What is Social Media Advocacy?
Social Media Advocacy is the process of using personal social media channels to promote and share business posts and content with friends and associates. It can be roughly divided into three sections:
- Personal Advocacy – Where you personally share your company’s posts, blogs, tweets, etc.
- Employee Advocacy – Where your employees share the company content in their private social media networks.
- Ambassador Advocacy – Where you have a group of dedicated followers or ‘fans’ who share your brand’s content in their personal social media channels.
Social Media Advocacy Explained
The top three goals for content marketing are, ‘Lead Generation (59%); Thought Leadership/Market Education (43%); Brand Awareness (40%).’
Source: LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community
Using social media advocacy can help with addressing all three of these issues.
To fully utilise social media advocacy, a combination of all three advocacy approaches is the ideal – the more people you have engaging with your content and sharing it, the further your reach will grow, resulting in an increase in lead generation and potential sales as a result – ‘66% of firms with a formal employee advocacy program credited the program as helping to attract and develop new business, while 44% credited the program with generating new revenue streams.’
There is an important balance that needs to be addressed when adopting social media advocacy – and that is perception. If you are seen to be sharing every single post, blog or tweet, with no regard for the content, then the impact of your contribution is diminished – if your audience don’t think you care about what it is you’re putting forward to them, they won’t bother engaging with it.
Making Social Media Advocacy Work for Your Business
To make social media advocacy work, you can share often if you like – but you must like what you share, it must be something that either you yourself find interesting, or think your personal circle will; over promoting or promoting sub-standard content could see your audience un-liking or un-following your page, or hiding your posts, which defeats the point – according to Sprout Social, “in general, 46% of people will unfollow a brand on social for posting too many promotional messages”. It is important that your content be something that you, your employees or your Ambassadors are happy and willing to share and that a wider audience will want to engage with. Having a social media content strategy and high professional standards for the content your company posts can help with this issue.
‘The bottom line is that an effective employee advocacy program drives brand awareness and increases referral traffic to your website, which will improve your conversion rates substantially.” – John White
Whether this is through a formal program, or simply encouraging your company to engage with the content it generates will depend on your business needs and social media strategy – but it is clear that having social advocacy is a potent tool for your business to adopt and implement.
Social Media Advocacy Starts from the Top
It is estimated that, ‘A disengaged employee costs the organisation an average of $10,000 in profit annually. – Aon Hewitt’ – so it is important that you recognise that the people who work for you, who are all potential brand champions, need to have their concerns and worries addressed so that they feel that they want to promote the company. When people see that your workforce are happy and engaged, it gives the company a more approachable and ‘human’ quality – which can help to generate trust, and promote brand awareness.
However, as with many aspects of business, social media advocacy works best when there is a clear example of strong leadership – if the highest ranking members of your business don’t feel that the content is worth sharing, then it will affect the motivations of the team – why should they share posts that the higher management don’t appear to believe in?
As well as your general group of friends and associates, people need to see that you believe in your company, that your management teams believe in your company – if everyone is promoting and endorsing the company, it will help build confidence in the brand.
84% of consumers’ value recommendations from friends and family above all forms of advertising – and additionally, 77% of consumers are likely to make a purchase after hearing about it from someone they trust (Source: Nielsen).
How to Develop a Social Media Advocacy Program
Once you have decided to engage with the advocacy program, it’s important that you understand what you need, and the best ways to implement it.
- Decide on your Goals
What is it that you want to achieve? Are you trying to raise your brand awareness? Recruit new skilled workers? Increase lead generation and sales? If you try to do everything at once, you will send out a mixed message and dilute the impact. You need to decide on what has priority and aim to achieve your desired goals one at a time.
- Choose What You Will Measure and How
Before you begin, you need to look at what you’ve chosen to achieve and decide what data you will be collecting to measure your success or failure with the project. Once you’ve decided this, you must determine what software is best capable of recording it and set up the parameters accordingly.
- Brainstorm and Establish Guidelines
This is an opportunity to sit down with your employees and discuss your company with them – find out how they see it, and develop the ‘voice’ you want to use to generate additional outside interest in your content. Some of your team may not be social media savvy, and this is your opportunity to provide them with training and encouragement.
It is important that you provide firm guidelines for expected behaviour – if you want your employees to share your posts, then allowing them to do so in the working day is a good idea, but they must realise that this is not permission to waste company time. They should be gently reminded that this is a formal exercise – not playtime.
- Decide on What Social Media Platforms You Intend to Use.
There are a huge number of social media platforms to choose from, and it’s important that you concentrate your efforts where you are going to get the best results. This may mean that you have a stronger presence on some platforms than others, but it will entirely depend on your target demographic. If your potential audience aren’t using a social media platform, and it looks like there is no engagement from any of your competitors there either, then you need to decide if it’s worth expending your energy on it.
- Allow your Employees to Choose the Roles they are Best Suited For
There are a number of different roles within a social advocacy program, and some of your team may be better suited for particular ones. Some may not feel comfortable engaging in comments, but are happy to share or ‘like’, others may enjoy engaging in conversation with others and leading them to the posts. It is important to work with your employees to ensure that they are placed in the optimal position to garner the best responses.
‘Brand messages are re-shared 24 times more frequently when distributed by employees’ vs the brand’ (Source: MSLGroup).
- Monitor Your Team
This is not a program that you can just start and let run – it needs to be monitored, not just for the analytics, but to ensure that your employees are sharing appropriate content and that the brand is being enhanced by their contributions. Having regular meetings with your team will allow you to address any issues (which may help negate any discontent that employees may feel), praise those who are doing well, and encourage those who aren’t – it gives you the opportunity to evaluate your team, and swap roles around should it be required.
It may be effective to offer your team an incentive – creating friendly competition can increase your employee’s drive and motivation, and in turn garner better results.
It is unlikely that the program will work flawlessly the first time – and even if it works well, monitoring the team and the results will allow you to make changes where necessary. Just because a plan and guidelines were put in place to start with, doesn’t mean that they have to be rigidly adhered to – having a flexible attitude and quick responses well allow you to engage with current trends and keep your business in the public consciousness.
Social Media Advocacy is not an overnight process, it takes time to set up, build and engage, but it is worth the effort as not only does it increase your reach and brand recognition, but it encourages stronger ties and growth with your employees, and makes social media work for your company.