6 Best Employee Advocacy Programs and How to Build Yours in 2021 (Guide)

In this guide, we’re looking at 6 of the best employee advocacy programs, and key takeaways you can use in your program for success in 2021.

As social media and online networking have become central to everyday life, so has social media marketing and selling.

Employee advocacy is one of the most effective ways to improve your online presence, build a great brand reputation and reach exponentially more customers than you can with your company marketing and social profiles alone.

So, what does it look like in practice?

Let’s take a look at some employee advocacy examples to see exactly how they’ve made a success of their programs and how you can apply those lessons to your program!

    What is an Employee Advocacy Program?

    To put it simply, an employee advocacy program is a marketing and employee engagement strategy aimed at equipping and incentivizing employees to promote their employer. This may be in person, online, and on social media.

    Employees talk about their employers, their jobs, their careers all the time, both in-person and online. An employee advocacy program recognizes and leverages that by equipping employees with curated and relevant content to share.

    It also provides an easy-to-use platform to access and share content and provides structure and guidelines on how to use social media effectively.    

    There are huge benefits to using an employee advocacy program, for both the employer and the employees.

    For the employer, there is huge organic social reach, up to 8 times more engagement, increased brand awareness, increased trust, and a host of new ways to generate leads and sales.

    Employee advocacy programs also help to boost employee engagement, productivity and innovation, employee retention and even recruiting top talent.

    For employees, there is a wealth of content to share with their networks on social media, without having to spend a lot of time looking for it or creating it.

    This content can be used to polish their professional image and even position them as experts or thought leaders. They can advance their own career goals while becoming trusted ambassadors for their company.    

    To be successful, employee advocacy programs must be carefully planned, strategic, well maintained and monitored. Content needs to be curated and on-brand, relevant and timely.

    Employees need to be engaged and activated to take part authentically and enthusiastically.

    This may seem like a lot but there are many great employee advocacy platforms that will streamline the whole process and make running a great program much easier than you would expect!  

    6 Most of the Most Successful Employee Advocacy Programs

    1: Dell

    Screenshot of a post from Dell's Employee Advocacy Program

    Dell is one of the pioneers of employee advocacy programs. They started with sentiment analysis and social media monitoring but then scaled that into a fully-fledged employee advocacy program.

    Employees participating in the program are known as Dell Champions. They promote the social culture at Dell and give the public a window into it from the outside.

    As a global company, Dell Champions around the world share content with fellow employees and the general public.

    To qualify for the program, Dell offers social media and brand certifications from Dell’s Social Media University. The program also has participation from top-level executives, which has been one of their main successes.

    Dell was one of the first employee advocacy programs that allowed participants to find and share content, rather than just sharing what was provided by the company.

    By empowering employees through certifications and training, and giving them the agency to select relevant content of their own, Dell created a highly engaged and responsible program. Dell’s employee advocacy program is one the long-term success stories in employee advocacy.

    Incentives

    • Training and certifications to become an expert in a specific subject/area
    • Exclusive program, only open to those who have completed the certifications
    • Opportunity to participate in a program alongside high-level executives from the company
    • Focus on company culture and engagement, rather than program-specific incentives  

    Successes

    Dell’s employee advocacy program has over 1200 Dell Champions, in 84 countries! These champions have shared hundreds of thousands of posts to various social networks and directed tens of thousands of visitors to Dell’s website.

    Key Takeaways from Dell’s Employee Advocacy Program

    • Not every employee is suitable or willing to participate and that is absolutely fine. A smaller group of engaged and passionate participants will work very well.
    • Providing training and certifications creates experts, who can become thought leaders and authorities on their subject
    • Involving high-level executives drives participation from employees and engagement from the public

    2: Adobe

    Screenshot of a post from Adobe's Employee Advocacy Program

    Adobe was one of the first to implement an employee advocacy program, around 2013. Recognizing the importance of employees for the success of the brand, they started small and slowly scaled the program to include over 900 employee advocates.

    At the outset of the program, they defined their goals and then tracked them to see how effective the program was. The results of the tracking allowed them to tweak and improve the program, which is now one of the most effective ones in the game.

    Using the employee advocacy program EveryoneSocial, they set out to:

    • Help employees know what content they can share externally
    • Provide the tools to employees get better at leveraging their social networks
    • Improve internal communications
    • Connect internal employees and create a space for content sharing and creation  
    • Create a workplace community and build employee engagement

    Importantly, their focus was not solely on marketing benefits for the company. They were focusing on creating an environment for sharing and, by extension, marketing, organically. 

    As the program grew and developed, they went on to narrow down the content provided into niche groups so that employees could find the content and combination of topics that suited them, and their unique voice, best.

    They now have over 186 different content groups and each employee joins the groups that interest them. This allows each employee to access the content they most value and enjoy, which means their social media presence is very personalized and authentic. 

    Incentives

    Some of the incentives provided by Adobe to drive participation and engagement include:

    • Providing training and content to share to make it easy for employees to participate.
    • Creating fun and engaging activities and challenges for employees to take part in and then share their experiences and achievements. 
    • Acknowledging and celebrating employees’ social efforts by featuring successful posts on the digital signage in every office. 
    • Creating a special ambassador program for the employees that are doing really well on social media.

    Successes

    Adobe’s initially small advocacy program has scaled to 900 employees. These employees achieve a massive social reach of over 3 million, with each employee averaging over 4000 connections on social media. Workplace culture, employee engagement, and retention all improved with the program. 

    Two members of the special ambassador’s program managed to generate 5.5 million impressions in just 5 days after speaking MAX, Adobe’s annual creativity conference in 2015.

    Key Takeaways from Adobe’s Employee Advocacy Program

    • Start small, track ROI and progress, and then scale from there.  
    • Create specialized content for niche groups in your workforce so they can easily find content that is relevant to them and their particular interests.
    • Set out your goals and objectives for the employee advocacy program at the outset. Then you can select the right metrics to track the efficacy of the program and refine your methods over time.
    • Communication, community, and employee engagement are important for long term success.  
    • Using incentives keeps employees interested and engaged in the program. 

    3: EA Games

    Screenshot of a post from EA Games' Employee Advocacy Program

    Video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) is a company with thousands of employees in over 50 different locations around the world. As a result, the company was fragmented and there was no sense of community between different offices and no cohesive company culture. 

    They started an employee advocacy program in 2014, called EA Insiders, with the objective of bringing employees together and creating a more cohesive company culture. They also wanted the program to connect the employees with their community of players.

    The program bridged the divides between employees in different locations and created a highly engaged community. True to form, EA then gamified their entire program to keep employees engaged and active.

    Incentives

    EA gamified their program, with challenges and competitions to achieve specific metrics, which change frequently. They have a leader board so participants can see where they stand and engage in friendly competition.

    They also managed to foster a sense of unity and belonging in their employees, who felt part of a greater community. 

    Successes

    EA Insiders now has over 1000 participants, who have a collective reach of over a million people! The program drives over 6000 engagements each month. Company culture and a sense of community are strong within the organization too.

    Key Takeaways from EA’s Employee Advocacy Program

    • Company culture, a sense of community and unity are important for success.
    • Gamification and incentives boost engagement and active participation
    • A centralized program can work well for companies operating in different locations

    4: Starbucks

    Screenshot of a post from the Starbucks to Be a Partner Employee Advocacy Program

    For their employee advocacy program, Starbucks created employee accounts on various social networks and allowed their employee “partners” to create the content for them in the form of pictures, stories, and discussions about Starbucks.  

    Starbucks calls their employees who contribute to the social media accounts “partners”, which creates both a sense of belonging and a sense of agency and accountability.

    Handing over content creation to employees could be a risky move, but Starbucks created in-depth guidelines on how to use social media when posting on behalf of the company. These are freely available, even publicly on their website.

    Rather than creating participation incentives, they offer employees opportunities to further their skills development and gain qualifications. As a result, employees are more knowledgable and well trained, as well as more positive towards their employer. It has also reduced staff turnover significantly.

    Incentives

    Starbucks leveraged employee engagement and company culture as the incentive to participate, rather than making program-specific incentives.

    By providing opportunities to their employees and giving them the title of ‘partner’, they created a sense of belonging. This lead to a passion for their work and personal contributions to the company.

    They now have Partner of the Month and Partner of the Quarter awards, which are given to those who excel at customer service. These are shared widely on social media and in the stores themselves.

    Successes

    The Facebook page by Starbucks’ employees has more than 370 000 followers. Their Twitter account has more than 50 000 followers and their Instagram account his 127 000 followers. An Instagram search of #tobeapartner currently yields 915,042 posts!

    Starbucks’ overwhelmingly positive online presence, as a result of their employee advocacy program, is truly massive. It would be almost impossible to create such a presence through company handles and accounts alone.

    Key Takeaways from Starbucks’ Employee Advocacy Program

    • Giving employees a sense of agency and independence in the process allows them to take ownership of their participation and contribution to the program.
    • Providing in-depth guidelines is essential for success, especially when employees are creating their content to share.
    • Investing in employees drives participation, pride in their company and passion for their work, which shows in their customer interactions and social presence.

    5: Reebok

    Screenshot of a post from Reebok's #fitasscompany Employee Advocacy Program

    Reebok’s employee advocacy program has been a huge success. It focuses on employees showcasing their own fitness journeys and activities, while wearing Reebok gear, and encourages employees to generate content for the program.

    Posts are accompanied by #FitAssCompany, which allows for easy tracking of the program and posts shared by employees. Tracking has allowed them to evaluate and tweak the program over time to make the most of it.   

    Employee generated content and images of individuals being active and quite literally ‘walking the walk’ has created a lot of great content that is very authentic and personal. This sets the program apart from programs that do not encourage employees to generate content themselves.

    Reebok has had their employees be a part of the journey, from the beginning. Rather than creating a strategy and making employees implement it, they asked social media-savvy employees how they would like to represent the brand and reach more people. In this way, the program has been more collaborative and creative from the outset.

    The majority of Reebok’s employees are part of their target market – young, fit, and very active on social media. Adding the unique hashtag and providing more content, allowing employee-generated content to be shared by colleagues and the company itself, and streamlining the process with a mobile app has made the whole program one of the most organically successful ones.  

    Incentives

    Reebok leveraged their employees’ desire to share their own content and promote their personal accounts by adding a unique hashtag.

    They also took a collaborative approach, which allowed employees to generate content and take a more active and creative role in the program, which fostered ownership and engagement.

    Successes

    Largely fuelled by their employees’ posts and content, Reebok’s Official Facebook page has over 10 million followers, their Instagram over has 2.7 million followers, and their Twitter account has over 700 000 followers. And that is just the main, official profiles. There are countless others for different regions and disciplines – a truly mammoth social presence!    

    Key Takeaways from Reeboks’ Employee Advocacy Program

    • Leverage your employee’s natural passions and aspirations for authentic content creation and enthusiastic engagement with social media
    • Collaboration with employees in decision making and content creation processes fosters ownership and cooperation from employees and boosts employee engagement
    • Make it easy to participate – Reebok uses a mobile app to share content with employees. 

    6: Vodafone

    Screenshot of a post from Vodafone's Employee Advocacy Program

    Vodafone’s employee advocacy program, Go Social, is run through Dynamic Signal and is managed by Vodafone’s in-house Social Comms Team.

    At the start of the program, they surveyed employees to see how many would be willing to participate and what their challenges were.

    One of the things that came out of that process was that there was a lot of apprehension about what kind of content would be acceptable to post when posting in connection to the company. Another was an overall willingness to participate if it was easy to do so and didn’t take too much time.  

    They decided to use a platform to streamline the process and create a feed of company-approved content for employees to share, as well as guidelines and policies for social media use. Using the platform as a centralized portal for employees to access content made it easy for willing participants to find and share relevant content. They provide internal and external content to share, as well as company-approved content generated by employees themselves.

    Incentives

    Vodafone recognizes high achievers and displays them on the leader board. They also recruit ambassadors from different sectors within the company to make sure that all areas are involved and engaged.  

    They also provide training and guidance and allow for individuals to create content to be approved and shared with the program for other employees to share. This benefits the creators and fosters greater ownership and engagement with the program as a whole.

    Successes

    Go Social now has over 2000 active users, sharing thousands of posts and generating millions of impressions. On all major social media platforms, there are numerous Vodafone official accounts for different regions and sectors.

    In this way, they have achieved a huge social media presence that simultaneously focused and niche appropriate for different audiences.   

    Key Takeaways from Vodafone’s Employee Advocacy Program

    • Clear guidelines and training on how to post appropriately on social media make employees more comfortable and confident sharing content connected to the brand.
    • Involving employees in content creation allows employees to leverage the program for their own benefit too, which improves participation and engagement.
    • Numerous, smaller or more niche-focused accounts that fall under the larger brand umbrella can be a good way to achieve greater engagement while still achieving a huge reach.

    5 Important Takeaways from Successful Employee Advocacy Programs to Use in Your Program

    Looking at the highly successful employee advocacy examples above, there are five key aspects to take into consideration when you’re planning and implementing your program:

    1: Set Clear Goals and Track Progress and Success

    It is important to start with clear objectives and clear means of measuring success. Define clear goals and choose the right metrics to measure progress along the way. This will allow you to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.  

    Some metrics you can consider include:

    • Social Media Engagement to see which kinds of content get the most engagement and which employees are getting the most engagement and why.
    • Reach or the number of impressions and reach achieved by different kinds of content, shared by different employees.
    • Mentions on social media.
    • Website referrals and traffic to the brand’s official website.
    • Leads, conversions, and sales as a result of the program.
    • New job applicants and the quality or experience of those candidates.
    • Employee engagement and level of participation in the program. A few dedicated brand evangelists may get great results on a small scale but if there is a greater lack of interest and engagement, you need to find ways to address that and get more employees excited to participate.

    The metrics you choose must be closely aligned with your goals and objectives. It is also important to include participants in the tracking and measuring of success so they can see the fruits of their labor and be motivated to keep doing going. Recognize and reward those who do well and encourage and educate those who are falling behind.

    2: Develop a Strong Content Strategy  

    Once you have defined your goals and objectives, develop a strong content strategy to support them. It is very important to have a well-developed strategy before you begin so that employees have access to quality content from the beginning.

    Content should be beneficial to the brand and to the employees. It should be content that is relevant to different roles so that they can find content that works best for them and will resonate with their audiences.

    Planning content development and progression is also important, it should be unique and build on what has been shared before so as not to be too repetitive.

    The content strategy should also include initiatives from the company that will generate opportunities for good content to cover those initiatives. These can be events, conferences, training programs, or charity drives. Things employees can participate in and then share on social media, while also boosting employee engagement within the company.   

    3: Focus on Employee Engagement and Building a Strong Company Culture First

    An engaged and passionate workforce is a strong driver of successful employee advocacy programs. Starting out with a disengaged and unmotivated workforce is not going to work.

    Employees need to be interested, and aware of what is going in the company as a whole. They need to feel connected to the brand and invested in its success.

    Ideally, employees feel valued and trusted, that they are members of a community and part of something bigger than themselves.

    Assessing employee engagement, and actively working to increase it, before the launch of the program will work better than trying to use the program to foster engagement. Efforts to boost morale after the program begins can feel insincere or like the company is only doing it to further its PR agenda.  

    4: Incentives – Involve Employees in the Process as the Main Incentive

    While gamification and program-specific incentives can be a great way to keep employees engaged, they should not be the sole incentive to participate.

    Sustainable programs are ones that focus on the benefits to the employees. On how the program can further their career aspirations and position them as thought leaders or experts in their field. This, coupled with a strong affinity with the brand, makes for a great program that will last and keep developing.

    Employees can lose enthusiasm for incentives and gamification over time. The authenticity of content sharing can also be compromised if sharing is done solely for points in the program. It is better if sharing is part of employee’s personal social media strategy. 

    When employees share content that they are genuinely passionate about -audiences can feel that.  It bolsters the employee’s genuine presence in that space. This is how thought leaders are established and how employees can make the most of the program, for their benefit as well as the brand.   

    5: Make it Easy to Participate and Provide Clear Guidelines and Policies

    Participation in the program needs to be quick and easy for employees. They’re are already very busy and don’t necessarily have much time or energy to put into the program daily.

    If they can find relevant content and share it quickly, they’re much more likely to participate regularly.

    Using an employee advocacy platform is a great way to facilitate the process and make it easy for employees to participate.

    You can create a centralized portal for content access and sharing, provide suggested captions, and employees can share directly from there with a few clicks. Content can be segmented and curated for different sectors within the company. These platforms also make tracking metrics easier and adding content much easier for the company.

    It is also very important to provide clear and comprehensive guidelines for social media use. These protect both the company and the employee and form a solid foundation for a successful program.

    When employees are sure of what they can and can’t share, they’re more confident and less anxious about ‘saying the wrong thing’, which can be a barrier to participation. This is especially important if you have employees generating their own content.

    Guidelines should be very clear but also flexible. Overly restrictive guidelines will only create more tension around possibly ‘doing the wrong thing’. This will undermine the employee’s feeling of being a trusted partner, responsible for advocating for their company.

    Overly restrictive guidelines also stifle creativity and genuine interest or enthusiasm from participants. Employees should be free to use their voice and couch content from their perspective for it to be truly authentic.

    Check out this video by In2Communications on YouTube for a little more info on employee advocacy and social media policy:

    Resources

    Advisorpedia: Reebok: One Brand That’s Really Nailing Employee Advocacy

    EveryoneSocial: The Brand Ambassador Role: How Adobe Maximizes Employee Advocacy

    Harvard Business Review: The Importance of Employee Engagement on Performance 

    Marketing Week: Starbucks investment in staff creates brand advocates

    Marketing Insider Group: How to Implement an Effective Employee Advocacy Program

    Public Relations Review (Vol. 46, Issue 4): Internal Communicators’ Understanding of the Definition and Importance of Employee Advocacy

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the best employee advocacy program examples?

    6 of the best employee advocacy program examples are: Dell, Adobe, EA Games, Reebok, Starbucks and Vodafone. Check out the full article to see how they made their programs a success and how you can use those lessons in yours.

    What is an employee advocacy program?

    An employee advocacy program is a marketing and employee engagement strategy aimed at equipping and incentivizing employees to promote their employer. This may be in person, online, and on social media. Read the full guide here to understand more about employee advocacy.

    Why is an employee advocacy program important?

    A successful employee advocacy program will increase employee engagement and productivity, improve your brand’s online presence, resulting in greater reach and engagement on social media. It will help you build a stellar brand reputation, improve sales, conversions, and your bottom line. Check out the full guide for more info on the benefits of employee advocacy.

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