Employee Advocacy: The Complete Guide

Our Complete Guide to Employee Advocacy will give you all the information you need to understand what employee advocacy is, strategically plan its implementation in your organization, and install a formal program to amplify your Marketing and Sales efforts and, ultimately, drive business results.

Employee advocacy

Where does Employee Advocacy come from?

Consumers and users online have become wary and skeptical of traditional advertising. The reason behind it is that people don't trust company messaging anymore; they trust a message that comes from a real person they know and believe in. 

People trust people, so having something recommended to you by someone you're connected with and trust can significantly impact your purchasing decision. That’s where employee advocacy comes from: it emerges from the need for organic reach. And a satisfied, happy advocate wants to go the extra mile to spread the word and make the brand they love grow.

Genuine, passionate messaging coming from one’s employees ─ the real people behind the company ─ is the way for you to gain the trust of potential customers through authentic messaging and digital word-of-mouth marketing.

Understanding employee advocacy

Employee advocacy is a strategic asset for businesses aiming to amplify their brand presence externally and foster authentic internal engagement. At its core, employee advocacy leverages the networks and credibility of a company's employees to promote the organization's values, news, and achievements in an organic and trustworthy manner. 

This approach transforms employees into empowered brand ambassadors who share curated, on-brand content across their personal social media platforms — and thus extend the brand's reach far beyond traditional marketing channels​ — as well as genuine experiences and opinions. This also becomes a way for the company to put a face to the logo, thus appearing more authentic, credible, and trustworthy. 

Why employees are the best brand ambassadors

If you want to communicate the benefits of your specific business, you need to look for someone who understands the benefits of what you are doing, who is familiar with your product or service, and who can vouch for it because they are invested in it. Which is why your employees are precisely the people you want for this job.

Employees who act as brand ambassadors are key actors in brand co-creation and can drive change and innovation. Your brand needs someone it can trust and who knows what you offer and has a personal connection to it. Who could fill these shoes better than your own employees and colleagues?

Building trust through employee advocacy

The importance of advocacy extends far beyond expanding one’s visibility, though. It taps into the trust that consumers inherently place in personal connections and testimonials over corporate messaging. Studies by MSL Group show that content shared by employees receives 8 times more engagement than content shared through brand channels. 

On top of that, endorsements, testimonials, and work-related anecdotes by employees can dramatically improve brand perception, build brand loyalty and credibility, and end up attracting not only potential customers but also prospective talent.

If you consider these premises, it’s then easy to understand how employee advocacy is not merely a marketing tool but a strategy that enhances corporate communication, boosts employee engagement, and drives business growth. Social media has come to dominate our world, and businesses struggle to find the best way to rebuild their image online and connect with their audience and customers. Employee advocacy might just be the way to do so: letting your employees drive communication, connections, and trust on social media will significantly impact your visibility, presence, and reach, resulting in maximized marketing efforts.

Check out our webinar "Everyone is a potential advocate: how to scale word-of-mouth"

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employee advocacy benefits

The Benefits of Employee Advocacy

Employee advocacy programs offer numerous benefits that extend across the entire spectrum of a business's operations, from Marketing to Human Resources. Each benefit contributes to a stronger corporate identity and enhanced operational efficiency.

Build Brand Loyalty

With social media platforms tightening privacy policies and restricting the organic reach of company posts, getting through to the right audience is quite an arduous job. Targeting people is something you cannot attain as a company alone: people want to trust and connect with an authentic brand, looking for, and the only way for you to do that is through your teams.

Leveraging your employees’ extensive networks to spread your content will get your message to a new circle of reach and create next-level awareness around your brand. 

Remember that your employees are someone else’s ex-college buddy, best friend, family member, relative, or friend of a friend, so their recommendations are perceived as more trustworthy than public ads paid for by faceless corporations. So much so that 34% of companies with employee advocacy programs report improved brand loyalty (Hinge).

When your employees share company-related content, they profile themselves as thought-leaders and reliable advocates of the company — they become trusted advisors people want to listen to. 

Reduce Marketing Costs

Employee advocacy is also a cost-effective solution to your struggling marketing efforts. It’s no secret that many companies have exhausted every trick in the book and have reached a point where their current marketing strategy is no longer doing the trick—or not as it should, at least. When you invest more and more of your marketing budget in existing channels and tactics, such as SEO and SEA, and still don't deliver the expected growth, pressure piles up, and you feel like you’ve reached an impasse.

As mentioned, consumers and online users are growing skeptical of ads and want to see more from companies. They want to see authenticity and commitment. Investing in the technological infrastructure to support your employee advocacy program means empowering your employees to make an effort to amplify your current marketing effort, with only minimal investment as a cost.

17% of companies with employee advocacy programs report decreased marketing costs and higher conversion rates (Hinge), and Ambassify customers have saved up to 60K in traditional advertising costs thanks to their employee advocacy programs.

Not only does employee advocacy get their message to a more engaged and interested audience, generate more marketable leads, and have a higher conversion rate, but it also helps them build credibility and authenticity around their brand.

Enhance Brand Awareness and Reach

One of the most immediate benefits of employee advocacy is the substantial increase in brand awareness and reach. Where does the extended reach come from? Let me explain. 

Employees collectively possess networks vastly more extensive than those of the brand itself — according to LinkedIn research, on average, 10 times larger than their company’s follower base. These personal networks comprise connections who trust their recommendations and personal testimonials more than corporate advertisements. 

For instance, content shared by employees is likely to generate 8 times higher engagement rates compared to content shared through official brand channels, according to a Social Media Today report​​. This expanded reach is not only wide but also deep, penetrating markets and demographics that are often beyond the reach of conventional marketing channels.

Boosting Employee Engagement and Loyalty

The benefits of employee advocacy aren’t only external. Implementing an employee advocacy program can also markedly enhance internal engagement. 

Employees who are engaged in advocacy programs often feel more connected to the company's mission and values, seeing themselves as active participants in the business's success. This increased engagement typically results in higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates, which is also a massive cost for companies. As noted in a study by Forbes, companies with high employee engagement levels see significantly reduced turnover and higher productivity, directly impacting the bottom line positively​​.

Support Social Selling and Shorten Sales Cycles

Let’s not forget the benefits that advocacy brings to sales. I already talked about the fact that when employees share positive experiences and insights about their company's products or services, their networks see these endorsements as genuine and trustworthy. 

That’s the first premise. And that intrinsic trustworthiness allows your salespeople to nurture deeper and more genuine connections with prospects and potential clients via social media. That connection stemming from credibility and trust is more likely to lead to a shorter sales cycle and deal. 

In fact, according to an IBM study, leads developed through employee advocacy are 7 times more likely to convert than other leads. This higher conversion rate stems from the credibility that comes with personal endorsements, which are viewed as more authentic than traditional sales tactics​.

Boost Recruitment and Employer Branding

Employer branding and employee advocacy often go hand in hand. In fact, employee advocacy can deliver significant returns in both recruitment and employer branding and prove a winning strategy for portraying your company as an attractive employer.

A strong employer brand is crucial to attracting and retaining top talent. An effective employee advocacy program showcases a company’s culture and values through the genuine voices of its employees, making it more human, people-centered, and authentic. Giving a face to your brand is crucial to building a positive image online and building trust. Metrics such as reduced time-to-hire and lower recruitment costs are common benefits companies experience when their employees actively share job openings and positive experiences about their workplace on social media.

employee advocacy program

How to Build a Solid and Successful Employee Advocacy Program

Let’s start from the beginning. An employee advocacy program is an intentional, structured initiative that brings employees from your organization into the recruiting process. Advocates or ambassadors are current employees who can speak authentically about their functional roles and build connections with candidates applying for open roles. They can advocate and vouch for your business, company culture, and talent brand. 

Each step outlined here plays a vital role in ensuring the program's success by encouraging participation and ensuring the content shared aligns with the company's goals. 

1. Find the right platform

The first step in launching an employee advocacy program in your company is finding the right tool. Finding the best platform out there to empower your employees to be the advocates you want them to be is essential, and there are many criteria to evaluate the different options out there and pick the one that caters to your need in the best way possible. 

The perfect fit does exist. Even though what makes the ideal fit for you depends on what you want to achieve, there are some must-have features you should be looking out for:

  • Ease of use. A tool that’s intricate and complicated to navigate through risks putting your users off from the start. Great software is intuitive, simple, and straightforward. There is no steep learning curve, a transparent interface to interact with, and no hidden functionalities employees ‘should not worry about for now.’

  • Reporting system. A lean and efficient reporting system will help you maximize the potential of your advocacy program and give you an idea of how well it is performing.

    For example, you should be able to measure the activity and identify your most active advocates, best-performing campaigns, the content your community is eager to consume, and the most effective messages, measure the outcomes, and measure the ROI – namely, estimate how much you saved on your monthly and yearly ad spend. 

  • Personalization of the ambassadors' experience. Employee advocacy is a great social selling tool, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all. If you want it to deliver the results you are looking for, you should think about how you can make it unique for each ambassador — in other words, personalize their experience.

    Every campaign, initiative, and share within your program should be customized to resonate with as many individual ambassadors as possible. This is why it is a good idea to diversify the content you put out. You want to dress your message in different jackets every time to maximize authenticity and diversity.

  • Stellar customer support. An advocacy software solution is not a one-time purchase. It’s a service that is provided to you constantly, continuously. Customer assistance is critical for this business.

    No matter how many issues you’re encountering in setting things up, how many tips you need for onboarding more employees, or how often you need help with customization, there should always be a team ready to jump on it.

2. Identify the most active employees

What we always say at Ambassify is that your program doesn’t need every single one of your employees to be a brand ambassador for it to be a success. Of course, you can bring as many people on board as you want, but we don’t recommend doing that until a later stage.

When you start off, you want to select the right people, and to do that, be sure to ask yourself: “Is this person genuinely excited to connect with candidates?” and “Do they clearly understand the time commitments for this program?” And be sure to articulate clear expectations for the program when you’re recruiting advocates within your company. 

Ideally, you want people who are willing to commit to being an ambassador: this means being ready to regularly be active on your employee advocacy platform of choice but also being willing to engage on social media. Don’t forget to explain in detail what the program entails and what it means for them to become ambassadors of the company. To build enthusiasm for the program, it’s always best to highlight the benefits teammates get from participating. Mentorship and leadership opportunities are excellent areas to highlight. 

When you want to build an advocate community, it's important to first start with a small-ish group of employees and then gradually increase the number of your seats. The reason is that you can easily keep an eye on how everyone is doing, gauge their response, easily collect feedback from them, and prepare the community to be the best possible for when the rest of your workforce will be invited to join in. 

3. Define Clear Goals and Objectives

The foundation of any successful employee advocacy plan lies in its strategic planning. Which is why you should think about setting your goals and KPIs early on, to be sure you’re staying on track and not falling off the wagon with the excitement of a new endeavor. 

This could include objectives such as increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, or generating leads. Establishing these goals early on helps to tailor the content, tools, and training provided to employees, ensuring alignment with the company's overall marketing strategy.

My suggestion is to start small with easily attainable goals (onboarding a certain number of ambassadors, for example) and then expand into something bigger as your ambassadors become more and more accustomed to the community and begin to deliver the first actionable results. Think of it as two phases that follow each other: a short-term buzz and a long-term achievement. 

The former is the initial onboarding, characterized by a lot of excitement and curiosity for the new tool – which, by consequence, requires smaller, more carefully-planned goals that can easily boost the morale – and the latter is defined by a long-term commitment from your advocates. This entails the creation of a sustainable network of employee ambassadors that will take more effort to build but will guarantee the success of your employee advocacy program.

4. Provide a Steady Stream of Shareable Content

Content is the cornerstone of employee advocacy — and in general of a well-rounded Maketing strategy. If you want your employees to distribute content on their social media accounts, you must provide them with that content, of course, and make sure that it resonates with them and their audience. 

On a practical level, this involves curating a mix of content that not only promotes the company’s products or services but also includes industry news and thought leadership articles that add value to their followers, for example. 

An essential aspect of employee advocacy is collaboration: advocacy is a two-way street, which means that your employees can (and should) become active collaborators and co-curators of your content. If you want your content to reach their audience and make a positive impact with them, the easiest way to ensure that is to work together with them to create it.

5. Offer training and guidelines

The transition from using social media for personal expression to professional advocacy requires a shift in understanding and skills. It's not just about teaching employees how to use social media; it's about cultivating a mindset aligned with the company's branding and communication strategies. 

Employee social media training should not be a one-time session but a continuous learning process involving understanding brand and social media guidelines, mastering communication nuances, and staying updated with evolving digital trends.

For instance, employees should be trained to understand the brand's voice — is it formal, friendly, or somewhere in between? — but also finding their own. Being on social media and being an active voice in the industry requires a certain level of confidence to portray your ideas and thoughts and express them authentically. 

Employees should be adept at aligning their posts with the company's tone yet simultaneously distinguish themselves for their personal and genuine take. Something that goes along with that is a clear set of employee social media guidelines

Guidelines for social media should clearly outline how to behave on social media in a way that’s positive and healthy for the company, employees, and customers alike. In other words, employee social media guidelines are best practices to encourage fair and respectful behavior on social media and ensure that employees aren’t putting the company in a bad light, adopting inappropriate behaviors, etc. At the same time, they also give those less skilled on social media a clear set of instructions on how to try their hand at it.

6. Recognize Efforts and Ensure Motivation

Reward and recognition systems are crucial in motivating employees to become (and stay active) advocates. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to speak positively about their workplace, enhancing the company's image and reputation. 

But at the same time, they’re also going to feel appreciated and valued for their input as ambassadors for the company, their contribution, and their effort, and thus experience a greater sense of belonging and a more pleasant work experience as employees.

Ambassadorship is never something you should expect from your employees or take for granted — it is a willing and voluntary decision that your employees make, thus showing dedication and long-term commitment to your company. That’s why it’s so important to recognize them for their efforts. This will help you build a collaborative and solid relationship with them based on mutual trust and exchange of ideas, feedback, and opinions.

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employee advocacy software

Technologies and Tools for Managing Employee Advocacy

The use of specialized tools and technologies can significantly enhance the effectiveness of an employee advocacy program and help you manage and measure its impact.

Employee advocacy software is designed to streamline the process of content distribution and tracking engagement and enable and facilitate collaboration, co-creation of content, etc. Platforms like Ambassify offer features that allow for easy content sharing, management of advocacy campaigns, and analytics to measure engagement and reach, yet will enable you to move beyond basic social sharing and scale your program by focusing more and more on engagement, community, and collaboration. 

6 Must-Haves for Reliable Advocacy Software

  • User-friendliness. This is by far the number one thing to look out for. A tool that’s intricate and complicated to navigate through risks putting your users off from the start, which is why you want to go for the opposite. With advocacy you're not just introducing a new software but also a new strategy, a new habit you want your employees to pick up on.

    Great software is intuitive, simple, and straightforward. And that goes for both admins and end-users, of course. No steep learning curve, a transparent interface to interact with, and an intuitive and user-friendly way of working are going to ensure the highest rate of success.

  • Reporting & tracking capabilities. A lean and efficient reporting system will help you maximize the potential of your advocacy program and give you an idea of how well it is performing. Being able to measure important metrics such as your ROI, measuring attribution, etc. is one of the main reasons for getting advocacy software in the first place (rather than having to manually file spreadsheets to keep everything up to date). 

  • Personalization features. Employee advocacy is a great social selling tool, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of tool. If you want it to deliver the results you are looking for, you should think about how you can make it unique for each ambassador — that is, personalize their experience. 

    It is always a good idea to diversify the content you put out and provide different angles so as to match the experience of as many of your employees as possible. Personalize the content you want your employees to share to appeal to both them and their audience online, and transform their experience into authentic engagement.

    Diversity plays a big role here. You want to dress your message in different jackets every time to let your campaign speak to your teams first and to their audience (and, by extension, yours).

  • Trustworthy customer support. An advocacy software solution is not a one-time purchase. It’s a service that is provided to you constantly, continuously. Customer support plays a huge role here, not only in solving small issues that pop up along the way but also in guiding admins in the setup, development, and maintenance of the employee advocacy program.

    Setting up your platform, onboarding your employees, and providing constant guidance and support to make sure your program is bound for success — that’s what great customer assistance can do. And believe us, knowing you can count on them will be a huge life-saver and an even bigger incentive to take risks.

  • Audience and content segmentation options. You don’t need to ask or expect every single ambassador to share every single thing. That's unrealistic, first of all, and will most likely not happen. People will share what they feel comfortable sharing in terms of frequency and amount, and they will share what resonates with them.

    When you personalize posts, campaigns, or initiatives, make sure you aim your 'asks' towards specific segments of the audience, those you know are most likely to engage with that specific piece. That will make sure you're maximizing the impact and the performance of that campaign. The handiest and most flexible platform solution will be equipped with a series of features you may be tempted to overlook but that you can really come to rely on in the long run. 

  • Gamification. This may sound like something that doesn’t fit in with your company culture and the objectives that you have set for yourselves, and that is totally fine. Gamification is not essential for your program, but top-of-the-class advocacy software will offer you extensive (and optional) gamification features.

    Gamification makes the experience more enjoyable for the users. Tasks to complete, a point system, and a leaderboard will spice things up. This will generate a ton of engagement and prevent users from feeling like they’re doing extra work, and also serve as a motivator in the long run, once the thrill of the new toy has passed, employees will still feel like the experience is fun and rewarding.

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Building a Culture that Supports Employee Advocacy

Creating a supportive culture that supports and encourages employee advocacy is another crucial part of building and sustaining an employee advocacy program. As I mentioned before, it's not only about content sharing, resharing the company’s content and brand message automatically. 

It’s about collaborating with your employees and relationship building, and that involves creating the appropriate culture for it. It involves some change management as well because you want to start with something new, and it’s about making sure your employees feel happy, valued, and satisfied enough in their roles to be willing to advocate for you.

Why is it important for our company? Explaining the reasons why you want to start an advocacy program in your company is crucial to maintaining transparency about these matters and explaining the importance of the employees’ roles as ambassadors. They hold great potential, and they truly have the power to change the game for your brand. Making sure they know about it will entice them to help and support you in achieving your goals. 

Aligning Advocacy Programs with Company Values and Culture

The alignment of advocacy programs with a company’s core values and overall culture is essential. This integration ensures that the messages employees share are authentic and resonate with both their personal beliefs and the corporate identity. 

For example, a company that values sustainability might encourage employees to share their experiences and stories related to eco-friendly initiatives and corporate responsibility. This alignment not only enhances the credibility of the advocacy but also strengthens the employees' connection to the company, fostering a sense of pride and loyalty.

Your company culture and your values lie at the heart of employee advocacy: a culture that celebrates openness, transparency, and employee achievements sets the foundation for effective advocacy and ambassadorship. That’s why I believe companies must invest in creating an environment where employees are not just informed about the company’s goals and achievements but are also motivated to share these stories with their networks.

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Measuring the Success of Employee Advocacy Programs

Naturally, you’re going to want to continuously measure the performance of your employee advocacy program and the results your employees’ efforts are delivering. That’s perfectly normal, but it’s important to understand which metrics and KPIs are the most relevant to your specific case. This involves setting up metrics that reflect the program’s objectives and monitoring these metrics to track progress and identify areas for enhancement.

After all, it’s not all about engagement and social reach; way more factors have a role in measuring the success of your advocacy efforts. The way you measure the success of your employee advocacy program should depend on what advocacy is trying to do for you. Or rather, what your advocates are trying to help you with.

Thought leadership

If your business goal is to increase thought leadership, then these are some of the KPIs you might want to consider:

  • Employee adoption rate. How many employees did you invite to the program? How many of them signed up? How many of them are active on the platform?

    The main point of any advocacy program is getting your employees on board and making sure they remain active users. Getting employees involved is what matters most for the overall success of your program, which is why this metric is the first one to consider when it comes to performance. The more employees are active and sharing, the easier for your company to establish thought leadership.

  • Share rate. What kind of content is the most engaging for your employees?

    If your share rate is low, it might simply mean that your employees are uncomfortable using social media. But it can also mean that your content is not fresh and relevant enough for them to want to share it on social media.

  • Brand awareness. This is where reach comes in. How many people are you reaching with advocacy compared to what falls into your branded accounts net? How much are your advocates impacting your social media presence? 

    Try to visualize it in monetary value to have a more immediate representation of the success of your campaigns. Once you have that, you can just as easily compare it to conventional ad expenditure and see the value there.

  • Content engagement. What kind of content is more eagerly consumed by your audience? When your employees do share your content, how many people do they reach? How well is the content they share engaged? 

  • Take notice of the trends in clicks, likes, and shares, and tailor the content you put out to your employees and their audience.

Social Selling

If you want employee advocacy to support your social selling efforts, then you might want to consider KPIs such as these, to make sure that your employees’ efforts are having the right impact:

  • Number of clicks. Are your posts attracting huge numbers of clicks on social media? Or are your posts not getting the traction you’d hoped? 

    In the first case, it means that your content is on fire and your advocacy efforts are headed in the right direction. But in the second case, it means that some tweaking is necessary: look at the performance of your content and take action where there's room for improvement.

  • Website traffic and bounce rate. Is advocacy driving more attention to your website? What kind of content leads them to your website and makes them stay longer on it? And what causes a higher bounce rate, instead?

    Find this out, and you’ll know how to optimize your website to attract more prospects, get those eyeballs on your website, and get more leads in the funnel in the process.

  • Number of MQL and SQL resulting from employee advocacy. No matter how you measure your marketing efforts — UTM tracking, platform features, and good old ‘talking-to-your-prospects’ — get your eyes on this number.

    If advocacy improves the number and the quality of your leads, you know you're headed in the right direction.

Talent Acquisition

To give another example, if your employee advocacy program is meant to support your recruitment efforts, then these are alternative and more specific KPIs you should look at:

  • Number of applications from referred candidates. How much is advocacy saving you on this front? How many applications came in due to your employees’ advocacy efforts?

    If you’re getting a conspicuous number of applications coming in from your referral program, for example, I’d say they’re doing a good job amplifying your brand and attracting new talent.

  • Retention rate of new hires. Are these new, advocacy-referred hires adapting and integrating successfully into your company?

    Provided your onboarding process is carefully studied and effectively put in place, if new hires turn out to be a good fit for your company and they find themselves in your culture and values, then you’ve hit the jackpot. Take this as a sign that advocacy actually works, and it might even be the best tool to fill those open positions. 

Turning employees into social media advocates (or brand advocates) is a powerful resource for your company. Their authentic endorsements can have a massive impact on your business and enhance a brand's visibility, credibility, and community engagement.

By identifying, nurturing, and strategically leveraging social media advocates, brands can unlock new levels of growth and foster lasting relationships with their audience. The key to success lies in genuine engagement, appreciation, and a commitment to building a supportive and enthusiastic community around the brand.