In the past few weeks, I’ve kicked off two employee advocacy pilot programs and helped to implement two more. Implementation and launch is easy as 1-2-3:
- Learn how to use our platform
- Fill it with content
- Invite employees to join the platform and share said content
Seriously, that’s all there is to it! Built it and they will come, right?
Who are we kidding! Sure, those are the core milestones to launching an employee advocacy program, but consider these two statements:
- Employee advocacy efforts require a deviation from an employee’s normal duties to read and share something about the company.
- When an employee shares something about the company with their social networks, they are placing that content on their profile alongside all other stories, photos, musings, and articles that they feel are critically important to them and their network’s perception of them.
Think about the depth and importance of what you’re asking your employees to do…
Give up time to do something that will benefit the company. Post about the company to their friends and family.
Yes, technology can alleviate the time concern. If it’s easy enough to do, someone can surely block off five minutes during their week to do it.
But it can’t erase the fact the employee still has to make a choice to spend those five minutes reading, scheduling, and sharing content. Not to mention the implied obligation to respond to any engagement on that content from their social networks.
In short, employee advocacy might just not be worth the time to some.
Or…maybe we haven’t identified what five minutes a week of reading, scheduling, and sharing company content would be worth to them.
Let’s look at the next statement. When you ask someone to share company content, you’re renting space on their social profile. That’s a big ask, so it needs to be worth it to them.
Don’t you feel like we should do more to prepare for the inevitable question, What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)?
WIIFM comes in different shapes and sizes
Fortunately, the clients I’m working with already understand that their employee advocacy program’s success hinges on being valuable to the employee. We talk early on about finding the right content mix for employees to read and share (not everybody wants to share all company content all the time, you know). We brainstorm on the best way to introduce the program to the company and recruit participants. We explore different training ideas (hint: keep it short and bring food).
And then I get the next question: “How do we keep people using the platform?”
In other words, “do we have to bribe them with Amazon and Starbucks gift cards?”
To answer that, you need to dig deeper. Some people are definitely motivated by a gift card incentive. I can almost guarantee you that the same people will win said incentive each month. For them, WIIFM is the gift card, not the advocacy. To me, I think that contradicts the whole idea of advocacy.
Here’s the thing: studies are showing that incentive and motivation programs that pit people against each other in competition are causing more harm than good. The value is in the prize, not the activity. What if that particular prize isn’t valuable to an employee? Then they have no reason to participate.
What we need are programs that celebrate individual and team achievement. The beauty of this approach is that you can customize your rewards in ways that align value with participation. Here are some examples:
- Lunch with leadership
- Team outings
- Recognition at an all-hands or department meeting
- Being featured in an upcoming blog post
- An afternoon off, paid of course
How do we create motivation?
Nir Eyal’s book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products applies primarily to SaaS companies and app developers. However, his core method to creating habits applies to any type of activity where long-term use is a goal: create quick wins and a vested interest in continued participation.
Let’s apply this idea to creating enough value (WIIFM) for employees that they choose to spend time participating.
First, we can do things in the program itself to increase the perception of value and the company’s commitment to making this worth their time.
- An easy-to-use platform
- Proper “voice” when suggesting status update text to use when sharing (hint: it’s not supposed to sound like it came from the marketing department)
- Open communication about results, feedback, and impact
- Use by leadership
Next, we need to look to onboarding: what are the most important things for a new participant to do? This is their first challenge.
- Sign the social media policy (or complete the training module)
- Complete their profile in the advocacy platform
- Connect their social media accounts to the platform
- Share at least one article
Reward the completion of those tasks with something simple but quantifiable, like a gift card or shout-out in the weekly newsletter. The reward will sustain their participation through to the next “level” or “challenge.”
Finally, we need to devise other ongoing ways to reward participation and keep employees motivated. Here is where your ideas and criteria will need to adapt to things like culture, demographic makeup, seniority, and role in the organization. What’s more important is how you measure them.
If you’ve played any online or smartphone games recently, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Those first few levels are so easy and ripe with rewards that you find yourself coming back. Then the leveling takes longer but the rewards and milestones are more significant. We’re trying to emulate that approach (the same approach that powers habit-forming apps) with our advocacy program.
How do we measure motivation?
Establishing metrics that demonstrate the result of an employee’s participation is a tricky proposition: you do not want to create an environment where these metrics can be “gamed” or we’re back to the place where the value is the prize and not the participation.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Sharing trends – You shared 25, 50, 100 times over the past 4 months. That deserves some special recognition, and odds are the employee has a story to share that’s come out of all this advocacy.
- Engagement trends – Employees who are still building and shaping their networks won’t see much engagement at first. When that changes, though, it’s something to celebrate.
- LinkedIn Social Selling Index changes/milestones – Ask employees to log their SSI each month. When they’re building a strong network through advocacy efforts, odds are that figure will go up.
- Team sharing, impression, engagement goals (can be used in competitive situations) – When a team of advocates can work together, the outcome is a stronger sense of team, even if this particular tactic is a competitive one.
- Employee-submitted stories – Encouraging employees to contribute to the platform creates an investment and reward, which is part of creating habit-forming participation. Obviously, you’ll want to limit your reward criteria to count only the stories that are approved by program managers.
What to do next
I’ll admit to brain-dumping a bit on you in this blog post. But hopefully you have a better sense of how to think about the motivation and recognition programs that will complement your advocacy program and sustain participation. The key to any of this being successful is ongoing feedback and communication.
Good luck! And if you have an example of a recognition program that worked well, please tell me about it on Twitter (we can switch to a DM so you can use more than 140 characters)