What’s Missing with Employee Advocacy Programs

Play pretend with me.

I have a huge product announcement coming up and desperately want to get the word out… sadly, Facebook organic reach is in the toilet… and it’s getting more expensive to buy my way out of the algorithm.

I see an article about the benefits of employee advocacy. The stats make it sound like the holy grail! The average Facebook user has 338 friends. (Imagine the reach of my entire company!) People trust messages from friends and family. (My message will cut through the clutter and resonate!) And, apparently, the messages get 8x more engagement.

Problem solved, right?

Even better, there are a plethora of platforms out there who help enable employee advocacy. They’ll help me aggregate messages, distribute them to my entire company, make sharing frictionless on the employee, and even track KPIs and show me the ROI.

Take my money.

But there is one problem; These platforms are designed by marketers for marketers. It makes sense, as that’s the buyer, but the platforms assume friction is the hurdle stopping employees from carrying your brand message.

What about the employee?

Forget the fact that employees might be protective of the personal brand they have cultivated over the years… not all people behave the same way online. People engage differently, so to get them to be advocated you need to find a way to (1) give them options that fit into their natural style of engagement (2) honor their perception of their personal brand.

From my experience, there are some common engagement types on social media. No type is better than the other.

Campers: Someone told them once “Oh, you have to check out XYZ platform, everyone is using it.” They made a profile. They added a couple of friends… and then never logged on again. Don’t ask this audience to engage, you’re just turning your requests into noise.

Lurkers: These people have a social media profile, but you’re more likely to find out from talking to them than seeing their activity feed. They consume their news feed but don’t really engage or seek out connections beyond their close real-world relationships. Engage this audience by sharing content you post and asking them to check it out.

Cheerleaders: This group is generous with the likes. You post it, they’ll like it. You can count on this audience to like your company posts (which, by the way, is pretty helpful depending on the platform). Engage this audience by posting content and asking them to like or share.

Connectors: They always know a guy because they take great pride in expanding the number of connections they have. For as much as they like having a large number of friends, they specialize more in 1:1 messages. Engage this audience by pitching them angles that they can use to target very specific people in their network.

Posters: As the name implies, this audience creates content for the network, although their contributions are usually personal life updates, memes, or witty banter. Engage this group by giving them options of short simple messages that will fit with their personal brand (educational, funny, statistical, blunt, etc.)

Experts: This group has built a profile that positions them as experts on a specific topic. Their network is made up of people in the same field/interest. They comment on posts related to the topic and write content that demonstrates their expertise. Engage this office by asking their take on the topic and give them the opportunity to interpret and personalize the subject.

Of course, there are more ways to understand how your employees engage with social media. For example, Lurkers might prefer pictures (Instagram) or a high velocity of content (Twitter). Or, some news might not be right to be distributed to the entire pool of employees, but just one segment who will run with it.

When we build an employee advocacy program, we need to not be lazy marketers and spam our employees with requests to share our message. Rather, we need to bring a level of psychographic sophistication to our programs and think about how we can make the employee want to use their valuable presence to benefit our cause. It’s the smart and respectful thing to do.

What do you think? Did I miss a social engagement type? Where would you categorize yourself?

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