Why most Employee Social Media Advocacy programs seldom deliver the ROI promised

One of my areas of interest (and dare I say specialty??) is the intersection of Marketing & HR. These are the two most people-focused functions of a business. Yet, it is interesting how seldom they intersect when there's so much shared opportunity.


One area where the two intersect involves the emerging field of Employee Social Media Advocacy programs.


I recently downloaded several guides, articles, blog posts, e-learnings and brochures on Employee Advocacy programs offered by various professional marketing networking groups and platform providers. There was even a guide that outlined the ROI of these programs for marketing, communications and human resource leaders.


Three key themes I took away from these resources with consistency were:


  1. Employee social media advocacy will help a marketing organization amplify its organic and paid social reach

  2. Especially if they make it easy for employees to be able to share approved content

  3. The credibility of the brand is enhanced when shared by employees because people trust other people over other brand claims

These resources were focused on what the employee can do for the brand or company.


I was a little disappointed to find that the importance of a fulfilling work experience was rarely mentioned. And it is clearly the foundation to any good employee social media advocacy program. When it was mentioned in a sentence or two, it received no where close to the focus on the three key themes I've listed above or the initial steps to be taken to launch a program. And yet, having a work experience that employees want to share or advocate is the key recipe for success (IMHO).


What defines a fulfilling work experience? The answer is simple, but not easy. At its core are the brand promises made to customers. And whether delivering on those promises is embraced and owned by the employee.


In my experience, I find that marketers are well aware of how their products, services and companies are perceived by their customers. And they are hyper-focused on whether customers consider the brand promises as being met (or not). But few marketers understand how employees perceive their brands and whether the work experience is an authentic experience of the brand promises.


Even Human Resource leaders who have their pulse on metrics like employee engagement or employee satisfaction, miss the importance of how the employee work experience connects with those vital brand promises.


This lack of awareness and linkage between the brand promises and the employees’ experience of the brand in their day-to-day work experience is why so many employee social media advocacy programs are DOA.


I have seen companies that position themselves as disrupters in an industry , “THE” innovators, and then stray from that position as they stick to more classic work and rigid practices like requiring employees to work in the office from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., five days a week. Neither the positioning nor the legacy work setting is wrong-- they just aren’t aligned. And there goes the authenticity.


My recommendation? Before you launch an employee social media advocacy program, or as you evaluate the program you have in place, work to articulate the alignment between your brand promises and the day-to-day experience of your employees where ever you can.

How? Marketing, Communications and Human Resources should:

  1. Partner up to measure and understand the employee sentiment about the alignment of the brand promises against their day-to-day reality. Make this part of your regular listening strategy.

  2. Review the work experience against the brand promises to identify potential misalignments. Consider whether adjustments to the brand promises or the work experience are needed to create alignment.

  3. Ensure each function is represented for key decisions related to the brand or the work experience. Best case scenario, to ensure alignment. Worst case scenario, to proactively understand potential risks of key decisions.

The beauty of taking these measures is that marketers become that much savvier about a key audience and promoter of their brand. HR leaders become savvier as to what employees might expect when they choose to work with a particular brand and can evaluate workplace practices thru the brand promise lens.


A strong alignment between what a brand and company promises, and the authentic experience of the employees, serves several purposes:

  • It attracts and retains employees who are seeking what is offered by the brands’ promises, creating greater propensity for employee satisfaction and engagement

  • As employees share about their work experience, whether on social media or at the neighborhood barbeque, they can authentically advocate for the brand…and are more inclined to do so.


To sum this all up: Before asking employees to promote your brands via employee social media advocacy programs, start with asking what the brand is (or is not) doing for the employee. Once we are answer that, now we are ready to discuss how to make it easy for employees to share approved brand content….


Want to discuss alignment of your brand promises with your experience? Call or Email us at HeatherP Solutions!

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