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The controversial value of employee advocacy has received much attention recently, with many tarnishing it with even damaging brand reputation, causing many to approach its use with caution and question, is it really worth it?

Altimeter recently published a report entitled ‘Social Media Employee Advocacy: Tapping into the power of an engaged social workforce’. Here are the top employee advocacy challenges their study highlighted:

The Content Challenge – 53%
Posting content onto social media even at a brand level can be challenging in itself, when you’re aiming to deliver content variety, uniqueness and to ultimately generate engagement. So add into the mix, producing content appropriate for employees to share, and some may perceive this as drastically adding to their workload. But is it really?

Producing two versions of the same piece of content is not necessary. Neither is there a need to produce content solely intended to be posted by employees.

Make it easier – The trick here is to use a social media collaboration platform to publish your content to the desired social media accounts, selecting the advocate types (e.g. employees, sales partners, customers or influencers) that this particular content is suitable for. The content will then be sent to the selected advocates’ inboxes for them to share and schedule on their networks.

The end result is that the whole process is made a lot simpler for the brand, the brand remains in control of content shared, two versions of the same content does not need to be produced, and lastly social content will be seen by a wider audience, thus encouraging increased engagement.

Motivating employees – 49%
Keeping employees on board to share brand content CAN certainly be a challenge to say the least! I say ‘can’ because it doesn’t have to be. It all depends upon your approach…

Educate – Firstly it’s important to inform and educate your employees about the benefits of sharing brand content to improve their own personal profile. Keep in mind though that this needs to be executed in a way to suit all employees’ social media capabilities. Not everyone will be as clued up on social as you may think, so delivering various levels of training would be recommended, in order to get your employees fully on-board with the program.

It’s about making employees understand what’s really in it for them, whilst making it as easy as possible for them to perform. Alex Beere, Consultant Social Media Manager, SMB and Partner, for Microsoft (one of our customers) states, ‘It’s not something you launch and walk away from. Make it as easy as possible for your advocates to be able to skill up and maintain a good level of usage.’ Investing in a good social media collaboration platform is essential to enable this.

Reward – To encourage employees, you could put some gamification in place and produce/ update a leader board for employees to see who’s generating the most shares. The incentive here is try and get to the top. This works really well.

Inappropriate content (the perceived danger) – 8%
This now leads me to addressing the real elephant in the room here and that is retaining brand reputation. I am rather surprised this has only received 8% here. From a recent blog post I published, entitled ‘Your employees’ voice really matters on social’, this issue received a high influx of comments with many accusing employee advocacy of being a danger to brand reputation. Examples of this include leaking confidential information, posting unsuitable content and conclusively creating a negative brand image.

Maintaining control – What everyone seems to forget is that employees, if they really wanted, could share inappropriate, confidential information with or without you the brand providing them with the content to share. By physically enabling employees to share your content, and become an advocate, you are actually preventing dangers occurring. This is because you can closely monitor what’s shared, and quickly act upon it where necessary.

Going back to the question, is employee advocacy a danger? The answer is no, not when you put controls in place. Obviously yes there is always, in any communication used, going to be a slim possibility of misuse, but it is definitely worth the gamble. It’s about investing in tools to make the process easier, seeking expert advice and educating your employees on what’s in it for them. Only then will the challenges above be eradicated.

Read more: Social Media and Employee Advocacy – Four Ways to Succeed