As part of Employee Advocacy (EA) month, Oracle Social Cloud’s Senior Content Manager Maggie Schneider Huston spoke with Trapit CEO Hank Nothhaft, Jr.
Maggie Schneider Huston: I’m going to get right down to it - what’s the worst thing you can do when launching an EA program?
Hank Nothhaft, Jr: *laughs* Well, there are a few. The first fatal mistake that companies make is what I call the “set it and forget it” approach. You can’t just buy the software and do some fanfare at the beginning; you really need to engage with employees routinely and consistently. That means giving them feedback on what’s working, what’s not, tips and tricks, best practices, etc. You need to make a commitment to support the program.
The second major mistake is not providing enough content for your employees. Content is the essential fuel of advocacy. You’re not creating a bot army. You don’t want your employees to recycle the same post over and over; you want them to have an authentic presence and a real reputation.
Having a content strategy is absolutely essential to creating a successful EA program. One of our clients has a “7-3” rule; they hope for each employee to post 7 pieces of curated content for every 3 pieces of brand messaging. The curated content needs to be appropriate to your brand and add value to a would-be buyer or prospective hire. This is why having a large pool of content for your employees to choose from is essential. For your employees to maintain a strong social presence, they need to post 8-12 times per day. This gets very difficult if they only have press releases and white papers to share.
MSH: That’s all fun and games for “cool” brands - but what if you have a nerdy, obscure brand?
HN: The vast majority of brands aren’t “cool,” but that doesn’t mean that they’re not important. Sponsors of the program need to find the right venue for your employees. Whether it’s a specific LinkedIn group or a unique hashtag, there’s a niche space for your product.
Also, just becomes your brand is boring, doesn’t mean your content has to be boring. Having a sense of humor about yourself can go a long way.
MSH: That’s true, but there’s a delicate balance between maintaining a “professional appearance” and appearing cold. How should companies walk the line?
HN: It’s really up to the people who are driving the program to set the guidelines. There’s a fine line there, for sure. You don’t want to be too controlling. In fact, we advise against exerting too much control. It’s better to have a living social media policy, where there’s an ongoing dialogue about what’s appropriate. Ultimately, though the benefits of humanizing your brand outweigh the risk. You have to trust your employees to have good taste.
In fact, that’s the one of the other fatal mistakes that companies make when launching EA programs. Fundamentally, your EA program is voluntary. If you take a very rigid approach, you risk stifling creativity and authenticity. Employees shouldn’t look like they’re all posting the same content. Rigidity can kill an EA program before it starts.
MSH: Without structure, though, how will you know if an EA program is successful?
HN: You have to set goals before launching an EA program. A lot of times, employees are excited about sharing content, but they don’t know what to share and they don’t know what success looks like.
In the early stages of an EA program, we’re looking at participation rates. Are the employees you’ve invited to the program actually participating? We want to engage a large number of employees.
Once you’ve passed that hurdle, we start looking at basic engagement metrics: clicks, likes, retweets, favorites, reach, etc. These numbers are good indicators of your content strategy. We’re trying to determine if your audience cares about what your employees are saying.
Finally, we reach what I like to call “ROI nirvana.” This means moving beyond likes and into actual leads. At this stage, you’ve connected the dots between EA content and generating sales leads, and ultimately revenue. A Fortune 50 client of ours reached ROI nirvana in several months, but sometimes this can take longer. It varies.
MSH: What’s the takeaway from all of this?
HN: There are 4 killers of an EA program: disengagement, lack of content, rigidity, and unclear goals. If you address those issues before you launch, you’ll be ahead of the game.