a successful advocacy program starts with the basics:  

“Creating a healthy work environment ensures that employee satisfaction is also high. Satisfied and happy employees share their experiences on their personal social media sites and with their friends, thereby creating an employee advocacy program. Activities that aim to increase employee satisfaction include better benefits, competitive salary, and good personal and career development plans.”

Shane McEvoy, MD at Flycast Media, agrees that professional growth should be a key focus to ensure high employee satisfaction. 

“By offering growth opportunities such as professional courses or mentorship, companies demonstrate a commitment to their employees' success. Employees who feel their career development is valued advocate more for their company, enhancing the overall program's effectiveness.”

Assess employee satisfaction using regular pulse surveys to gain insights into what your teams need to stay engaged and passionate about their work. Mark Damsgaard, Founder and Head of Client Advisory of Global Residence Index, explains why employee advocacy leaders must take all feedback and complaints from disengaged employees seriously.

“An employee advocacy program is more successful if you do it WITH your employees, not just FOR them. Don't forget to give them a voice because, after all, the program is about them. It's one thing to feel sure about what you think your employees want; it's another to know their real score. Never assume—you have to know the real experience of your people.”

8. Involve Your Employees In Content Creation 

If you want your employees to share relevant content online, create material they can relate to. Khris Steven, Owner and Marketer at KhrisDigital, suggests letting employees be part of your company's website content creation. 

“Open up opportunities for them to contribute to company blogs and publications, where they can highlight their positive experience in the organization. It is more engaging for employees, plus it can boost their morale to be publicly acknowledged on the company's official platform. They will be inclined to share any company posts that are relevant to them, which will encourage more organic employee advocacy participation.”

If directly involving employees in your content creation is a step too far, at least ensure your marketing strategy educates your wider workforce about the content you’re putting out. SaaS content leader Maria West explains:

"As a content leader, I can't just spray-and-pray through employee advocacy. It takes the whole team—and the whole company. I'm guilty of not "socializing" what we're doing enough, and getting too caught up in the content-creation bubble. But when I do, the other teams love to know and usually even have some great feedback or ideas. Building a culture of pride in biz content isn't just marketing's job, but we are responsible for making it *worth* sharing."

 

9. Track Program Impact 

How do you know if your employee advocacy plan is working? Tracking results begins with defining clear objectives, such as:

  • Increasing engagement with the company's social profile 
  • Boosting website traffic to landing pages
  • Growing sales or leads generated from employee-shared content 
  • Ensuring high program participation rates

Use relevant sales and social media analytics tools to measure the success of your program and compare the cost of lead generation with other marketing channels such as PPC, SEO, and email campaigns.

Create a culture people won't want to leave with Nectar

Launch Your Employee Advocacy Program With Nectar Challenges 

Nectar offers several tools that go hand-in-hand with any employee advocacy program. Here’s how you can use them to transform your workforce into a crowd of superfans: 

Nectar Challenges

Set simple Nectar Challenges to encourage your team members to post regularly on their personal social channels. For example, some employee challenge ideas include:

  • Writing and sharing a company post on LinkedIn
  • Writing a company review 
  • Referring an employee to the organization 
  • Wearing an item of branded swag in public 
  • Posting a job opening on LinkedIn 

Assign points to each challenge you create and outline what your employee must do to complete the challenge. For example, they might attach a link to social media content, add a hashtag, or upload a photo proving their participation.

Nectar Recognition

An important part of advocacy participation is creating a buzz around employee accomplishments. For this reason, Nectar Recognition is the perfect employee advocacy tool—use it to deliver shoutouts to anyone actively promoting the company online. You'll tag someone, write a personal message to them, add Nectar points, and include the company value they've embraced. 

Nectar Rewards

Your employees can exchange their challenge points for Nectar Rewards, which include five options:

  • Amazon catalog integration: Employees browse for gifts without leaving Nectar's interface.
  • Catalog of gift cards: Workers can access 100+ gift cards from Nike, Walmart, Airbnb, Chipotle, and more.
  • Branded company swag: Employees browse the catalog of t-shirts, backpacks, coffee mugs, and more, with free home shipping available.  
  • Custom rewards: Nectar will work with you to create your own selection of treats, whether it's lunch vouchers, local concert tickets, or anything else.
  • Charity donations: Employees always have the choice to donate their points directly to a chosen charity.

Ready to see these tools in action? Arrange a Nectar demo today.

Actionable workplace tips & insights for fellow people lovers

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