Social advocacy: a key to inclusive engagement, recruitment and retention

Employee brand advocates on social media can shape an inclusive and engaged culture

What is employee social advocacy? In basic terms, employee social advocacy is the promotion of an organisation by its workforce via social media, whereby people are empowered to share content about their organisation across their own personal social networks.

On average, an organisation’s employees have ten times more combined followers on social media than the organisation itself – so internally-led social advocacy is a great way for organisations to quickly expand their reach.

While direct benefits to the organisation itself are obvious – for example in the form of increased brand health – social advocacy also drives employee engagement, recruitment and retention efforts. These benefits are seen most effectively when social advocacy has a focus on inclusion, with authentic social advocates from all demographics within a company.

The power of employee social advocacy

There are significant benefits to organisations when it comes to leveraging employees as brand advocates – all of which can improve engagement, retention and recruitment efforts. For example, prospective employees trust first-hand information when it comes to considering joining an organisation.

Edelman found that more people trust a regular employee (54%) than a CEO (47%), and even more people (68%) trust a company technical expert. These stats are also reflected in the popularity of companies such as Glassdoor, which provides anonymous employee reviews of companies all over the world.

Employee advocacy through the medium of social media is, therefore, a powerful tool. Why? Firstly, hearing authentic feedback directly from employees who are publicly showing support for and trust in their organisation via their personal social networks can be the deciding factor for any potential hire. This is particularly crucial given today’s competitive talent landscape amidst The Great Resignation that the UK is currently facing.

What’s more, employees who share their experiences through social advocacy are more likely to be both engaged and stay with their current company. It can be a valuable experience to be reminded, through sharing these details on personal social accounts, what fantastic culture, connections, programmes, benefits and other aspects their company has to offer, which in turn creates a sense of pride.

A recent study also highlights the positive impact employee social advocacy has on ‘human capital’ – including talent acquisition, employee retention, engagement, and productivity. Moreover, research from Hootsuite and Altimeter shows that employee social advocacy improves employee engagement and brand health, which in turn drive retention and recruitment efforts.

For example, leading European paper distributor Antalis found that their employee social advocacy programme was a huge hit – with 87% of employees signing up to be brand ambassadors over time. The company also found that the most significant impact of their employee social advocacy has been on recruiting. Some jobs have been filled in just a couple of weeks with candidates that came through employee advocates’ LinkedIn posts.

Social advocacy programmes also allow employees to enhance their credibility and position themselves as industry experts. In fact, Hinge reports that nearly 86% of employees involved in a formal advocacy programme say it had a positive effect on their careers. Moreover, according to Hootsuite and Altimeter, effective employee advocacy programmes have also been shown to help people feel more connected to their company’s mission, particularly for organisations that empower their employees by investing in training, as well as monitoring for compliance, and measuring impact.

Ensure authentic brand advocates with an inclusive company culture 

In order for social advocacy to be truly effective, it must be authentic and representative of a company; it must be inclusive of everyone, with brand advocates from all demographics.

Indeed, authentic employee social advocacy is key to showing the true colours of an organisation. When it comes to recruitment, potential new hires who see diverse social advocacy content will know how inclusive and supportive a company’s culture really is. As a result, organisations will attract more diverse talent.

In terms of retention, employees need to trust that the efforts of an organisation are focused on inclusion and that this is at the forefront of decision-making. At the end of the day, employees who don’t feel a sense of belonging in their organisation are also more likely to be both less engaged and a retention risk. Moreover, developing a inclusive, high-trust culture in this way will aid recruitment efforts, as Edelman reports that trust is a key driver of employee workplace recommendations.

How to create inclusive social advocacy

The hardest part of employee advocacy is often the execution. In order to succeed, and ensure a social advocacy programme that truly represents all your employees, including prospective hires, organisations should first focus on the following areas:

1.                   Company Culture

If those from underrepresented groups are to feel included and encouraged to share their experiences positively through social advocacy, then it has to start with a company’s culture. This is driven by transparency within an organisation regarding how certain people’s processes are both inclusive and equitable. A culture that is welcoming to everyone can be driven through a number of practices, such as inclusive hiring and benefits, transparency on pay equity, DE&I committees, public information on CSR efforts, or simply sharing lived experiences.

At Hootsuite, we believe there is strength in diversity and in creating an equitable workplace where all employees feel seen, valued, heard and able to do their best work. If you can create this culture, then brand ambassadors from all demographics will come naturally. 

2.                   Advocacy Leaders

For large companies, the C-suite often has the most visible social media presence and can lead by example, instilling confidence in the rest of the organisation. However, a successful programme should also include people who are natural social media users, who are enthusiastic about the company and the brand, and who represent the diversity of both your organisation and your target audience. Empower these advocacy leaders to help build and guide your employee social advocacy programme. You may see an initial flurry of social shares when you launch your employee advocacy programme, but without effective, inclusive internal leadership, this enthusiasm will fizzle out over time.

3.                   Empower your people

In order to ensure the success of any employee advocacy programme, it is essential to first equip those participating with the appropriate guidelines, resources and training. Empower your employees to make the most of the opportunity by providing them with all the tools and resources they need to spread the word about your brand – such as a library of pre-approved content to easily share, or guidelines to follow for when employees want to create their own content. This is also when an inclusion lens is especially helpful. Different individuals have different needs – so make sure to provide all the tools necessary for a social advocacy programme that is accessible to all.

Employee social advocacy is a proven and powerful way to increase your organisation’s reach, brand awareness, and reputation, whilst also improving employee engagement, retention, and recruitment efforts. As long as you have a supportive and inclusive company culture in place, this will truly shine through when shared by your own employees, making them feel more connected to their workplace, and providing authentic insights that will entice prospective employees.

By Lauren Darrington, Director of Global Talent Acquisition, Hootsuite

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