According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, your employees are more trusted than your brand and represent a huge potential to reach new audiences. Because of this, employee advocacy is now an essential part of any comprehensive marketing strategy.

Marketers are rapidly working to tap into this new marketing channel. While many have already started the process of building employee advocates, with few resources and peer examples, they’re writing their own playbooks and building programs from scratch. This approach can ultimately take longer to generate a positive ROI and also puts you at risk of losing control over your strategy and messaging.

As you’re developing an employee advocacy program, many questions may begin to pop up. How do we explain why we’re doing this? Who do we include? How do we manage this? What should our employees share? How can they share it? How do we show ROI?

Here are five do’s and don’t to consider as you’re building your employee advocacy program:

Do: Start with Goals

With any marketing campaign, it’s really important to understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Determine what the goal of your employee advocacy program is before anything else. More importantly, you should establish these goals not just for the employee advocacy program but in the context of the goals of the organization. Aligning the marketing goals of your program to the goals of your entire organization will ensure you stay on track and contribute to what’s really important to your company. Ask yourself “What is my company trying to accomplish?” The goals of your overall marketing strategy will drive the goals of your employee advocacy strategy.

Don’t: Ignore the Cultural Aspect

Many people assume that employee advocacy only impacts marketing and sales teams—employees share marketing content that engages new audiences and new sales are made as a result. While this is very true, all too often, the cultural, human resources aspect isn’t considered. Think about it, you now have employees who are acting as the voice of your company during work hours. This very idea of it can make anyone in HR have a mini-meltdown. The fear of employees bad-mouthing competitors, posting inappropriate pictures, and creating general havoc around the brand are all common nightmares of human resource departments.

Marketing and human resources don’t typically collaborate on projects, so it’s very important to bring HR to the table in the beginning stages of your program to discuss the value of employee advocacy and its potential impact on company culture.

Questions you should consider include:

  • What is our policy on social media in the workplace?
  • How does this fit into our current engagement programs?
  • Who will “own” our employee advocacy program?
  • What budget does this come from?

Do: Segment Content

If you want to have powerful employee advocates who are willing and excited to play the role, you have to start by giving them content that is right for their line of work and respective audiences. Just like you segment your target audiences, don’t look at your advocates as just one big group of people; identify the subgroups of employees that you want to target particular content towards so you can actually give them something of value.

Group the content you deliver based on what your different groups want. The benefits of segmented content will be two-fold. On the employee side, it will encourage participation because they are getting content that is relevant to their work and will help them advance their social authority in their network. On the audience side, your employees’ networks, which likely have similar interests, are getting high-quality content from a trusted source.

Don’t: Set Unrealistic Expectations

While you want your program to have steady employee adoption, trying to boil the ocean isn’t the best approach. For example, in the beginning of a roll-out in a 10,000-person organization, don’t set a goal of getting all 10,000 employees to participate by the end of the first month. There’s simply no way you will be able to get 100% adoption of anything in just 30 days. Start with a sample of employees from different groups within the company and expand from there.

The same goes for tracking metrics. It’s hard to know what you don’t know. Allow yourself time to establish benchmarks around things like traffic, engagement, and conversions. With those benchmarks, you’ll know what realistic goals you can set and the results you can expect.

Do: Leverage a Tool

An employee advocacy program can certainly be run without the help of a tool. It won’t be easy or fun, though. You can get by with ad-hoc programs for a while, but eventually, the downfalls will be too much to ignore. It will be almost impossible to measure participation from employees and the effectiveness of your program.

A proper employee advocacy platform provides several key components that are crucial to your success:

  • Analytics and reporting:
    • External: How do you determine whether your program is accomplishing the goals you set? Through tracking links and an integration with your marketing automation platform, you can discover what content is resonating with your new audiences, how much traffic it’s driving, how many leads or contacts are being captured, and ultimately how many new customers you gained as a result.
    • Internal: Employee-level metrics are nearly as important as marketing-level metrics in an employee advocacy program. How do you know what your participation rate is among your employees if you’re just sending an email with tweets for your employees to share? A proper employee advocacy tool will allow you to see which networks your employees prefer, their share rates to those networks, and even allow them to provide feedback on why they aren’t sharing.
  • User-optimized experience: Making it easy for your advocates to share can make or break your employee advocacy program. Any sort of manual work that takes extra time can lead to huge drop-offs in the participation rate. It’s important to remember that not all the employees in your program are marketers and won’t see marketing as a part of their core job function. Making it as easy as possible for employees to share in the way that they prefer will lead to higher participation. This means providing options on mobile, desktop, through browser extensions, and even direct sharing from other tools like a CRM.
  • Gamification: From friendly competition to a rewards program, a proper employee advocacy should have a way to gamify participation. Awarding points and prizes for activity will encourage employees to stick around and stay engaged on a platform. A complete employee advocacy platform will have a reward management feature that allows you to reward employees for sharing messages.

Launching an employee advocacy program can feel like you’re venturing into unfamiliar territory. While all of this can seem a little overwhelming, I promise that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Follow these basic rules and you’ll have a successful employee advocacy program that drives results you’ve never been able to achieve before.

Ready to take the next step? Join our #marketochat on Twitter next Thursday from 1-2pm PT to learn how to create a winning employee advocacy program.