How to make advocacy programs work for employees and the brand
It’s a fact that we trust our friends a lot more than we trust advertisers. It’s also a fact that our friends are spending a big chunk of time every day on social media. Recognizing this and the omni-present challenge of cutting through cluttered ad channels, more and more marketers are leaning on their employees to help spread the word. It’s no wonder that a number of tools have emerged to help these marketers do just that.
One such provider is GaggleAmp, whose CEO Glenn Gaudet is also an ex-CMO. Recognizing a gap in the market when he was trying to orchestrate an employee advocacy program back in 2010, Gaudet decided to develop his own. In our extensive conversation below, he shares critical guidance on how to get buy-in for these programs and how to make sure they are effective. As it turns out, like every other form of marketing, a smart strategy is required, one in which the benefit for the employee (building their personal brand) is equally clear. Oh, and don’t forget a golden rule, “garbage in, garbage out.”
How are companies approaching employee engagement on platforms like GaggleAmp?
I think you have to take a step back before using a platform like ours. Before you start thinking about what kind of a platform do you want to use, and how to gamify it, and how to incent people, you have to go back to what's in it for the employee. And if you think about it, one of the most powerful things about the digital world is the ability for everyone to have their own personal brand. And if you think about this from the quality of content, the quality of activities, the quality of engagements, the higher the quality that you can provide to them, the more it's going to positively impact their own brand, in addition to the company’s brand. So that's where the win the win-win comes in. Because when it's all one sided just about: hey buy my products or, hey check out this thing about here: there’s no balance to the equation in which the employee is going to want to participate in this.
How do you motivate employees to participate?
Take your podcast as an example: Why do people listen? Because they end up developing a relationship with you, even if it's one-sided. Right? They hear your voice. There's a trust that's built up that you're going to have the right kind of guests, you're going to ask the kinds of questions that they would want asked. And if you think about it, that's the key. You've created this relationship with your listeners. And it's the same thing in marketing when you're getting employees involved. They're creating relationships with their friends, and their followers, and their digital connections out there. And the more that you can give them things that allow them to create that relationship, the stronger it is, not only for that personal relationship, but in connection the relationship with the brand and the company.
How do you help employers get to that point?
Let me just say that first of all: bad marketing amplified is still bad marketing, it's just louder. We tell our clients, let's take a step back and think about this from a strategic point of view. What's the voice? What's the value-add that you're going to be providing? Not just to your employees but to your employees' relationships out there. And when you start thinking in those terms then the content becomes a little different.
This is not about selling your widgets. It's about how you can add value to those relationships that you have and that you’re trying to make deeper. That's what this is really all about. If you don't start from that point you're just going to fail from the beginning. And, it's funny—we've actually said to people “you're not ready for us.” I actually give permission to my sales team to say no thank you. And there's a reason for that, because what we're trying to do is add tremendous value to that organization. But we know that going back to that point: garbage in, garbage out. If you put garbage into whatever platform, you end up with garbage on the other side. This is part of the overall strategy.
What are the signals for you that a company is ready for an employee advocacy program?
First of all, the person who is going to be the champion of the employee advocacy program has to be in alignment with the rest of the digital marketing strategy of the company. If this is a little fiefdom, if this is a little side project, this is going to be short lived. You need that.
What else do you need?
You also need buy in. If you think about the power of employee advocacy, where's the buy in going to come from? It's not just going to be the digital marketing folks, and your CMO who is ultimately going to sign off on this, but you also want to engage people like the head of sales, some of the folks in HR. These are all people who are going to be stakeholders and constituents, and the kinds of things that you can do on a robust employee engagement platform. It's not just about sharing content, but it's also about engagements. Are there a bunch of industry influencers that we can have our employees follow or engage with digitally? These are all really important things.
Does this apply to salespeople too?
If you look at the average salesperson, they're spending a lot of time on LinkedIn doing what? Prospecting! Well if we can help them to find ways to easily engage with people and show themselves as a value-add contributor to the community rather than just somebody who wants to sell something, that changes how their contacts start looking at them. And as a result, does what? It brings the leads to them.