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Employee Social Advocacy: How to leverage your most cost-effective social influencers

While many consumers follow their favorite brands on social media, they still don’t fully trust paid online ads. In fact, 84 percent of consumers say they trust recommendations from people they know more than they trust advertising on social media (Nielsen).

Hoping to connect and build trust with consumers, brands increasingly spend big bucks finding and partnering with social influencers. Often, they overlook their employees — the largest group of inexpensive, and effective, influencers that they have access to — in the process.

Per Hootsuite, employee content earns eight times more engagement than content shared on brand channels, and shared employee content is reshared 25 times more frequently.

So why aren’t more brands utilizing their internal social powers? Activating employees requires a skilled hand. It’s a fine line that demands authenticity and credibility. Employee social advocacy is a partnership. Brands can encourage employees to post but requiring posts and mandatory sharing is a slippery slope. Companies can start by creating social media policies that empower and protect, while motivating employees to share on their own without punishing those who don’t participate.

It’s a partnership.

Employee advocacy is not a favor or something employees should be forced do. Set clear objectives for what the company is looking to achieve, explain why it matters and reinforce how online brand awareness can assist with things like company growth.

Like any great partnership, transparency is important. Openness encourages participation. Sharing a plan will ensure that everyone is on the same page. Regular progress reports will help motivate the team to stay on track.

Most importantly, give them content they’ll want to use. Employees don’t want to spam their friends. Share content that makes them look smart and connected. Avoid anything that is overly self-congratulatory or promotional. You can celebrate growth and success without being obvious and obnoxious. And keep in mind that content is more likely to be shared when it is on the appropriate social network: LinkedIn (thought leadership), Twitter (breaking news), Facebook (company events) and Instagram (visually interesting company products and places).

It’s okay to be social at work.

Empower your employees to share content. Review your social media policy to ensure they feel comfortable doing so. Some out-of-date policies discourage the use of social media during work hours. This is a sure-fire way to stop social advocacy dead in its tracks. Create a clear policy that supports their participation and shows they are trusted to use social media responsibly.

Employees must decide for themselves if they want to be involved. Encouragement is welcomed but social advocacy cannot, and should not, be forced.

Engagement is a two-way street.

It’s important for brands to get employees onboard and make them realize that they want to share content. You’ll be surprised how many employees say, “I didn’t know they wanted me to share.” Let employees know what’s in it for them and how participation not only benefits the company, but them individually (career growth, thought leadership, etc.).

Help employees drive better results by sharing tips and tricks and keep everyone in the loop on company posting schedules.

Create incentive programs that reward advocacy. Games and weekly or monthly challenges that include prizes like gift cards, extra time off, donations to charities, etc. are great ways to motivate employees while celebrating participation.

Successfully engaging your employees as social ambassadors is a win-win proposition for your brand. As active participants, your employees become more invested in your success; and, by sharing your content on their social channels, their connections become your constituents.

Learn more about social media marketing.