5 Employee Advocacy Program Mistakes to Avoid

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Daniel Ku

As your organization evaluates ways to grow and improve, one key step should always be looking at internal approaches and values. In our 2018 report, “The Year of Social Advocacy in the Workplace,” organizations with high employee engagement levels perform 202% better than companies with unengaged workers. It’s worth it to create a culture of engagement.

There are plenty of ways to engage your workforce. Some involve costly investments that may or may not work in the long term. Others come across as inauthentic and produce the opposite effect than what was intended. One approach improves your staff’s productivity and sense of agency while directly benefiting your business’s brand and bottom line: employee advocacy programs.

Research shows employee advocacy is a great way to approach social media engagement, and it’s true that this type of program can be extremely effective, but it can only make the biggest possible impact when it is executed correctly. If you make a mistake in the rollout of your employee advocacy program it likely won’t lead to catastrophic results, but it will prevent the organization from reaching its full potential through this initiative.

When you take on an employee advocacy program, you’ll need to make sure you’re following best practices. We’ve included some mistakes you should avoid when implementing your employee advocacy program:

1. Not adequately promoting the program

When you initially announce the implementation of an employee advocacy program to your staff, some of them might instinctively research the goals and best practices of this corporate strategy. Others may not take such a proactive approach and instead rely on you to convey any and all relevant information.

For both types of employees, it’s crucial that you explain the purpose of employee advocacy in order to get them on board. Present relevant statistics and data that reflect why your organization is interested in implementing this system, and, if possible, show your staff a success story of a business that has undergone this culture transformation. Once employees are empowered with the overarching purpose and data to back it up, they will have a starting place to work from when beginning their role as an advocate.

One way to promote your employee advocacy program is to align it with an event. The team at Turbonomic aligned their launch with their sales kickoff which helped onboard their entire sales organization. They were able to have a strong launch and quickly drive early adoption.

2. Signing up all employees for it

When you’ve decided to incorporate an employee advocacy program into your culture code, you might assume most — if not all — of your workers will want to be a part of it. Maybe you’ve enrolled all your employees, anticipating their enthusiasm in this new initiative. Even though it’s important to include all staff members in your employee advocacy system, it can be a misstep to assume that everyone wants to take part.

Employee advocacy works best when it’s coordinated on an opt-in basis. When you present this engagement model to your staff, make sure you emphasize that it is voluntary. Highlight the benefits of becoming an employee advocate so your workers can decide for themselves whether or not they’d like to be a part of this plan.

Brandy Wilson and the Marketing team at BCD Travel positioned their employee advocacy program as an exclusive club; access to BCD Buzz is more of a privilege than a right. Users were hand-selected to be a part of the program and are encouraged to participate as much as possible. This exclusivity keeps the program tightly knit and ensures that BCD is maximizing their return on investment.

A mandatory approach can not only set off red flags for employees but also prospects. Consumers on social media are smart; they can figure out which posts are forced and which are voluntary. When they see your employees sharing a piece of content without any passion or enthusiasm, they might see your culture as manufactured and surface-level.

3. Putting too much emphasis on rewards and incentives

When you implement an employee advocacy program, it’s a good idea to engage your workforce to get onboard through extrinsic motivation. These rewards might appear in the form of bonuses, gift cards, and public acknowledgment. They provide a sense of healthy competition among teams, encouraging to put their best efforts forward. In addition, these rewards are often what drives employees to opt into an advocacy and social selling program in the first place.

There’s nothing wrong with rewarding your employees for their strong social selling and employee advocacy efforts. However, if your staff becomes fixated on large rewards, their strategies may become less authentic and instead focused on generating results.

As you present your workers with rewards and incentives, be sure to always keep the major purpose of the incentive at the forefront. Here are the major ways employee advocacy programs can benefit staff members:

  • Expanding their own networks
  • Building their personal brand
  • Transforming them from engaged employees to thought leaders
  • Improving transparency across the organization
  • Increasing sales conversations and opportunities

When employees are aware of the big picture of your employee advocacy program, they won’t only feel motivated to work hard for the $10 gift card, but instead will persist in their efforts to improve their own network and social presence.

4. Creating a rigid structure for employees to abide by

Something that’s really interesting about employee advocacy programs is the unique voices different individuals bring to their thought leadership and social posts. Some employees might have a playful, humorous tone while others are more straightforward and fact-based. While some companies might see this variety as a lack of consistency – this diversity in tone and style should be celebrated rather than nullified.

Does one employee use memes and slang, all while capturing the essence of your brand? Does another use sardonic humor in a way that’s relatable and memorable? Your employee advocates should bring their own unique voices and personalities to their posts and thought leadership content to broadcast your company’s abundance of talent. Plus, they’ll enjoy the autonomy to write in whatever style they best see fit, rather than having to limit themselves to a specific approach.

5. Sharing only branded content

Employee advocates may feel passionate about the original branded content that the company is producing. This is excellent and ultimately one of the primary goals of this initiative. However, when they become too fixated on branded content, they might lose focus on building thought leadership through third-party and industry-related content.

Because one of the main initiatives in an employee advocacy program is the development of a cohesive corporate culture, it’s important that staff members engage with and promote branded and industry-related content. When you’re working with your employees, make sure you push the notion that you’re all working together as a collective unit. Even though many of the benefits they can reap from an employee advocacy initiative affect individuals’ goals and professional growth, it won’t be nearly as effective without encouragement from the entire program.

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