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5 Key Pillars of Employee Advocacy, part 2 of 5: Recruitment

In our previous article, we discussed the first key pillar of employee advocacy: Purpose. If you don’t know why you’re starting an advocacy campaign, how can it succeed?

The next pillar I want to discuss is recruitment. How do you decide which members of staff you want to invite into your employee advocate programme? Who do you want posting content on behalf of your brand – and how do you invite them to do so?

What employee advocate programmes ARE NOT

Employee advocate programmes ARE NOT about shoehorning your brand message into the mouths of employees come what may.

Employee advocacy is about storytelling. To be trusted, stories need to be told by people who can authentically tell those stories. 

It  jars when any of us see content from a friend in our social feeds which sounds like a brand talking or if it’s a post we know they’d never say. It has to be believable. 

Before you get onto the individuals you want to invite you need to:

  1. Get a rough idea of what stories different groups within your organisation could be telling 
  2. Decide if that fits with the brand messages you want to get across 
  3. Make sure those stories fit with the goals of your advocacy programme.

To get started, here is the approach we use at Togethr, for varying sizes of business.

Deciding who should take part

  1.  Consider the different groups of people working in your business.
  2. Write down what their jobs are and what they could talk about. Here’s a made up example below:
  1. Write down what their expertise is – what they could talk about. For example a fashion store customer assistant could be knowledgeable about the outfits currently in store.
  2. Whether they’re customer facing or not? Influencers don’t always have to be customer facing. Often there’s a great story to be told behind the scenes for example how products were designed. Can they talk authentically about local stores and initiatives or also about brand messages that are relevant to all customers, nationally?

You are looking to answer the question: who are the groups of employees who can talk authentically about their expertise on social media, on a regular basis.

Only once you’ve identified the above groups of people and the things they can talk about can you then find the individuals best suited to help launch your employee advocacy programme.

Here’s another example, this time for a made up small B2B businesses such as an accountancy, or software development company.

By segmenting your employee advocates into their specialisms, you will increase their levels of influence.

Our experience has shown that your experts/specialists generate significantly higher value influence online.

In Edelman Trust Barometer 2021, they found people trust company experts and specialists the most.

So it makes sense to make this your main focus when starting  your employee advocacy programme.

This triangle illustrates influence at different levels in the business. 

Inviting people to your employee advocate programme

We’ve already discussed how to mobilise your employees to become brand ambassadors and who your first employee recruits should be in previous blog articles – if you haven’t already read them, take a quick look.

It’s incredibly  important to spend the time on recruitment to get it right.

One thing that can cause a lot of confusion with an employee advocacy programme is whether you see it as something colleagues should join without question as part of their job or whether you need to sell the idea to them to encourage them to sign up.

If you want to succeed, you’ll almost certainly need to do the latter.

Once you’ve identified and prioritised the different groups and their messaging, you need to contact them and invite them. 

Your first question is probably how many employees should I invite?

Short answer, the number doesn’t matter too much at this stage and you certainly don’t need to go big to begin with.

Some of the biggest clients we’ve worked with have launched with under 50 employees. Small businesses may have around 5-10 people to start with or even less. 

We’d recommend starting small, getting it right, then scaling up.

Ideally, if you have selected more than one group of employees, you will have a good balance across the groups, so you can make a judgement on their relative success. Some groups might turn out not to be suited to advocacy, other groups might fly. In our experience, you won’t accurately judge this before you start out.

Not everyone is going to want to take part, so invite twice as many people as you actually want to take part in the programme. For example, if you invite 100, you could expect 30-50 to sign up.

With smaller businesses the conversion rate is typically much higher, because you are likely to have a more direct relationship with colleagues in a smaller business. 

Identifying team members

To build your target list you need to identify the team members in your target group or groups.

It’s a good idea to start tracking all people in a spreadsheet as they move through the application stages. 

You can create a simpler version of the toolkit, but you get the idea. Keeping track of who you have onboard from the beginning makes it  much easier to manage ongoing.

If you need help building the list you could contact managers of the departments within the groups you have identified. 

To get them onboard you will need to present the idea of the programme to them, demonstrating its value to them and their department (their concern is often time when their team is already busy). 

Asking them to identify people who would be  ideal for this programme can help speed things up.

Selling in the employee advocate programme

Now you’re ready to set up the emails to sell in the idea of joining the programme. The technique is similar to a B2B sales approach. 

Keep your invite email short and describe the benefits of joining the programme to them. People are busy, often receiving hundreds of emails, so they might miss your first message. As with sales, it’s always worth sending  a further follow up email. 

In fact, in our experience, it’s often the 3rd or 4th emails that gets a response when you’re getting an employee advocate programme off the ground. 

Be persistent but leave a gap of around 4-5 days between each email.

As soon as someone responds remove them from the sequence. Reply to them within a few hours, keep their enthusiasm growing and make them feel involved.

Below are examples of a three stage invite process and some example emails to help:

How to qualify your employee advocates

The next stage is qualification. 

Once people have expressed an interest in joining up you need to qualify them to break them into segments based on their social media experience /knowledge. 

I would recommend you start with people who are active and experienced on social media. 

After the closing date for expressing interest, there are two main ways to do this.

 If you are a smaller company, and have just a few people in your team – take a look at their social media profiles to make sure they meet the criteria for joining, which we’ll talk about in a minute.

If you’re a larger business, consider sending out a simple application questionnaire. 

The main aim is for you to understand why they are interested in joining and to estimate their level of social media activity, experience and influence.

The questionnaire  would look something like this:

You will need to assess the applications when all returned to qualify people to join.

If you are starting with more experience social media users, the criteria for inclusion is likely to include:

  • be already active on social media for business or personal, on any platform
  • have a minimum of 100 followers on the main platform they share to
  • share at least weekly already and achieve engagement
  • have a keen interest in sharing content on social media about their work
  • and do this  in an appropriate way – not loads of swearing or non-compatible views

Look at employee activity on social media using the @handles they provided

You can then divide up the results into your priority target lists.

  • Priority groups to be talking to customers 
  • Experience level of social  (very experience, some experience, no experience)
  • Current level of followers 

Remember just because someone doesn’t have a lot experience on social right now – if they are the right person to be talking and are willing to get involved, you could offer them a higher level of training and add them at a later date. 

Accepting employees onto the programme

The final email does what it says on the tin.  You’re accepting them into the programme and setting out clearly what happens next. 

Your next challenge is keeping employees motivated once they’ve joined the programme. More on this in our next article.

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