Where leadership teams are going wrong with employee advocacy, and what you can do about it

My prediction for 2018 is senior executive teams will make it a number one priority to get employees engaged on social media, seeing it as a key driver and opportunity to build their business.

Momentum has already started, especially in the B2B space, and it’s going to explode next year. Check in with me November 2018 to see if this prediction is right.

But I have to tell you – it’s off to a shaky start.

In recent conversations, senior leaders have been expressing frustration, because they are putting the employee advocacy tools in place – at great expense – and guess what, employees aren’t jumping on the bandwagon and sharing content.

Why not? Because successful employee advocacy is not about being a mouth piece for your brand. If that is all the employees do, it backfires tremendously.

We all have those friends on Facebook, sharing boring company information, and we just want to smack them around the head and say: oi, stop being a moron and post a photo of your kids or make me laugh!

We also know groups of people working for the same company, and see their identical posts, all lined up nicely on LinkedIn and Twitter, which makes us think – hello? Why don’t you customize what you’re sharing, so I at least know you are genuinely believing in this information? I’m looking for value not noise!

Participation is increasing, but it’s still low

The vast majority of professionals are not doing anything substantial on social media at the moment. This is because the vast majority know that when they do start to participate, it must be to add real value to their social networks, rather than noise.

People are pretty smart, I’ve found, and employees who understand this should be celebrated.

The place to start with employee advocacy is to help employees define what they want to be known for (their personal brand story, their eminence, their thought-leadership position) and then help them get started in becoming a voice in that area.

It’s very important that senior leadership teams understand that the focus area for every employee will be completely different, with at least 20 per cent (if not more) defining a voice that will not be seen as relevant to the company.

I wrote about this in my recent blog – Can we just get real about personal branding? – including the benefits to the business. Even if your people decide they want to be foodie bloggers and you’re not a food business, they are still contributing.

Because what matters is employees must have a yearning to build a voice, on a topic they care deeply about, and are inspired to serve their audience with their message.

I recommend that 80 per cent of what you do on social media is dedicated to this core focus area.

The other 20 per cent of time? That’s where you share company information, as well as other topics you care about. Or seasonal topics. Or seasonal research. As an example, I always share data around International Women’s Day, because I care about equality.

In that 20 per cent mix, the audience you’ve built and who have become loyal to you -because you consistently deliver value – don’t mind you sharing company content. They appreciate that this is completely appropriate in today’s social world.

Of course, the company content has to be good enough that employees actually want to share it too, but that’s a whole other topic.

The power of employees

One single employee who shares up to three pieces of brand content a day can add up to a whopping 23 million in additional reach over a year – that’s just one employee.

Jason Miller, LinkedIn

Jason Miller heads up content marketing for LinkedIn. He shared this, based on his personal participation on LinkedIn. I never recommend any employee shares three pieces of brand content a day – one a week, maybe two – but look at those numbers.

Imagine if you had 80,000 employees, intelligently sharing one to two pieces a week on their social channels? Even 5,000 employees, or 100 employees. Based on your social results now, employee participation would significantly change things.

But the engagement needs to be real. Authentic. Meaningful. Powerful. And it must start with the employee having a focused, credible, personal brand. Employee brand first, company brand second.

It must be that way, or you will not see the benefits.

Here are 10 tips for senior executives struggling with employee advocacy – in no particular order…

  1. Lead from the front by becoming a social leader yourself, and that does not mean being a mouthpiece for your brand only. Show your people how it’s done so they feel comfortable to follow. Three inspiring senior leaders I know and value – Tiffani Bova, Eric Schnatterly and Stanimira Koleva – check them out for inspiration
  2. Create a culture of trust. The majority of employees I work with do not believe they have permission to be social. They need to know that they have the trust of your business to participate. How do you create that trust?
  3. Flatten the hierarchy – many industries continue to only value the voice of senior leadership. This is a huge hurdle for successful employee advocacy, because everyone has a voice today and all people, across all layers of the organisation, need to know they are valued as a voice in their own right
  4. Find your champions – your social leaders, on any topic – and bring them into the fold. Those already on the front line know what it takes to build a brand, have made mistakes, and appreciate this is a long-term commitment to be successful. Can these champions help you succeed? Can they share what they’ve learnt with their colleagues to help inspire others to act? Get them to talk about what they’re doing and why? The benefits they are seeing? The roadblocks to success. Harness these people. They are a goldmine of knowledge and experience
  5. Get the tools and make it as easy as possible for employees to share your company content, and equally, so you can measure success
  6. Talk to employees not embracing it and ask them – what’s stopping you? The greatest gift is employees who value their personal brands and want to get it right. They will be your best advocates, because they will have the most credibility with their audience. Use their feedback to build your strategy and change internal culture. These employees have got it right
  7. You must focus on the quality of content your company produces that you want employees to share – is it good enough? Does it make your audience clamour for more? Or is it a sales pitch wrapped up in pretty graphics?
  8. Check out your social channels? Are you delighting and inspiring your customers, or just trying to sell something? Or does the HR team still own your social media channels, and therefore, it’s predominantly recruitment content? Look at the consulting groups’ LinkedIn Company pages for examples of how it’s done, and then look at your company page. The consulting groups get it. They delight, teach and inspire. Is your company?
  9. Build a content platform to showcase your employee’s voices and support their efforts with your brand behind them. Make them the heroes of your business. In the B2B space, many are taking their stories and participation to LinkedIn, but they are not being backed by their brand. This is a huge miss, but equally, it is challenging to measure outcomes from what employees are doing on LinkedIn. As a starting point, check out LinkedIn’s Elevate as a way to overcome this challenge. A complete view of measuring success is a huge miss with employee advocacy at the moment, and the complete solution does not exist yet. Equally, social participation is not just on LinkedIn, it’s everywhere – some can be effectively measured, some can’t, some can be integrated into CRM systems, some can’t. But if LinkedIn is the focus, Elevate is a good option to consider (and no, I am not being paid by LinkedIn to say this – it just answers a common problem I encounter all the time)
  10. And finally, the most important thing: help employees understand that building a personal brand is critical for their career, but it starts with them first, brand second. How can you facilitate helping them find their voice and the topic they want to become known for? Equally, how can you help them deal with their self-confidence and self-belief issues – which I know you’re struggling with too? Almost everyone does


The technology solutions for an employee advocacy program are here and while not perfect, it’s a starting point. But it’s not the most important starting point.

That belongs with empowering all of your employees to claim their voice on (and off) digital channels, to coach them through their fears and self confidence issues, and to celebrating the employee influencers across your business as the champions of your future growth.

Employee advocacy is incredibly powerful, but we need to start in the right place. We’re not doing that at the moment. Its not about tools, processes or measurement. It’s about tapping into the heart of your people and unleashing it.

Do you agree? Any ideas or feedback on the above? I always appreciate it.



Man shouting into megaphone image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Thank you so much for reading my blog. I really appreciate it. If you like it, I’d love a comment, or perhaps you can tell me your favorite leader on social media? Of course, please feel free to share with your communities, because that’s what this is all about today – sharing and giving to each other.

If you like my style and what I talk about, feel free to follow me on any of these platforms on social media – especially my YouTube channel. Slow going building one of them

Twitter @AndreaTEdwards

LinkedIn AndreaTEdwards

LinkedIn The Digital Conversationalist

Facebook AndreaTEdwards

YouTube Andrea Edwards

SlideShare  AndreaTEdwards

Google+ +AndreaEdwards

Google+ The Digital Conversationalist

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *