Are you thinking about starting a brand or employee advocacy program?
More and more companies are, thanks to benefits including:
- Amplify reach and awareness: Whether you have 10 or 10K employees, each person can help communicate information important to your organization — and grow visibility and interest in things important to your organization. And your employees have networks — sometimes big networks — that you’re not reaching through traditional brand channels.
- Greater trust and credibility: People believe people before they will ever believe a brand.
- Increased content engagement: Content shared by employees receives 8 TIMES more engagement than content shared by brand channels.
- Increased team engagement: Advocates, by participating in your brand or employment marketing efforts, feel more invested in the results.
To get value out an advocacy program, however, 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.
- 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?
- 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. Others who can be good advocates include business partners, other brand champions and influencers.
- Who the right advocates are might differ depending on whether your goal is promoting your marketing content or your organization as a great place to work.
- Prepare Advocates
Communicate with advocates 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.
- 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.
- Provide Tips/Guidance to Advocates
When you share new content with advocates that you’d like them to share, give them suggestions on what to do with it. For example, you might provide a sample message or include some hashtags that might be good to use in their social posts.
- Select Easy-to-Use Advocacy 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, you can track participation and engagement for individual advocates, as well as for an entire advocacy group. Be sure, however, that any advocacy group is easy to use—especially for advocates. The right software will help promote engagement and participation, while the wrong software will discourage it.
Here are some advocacy software onboarding tips:
- Send an email to all advocates before inviting them to the software. Your email will discuss the purpose of the program, expectations and what to expect with the software onboarding.
- Provide advocates with a link to a short video that introduces them to the software and shows them how to use the software.
- Schedule 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.
- Designate a point-of-contact that anyone can reach out to for questions and tech support if necessary.
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- Consider Contests
As with many activities, growing and maintaining engagement is important for the success of advocacy. One great way to keep interest is to have contests among advocates with attractive rewards—a gift certificate, time off work, etc. Quality advocacy software will make it easy for you to create contests, and will track the results for you.
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.
- Plan to Evaluate Results, 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.
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.
- Removing non-participants from the program.
- Adding new advocates.
- Creating a contest with an attractive reward.
As with any new program, your advocacy program likely won’t be perfect from the get-go. Making a plan to evaluate your results and make adjustments—like each of the other practices mentioned above—is an important component of committing to your program’s success from the outset.