You’ve probably heard it before: The best way to build a brand is to start within your own four walls. But how many companies truly take that advice to heart?

Employees are a vital component in helping brands expand their reach. With over 2 billion active social media users, it only makes sense to encourage employees to chime in and share your brand updates with their social networks to increase visibility, share of voice, and exposure.

In a recent interview with the Conversion Company, I shared my point of view on social media’s role in developing an employee advocacy program. In this blog, I’ll share five steps to building an effective employee advocacy program with social media:

1. Get Executive Buy-In and Support

I can’t stress this enough: It’s imperative to have executive support when you’re ready to launch an employee advocacy program. Executives will set the tone for employees as well as encourage long-term engagement. In addition, there is an incremental cost to launching a social advocacy program, so it’s important to have a clear strategy that aligns with your company’s goals to define KPIs and determine program effectiveness.

Your executives will also be a critical component of your social media governance board, which includes program stakeholders, subject-matter experts, and employee advocates as well. Together, you’ll work with them to determine your ongoing goals and internal training initiatives, and make key decisions around your social media interactions.

2. Build Awareness and Train Employees

As with any internal initiative, it’s important to get everyone on the same page. Your employees’ comfort levels with social media will differ, and to alleviate that, you can train them on company policies and guidelines in order to provide a level playing field for everyone—across all departments in your organization.

If you’re adopting an employee engagement tool for your program, take the time to educate everyone on how to use it. Provide easy-to-reference training modules and/or recordings they can refer back to, and make it as easy as possible for employees to adopt and use. A great way to ensure this consistency is to make social media education a part of your company’s onboarding process with new hires. At Marketo, our CEO announced our employee engagement program at our quarterly all-hands meeting, quickly followed by the roll out via email, and we continue to educate new hires about it on an ongoing basis.

3. Consistently Post New Content

The more employees engage, the more it becomes a habit for them to go in and share. However, if you start a program and update your content at random times, you’ll get a similar response: random engagement. To avoid this, dedicate resources (time, money, headcount, etc.) to keep your program running smoothly.

When I’m promoting social media content with our employee advocates, I try to post at least 2-3 new challenges every week. This requires working cross-functionally with other teams like demand generation and corporate communications to promote our different programs and events. I’ve found what works best is posting a mix of fun, shareable content and industry trends.

social posts for employee advocacy

4. Monitor and Reward

It’s important to give back. Your employees’ word goes a long way, so why not give them a little something for it?

Once you’ve launched your program, be loud and boisterous about what’s in it for your employees. Social sharing takes effort, so explain to them why it’s worth it! Provide your employees with incentives that are desirable. Here at Marketo, we offer everything from branded sweatshirts and mugs, to gift cards and gadgets.

For those with budget constraints, consider other incentives that would encourage your employees to participate. For example, you can highlight how sharing industry-relevant content will help your employees build credibility with their networks or consider other types of internal recognition like an award program or lunch with executives.

5. Measure the ROI of Your Employee Advocacy Program

Tracking KPIs allows you to determine what’s working and what isn’t. By analyzing your results, you can determine whether the messaging you’re using is resonating, if you’re posting to the correct channels, and if you’re reaching prospective and existing customers. At Marketo, we use a tool that measures total employee engagement (e.g. shares, likes, retweets, reach) as well as clicks.

If you’re trying to tie your employee advocacy program to ROI, you’ll need an advanced marketing platform that can track unique URL conversions. By adding unique URL parameters, you can set up campaigns inside your marketing platform that reveal how many conversions each of your campaigns brought in. Once social media users (in this case, your employee’s network) click on that unique URL and take an action on that page that counts as a conversion (e.g. downloading a whitepaper), this information is captured on the back-end. You can track everything from who converted, which channel the conversion came from (Facebook or Twitter), the type of content used (image or text), to the specific campaign that brought it (employee advocacy).

There’s a lot more to running successful employee advocacy program than giving them content to share and hoping for the best. Follow these five steps for a sustainable program that can be tied to ROI!

What other tips or examples do you have for employee advocacy? Share them in the comments below!