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Do you ever get the sense this whole Employee Social Advocacy concept is being shoved down our throats by a number of “thought leaders” and software vendors who have everything to gain by advancing this agenda?

OK, so that was a leading question. But, it’s just one of several reasons I haven’t bought into the Employee Social Advocacy hype machine so far.

The most recent example? This report, titled Employee Advocacy 2.0: Leveraging influence to drive a connected organization and employee-led buyer journey, from Onalytica (you can find the full report here).

One of the main themes you’ll see shared throughout the piece: That brands are no longer trusted by people. But, on the flip side, people are most trusted than ever.

In fact, this quote from Jay Baer (featured prominently in the piece) simplified is quite nicely: “Consumers are disappointed by brands. Trust in brands is lower than ever and the flipside of that is just as important, that people are trusted more. The reason people are trusted more than advertising is that there is no financial stake in the outcome.”

You have to be kidding me. Re-read that last sentence and tell me you’re kidding Jay Baer!

“The reason people are trusted more than advertising is that there is no financial stake in the outcome.”

In this case “people” = employees. That’s the whole point of the piece, so it’s hard to infer otherwise.

And, it sums up a big part of my issue with Employee Social Advocacy programs.

Proponents will say employees are better message carriers since more people trust them, as Baer alludes to above. It’s more “genuine” when it comes from an employee. It’s more “authentic.”

I’m not sure how anyone could think that’s true.

Employees are paid (in some cases, obscene amounts of money) to do a job. Are you telling me that doesn’t influence what they might say on social media about that employer?

I’ll give you an example. Take David Armano from Edelman. David’s fairly well-known in the PR/social space. He was an early adopter. And, he posts on LinkedIn from time to time about his employer. Many of his posts are very interesting (and have nothing to do with Edelman). But, he also does share Edelman info and promotion from time to time. And, since I know he works at Edelman don’t you think that influences his decisino to post about it online? The money he is paid by Edelman matters–just like it would with any other influencer. It’s not “authentic.” It’s not “genuine.” He’s actually a paid influencer. Pure and simple. Just like any of us working for an employer.

You simply cannot say Employee Social Advocacy programs build trust. Not when the primary message deliverers are being compensated to say exactly what you want them to say (in many cases, at least) on social media. That’s called a company (paid) spokesperson!

My second issue with the current state of Employee Social Advocacy programs is the software vendors themselves. They’re a huge part of the problem.

In addition to churning out reports like this lauding Employee Social Advocacy programs every five days, the software these vendors are creating isn’t part of the solution. It’s actually hurting more than it’s helping at this point.

Take your favorite Employee Social Advocacy program. Follow a number of people from that organization on LinkedIn. Notice what they’re posting. What do you see?

I’ll tell you: The same content from different people.

The software vendors make it easy for employees to share social content. I get that. But, they make it so easy, most employees simply cut and paste and rarely add their two cents to personalize it. What you’re left with comes off as canned corporate speak that looks flimsy at best.

It comes across as anything but “genuine” and “authentic.”

I can’t be alone in this thinking.

What say you communications/PR/social friends? Are you firmly on the Employee Social Advocacy bandwagon? Or, are you a bit skeptical like me?