Since introducing collaboration and advocacy on our advos marketing platform we’ve seen customers use the tools for three distinct business purposes:
- Brand advocacy: a marketing initiative whereby participants are helping to promote content that supports marketing. Types of content advocates are asked to share include blogs, webinars, conference participation, etc.
- Employee advocacy: uses marketing principles to sell an organization to current and prospective employees. Types of content advocates are asked to share include job openings, favorable media coverage, workplace stories/images, etc. This ebook goes into greater detail on the benefits of employee advocacy.
- Social selling: a sales strategy whereby sales teams use social media to build visibility with potential customers. Types of content advocates are asked to share include non-promotional content designed to educate sales prospects — this content is typically generated by the marketing department.
The key benefits of an advocacy program include:
- Control of message: You have control of the content people share, ensuring that it’s content that is consistent with your marketing and/or employer branding messaging.
- Amplified reach and awareness: Whether you have 10 or 10K employees, each person can help communicate information important to your organization. Plus, your employees have networks — sometimes big networks — that your company social accounts are not reaching.
- Greater trust and credibility: People believe people before they will ever believe a brand.
- Greater earned media value: The reach you get through advocacy is pennies on the dollar compared to what you’ll spend on advertising to get similar reach. Especially notable since organic reach on Facebook and LinkedIn for brands has dropped significantly.
- Increased content engagement: Content shared by employees receives eight times more engagement than content shared by brand channels.
- Increased team engagement: By participating in your brand or employment marketing efforts, advocates feel more invested in the results. And by sharing great content and mentioning key industry thought leaders, the advocacy program helps the participating advocates (your employees) grow their recognition and thought leadership in the industry — this is especially important for sales reps.
To get value out of an advocacy program you need to follow some best practices—especially practices that encourage advocate participation, the key success factor. Let’s take a look at the practices you should follow as you start an advocacy program.
1. Determine Your Overall Plan and Goals
Understand what you want to achieve, and how you are going to achieve it. As you continue your advocacy program, keep your goals in mind to stay focused. It’s fine to change your original plan and goals, but doing so should be a conscious, strategic decision.
Questions to ask include:
- Is our advocacy program’s primary goal to promote our marketing content, or our organization as a great place to work?
- Do we want to include as many advocates as possible, or do we want to narrow our advocates to a select group?
- Who will run our advocacy program? Who will be responsible for its success?
2. Choose the Right Advocates
This is a critical step, since advocates drive your advocacy program’s success.
Here are some tips for choosing the right advocates:
- Choose people who want to be advocates. People who are hesitant won’t participate or will do so begrudgingly. Don’t force people to be advocates.
- Don’t limit your potential advocates to employees. Consider business partners, board members and industry influencers.
Who the right advocates are might differ depending on whether your goal is promoting your marketing content, your organization as a great place to work or social selling.
3. Use Advocacy and Collaboration Software
Running an advocacy program without dedicated software can be frustrating and difficult. For example, if you rely on email, it can be hard to know which advocates are participating and which aren’t. It’s also difficult to evaluate the results, due to a lack of metrics.
With advocacy software, like the tools available on our advos platform, you are in control. You decide what advocates to invite, what content to post and you can track participation and engagement for individual advocates, as well as for an entire advocacy group.
4. Prepare Advocates
Before introducing the advocates to the program and software, communicate with them about the purpose of the advocacy program, the general expectations of them, and any key guidelines. Without this communication, advocates can be confused about what they’re supposed to do, and will be less likely to participate.
Tip: We advise our advos collaboration and advocacy customers to send an email to advocates BEFORE inviting them to an advocacy or collaboration group. Here is a sample email:
The [GROUP NAME] advocacy group has been created and each of you will shortly received your invite with an activation link to get started! This group is where we will post content for all of us to share so we can amplify our brand and content.
The advocacy platform we are using is advos. Please take a few minutes to watch this short video that explains how to get started (super easy) and share content.
Look for an invite email from me that contains your activation link to get started on advos. I have already posted one article to the group timeline. When you first login you will see this item and will have the option to share it to your social account(s). The first time you share you will be asked to connect the social account that you want to share to (Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook). In the future when new content is posted to the timeline you will be notified via email.
If anyone has any questions please let me know. We are here to make this experience easy and fun.
5. Create Quality Content
You want, and need, advocates to voluntarily share your content. The best way to encourage this is to create quality content. Plus, creating quality content will help engagement—clicks, likes, comments, reshares, etc.
But quality content may not be enough if it is the wrong content. Some content mistakes that can hurt participation include:
- Asking advocates to share gated content, such as a white paper. (You can still opt to do so, but keep expectations low.)
- Asking advocates to share content that is not relevant to them. For example, if your advocacy program is designed to promote your employment brand, don’t ask people to share content about your new products.
It’s also important to recognize that when you have an advocacy program, you’re committing to produce enough content to fuel it. If you’re not capable of producing at least one piece of content per week for your advocates to share, then your program won’t run smoothly. One consequence is that advocates can get out of the habit of participating.
6. Provide Guidance to Advocates
When you have new content that you’d like advocates to share, give them suggestions on what to do with it. For example, you might provide a sample social media message or include some hashtags that might be good to use in their social posts.
Below is a screen shot from advos — this is the form advocacy group admins use to post new content to a group timeline. When a URL is entered, it pre-populates the title, summary and image (all can be edited) and then the admin can provide guidance in the ‘comment’ section (in red).
Here is a sample ‘comment’ you that includes suggested mentions and hashtags:
Here is our latest blog on [ENTER SUBJECT]. Please consider sharing on a few of your social channels. Suggested hashtags for Twitter and LinkedIn posts include #HRtech #Recruiting — you may also mention or tag @HRmarketer
Thanks for sharing!
Tip: I like to provide sample social media messages in my comment that advocates can cut ‘n paste to the social channel they’re sharing to. Here is a recent example (see red text):
7. Consider Contests
A great way to keep interest in an advocacy program is to have contests with attractive rewards—a gift certificate, time off work, etc. On advos, group admins can gamify an advocacy or collaboration group by assigning ‘points’ to the behavior(s) they want to reward — like sharing content!
Contests can also be a great way to incentivize desired actions. For example, if advocates are more likely to share content on Twitter than LinkedIn or Facebook, you might award extra points for sharing on LinkedIn or Facebook to drive increased shares on those channels.
Tip: If you gamify your advocacy program, be careful about assigning points for clicks. I usually don’t because this puts advocates with smaller social networks at a disadvantage and they may lose interest in participating. The goal is for advocates to share so reward that behavior.
8. Evaluate Results and Make Adjustments.
Set a time period after which you will evaluate your results. We recommend evaluating advocate participation (both as a whole, and individuals) and which content is most and least successful in driving participation and engagement on a monthly basis.
Make adjustments based on what you find. For example if you find advocate participation lower than expected, you might consider:
- Contacting non-participants to discover the reasons they aren’t taking part. There may be other employee engagement issues going on.
- Removing non-participants from the program and Adding new advocates.
- Creating a contest with an attractive reward.
Conclusion and Action Steps
Your advocacy program likely won’t be perfect from the get-go. Making a plan to evaluate your results and make adjustments is an important component of committing to your program’s success from the outset.
Here are some advocacy software onboarding tips that I recommend to our advos customers:
(1) Create your “advocacy” group
(2) Post one “content” item to the group timeline. On advos, we require that group admins post at least one content item to the timeline before inviting people to the group. Otherwise, when you invite advocates they will login to an empty timeline (no content to share) and be confused.
(3) Invite yourself using a different email to the group using a personal email, and maybe a colleague. This allows you to experience what your group members will experience when you start inviting them (step 5 below) — e.g., seeing the invite email, clicking the activation link and sharing your first content item to Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. You can always delete your test email account later (remove from group) which also gives you experience adding and removing advocates.
Note: When you remove advocates from a group on advos, their sharing data is not deleted (e.g., clicks, etc.).
(4) Send an email to your group members BEFORE you formally invite them to the group. We covered this above and provided a sample email. This email should explain the purpose of the advocacy group and what to expect. And be sure to designate a point-of-contact that anyone can reach out to for questions and tech support if necessary.
(5) Invite advocates to your advocacy and collaboration group!
(6) Consider scheduling a webcast with your group of advocates to (1) reiterate the purpose of the program (2) answer questions and (3) guide them through sharing their first piece of content on the software. If you use our advos platform your account manager can organize and host this session for you.