How can retailers make better use of employee advocacy?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from MarketingCharts, a Watershed Publishing publication providing up-to-the-minute data and research to marketers.
Employee advocacy — the promotion of a firm’s brand by its employees — is one of the fastest growing social business programs, per a report last year from the Altimeter Group. A new study from Altimeter delves further into social media employee advocacy.
Among the 164 respondents to the study, each of whom are from companies with more than 250 employees, the top drivers cited for investing in an employee advocacy program were:
- Increasing the reach of messages in social networks (awareness) – 54 percent;
- Driving increased understanding and brand health of the organization – 47 percent;
- Engaging employees more deeply in the company mission and their work – 43 percent;
- Providing customers a better experience with the brand – 43 percent.
Still, despite the goal of increasing social reach and awareness, a separate survey of more than 2,000 consumers found just eight percent shared employee-generated content.
Moreover, while 55 percent of employees surveyed report having posted information about work on their own or as part of a company endorsed program, only 15 percent of consumers say that anyone they’re connected to on social sites has posted content about work. The analysts believe “this indicates friends’ posts about work are largely seen as a natural part of their life, and not brand messages.”
For their part, the top motivations employees gave for sharing information about their employer on social media accounts were:
- Believing in their employer’s mission and wanting to promote what they do (57 percent);
- Believing in their company’s products and wanting to share the employee’s experience (46 percent);
- Helping recruit new employees (42 percent);
- Wanting their friends to understand them better (42 percent).
The top-cited challenge faced by employers involves content — as in, sharing the inappropriate kind (53 percent). That’s followed by keeping employees motivated (49 percent), low adoption rates (47 percent) and leadership commitment and alignment (44 percent).
Keeping professional and personal life separate (33 percent) was the most common reason why employees decided not to share employer content even after being asked.
- What Benefits and Challenges Do Brands See With Employee Advocacy Programs? – MarketingCharts
- Social Business: Employee Advocacy Programs Gaining Interest – MarketingCharts
- Social Media Employee Advocacy; new research from Altimeter, a Prophet Company – Altimeter
Are retail jobs a natural fit for encouraging and capitalizing on employee advocacy? Are such programs more important for engaging employees or consumers?
Join the Discussion!
10 Comments on "How can retailers make better use of employee advocacy?"
You must be logged in to post a comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
With the high employee turnover present in most retailers, the challenge is bigger to drive advocacy. The effort needs to be consistent and apparent. That is, the efforts, some of which are described in the article, must touch the staff regularly, so as new people come on board they are immediately impacted by internal advocacy campaigns. Also these internal efforts must be obvious so there is little need to search for what the brand is all about.
Maybe if the retailer is Apple, but if we are talking supermarkets here — with notable exceptions — the answer is no.
Because many, many retail workers hate their jobs. The hours are irregular, the benefits limited or nonexistent, the work is boring and repetitive, the pay is poor and the opportunities for advancement are limited. Now before I hear a Greek chorus of “What about Wegmans or Trader Joe’s, etc.,” remember I said there are exceptions to the rule.
You want to build advocates? Start engineering improved working conditions. Want employees to believe in you? Start by believing in them first. The major problem cited in the study was “inappropriate content.” Well, where does that come from? Hint: Not from happy workers.
Do customers believe employee advocacy more than employees? Probably not. After all, by and large they have no emotional investment in the issue. My answer? Look at what authentic “best practice” employers do and emulate them. That ought to result in a surplus of employee good will.
Before employees become brand advocates, two conditions must exist. In the first place, the retailer has to offer a really neat product or service. In the second place, the head of the organization — and this is a very difficult challenge — must continuously drive his/her enthusiasm for the brand and the vision and communicate it down to the lowest level of the organization. Then employees will become the best advocates for the company. Howard Schultz did it with Starbucks, Marvin Traub did it with Bloomingdale’s and others (but not many) have done it as well.
In order for social media employee advocacy to have a meaningful, positive impact, brands should first ensure they’ve arrived at sustainable employee engagement — engagement around their mission, values, brand story, etc. This first element is achieved when employees feel as though they are important, valued and a key part of business success.
When a brand is encouraging social media advocacy through their employees and engagement is absent, it comes across as disingenuous and as if the employees are simply being leveraged as a conduit for marketing and brand awareness — a tactic everyone sees for what it is.
In the world of retail I would be more worried about employee advocacy going wrong and instead of positive comments about work and company culture you get the negative picture.
Think about all of the surveys you receive after dealing with a company. When do you take the time to fill them out? Most often when things go wrong not when they go right.
If you are going to have an employee advocacy program you better start by having a great employee culture in the first place.
Retail jobs can be perfect for employee advocacy IF they already have engaged employees.
Mandating, or even asking employees to share is not going to work if they dislike their job or their employer and it is certainly not going to help engage them.
Give employees content that they are proud of or excited about and they will share it without being asked. Treat them well and you don’t have to worry about them bashing the company.
It is the perfect place for creating advocates — people proud to say they work there. It is a tough channel for retailers due to all the basics around turnover, pride vs. negative press, etc.
It can be done, but it must start at the top and they must work the advocates up. It also must be a consistent process.
To become a brand advocate, you have to believe in the brand. That usually is built on the foundation of liking your job. Unfortunately, that is not often the case at retail. I remember a store employee telling me that “this isn’t a real job, it just something I am doing until I can get one.”
As Ryan pointed out, there are some retailers where the majority of the employees like or even love their job. In those companies promoting employee advocacy makes sense. For the rest of the retailers, the emphasis should be on determining why people don’t like working for them and addressing those issues.
Employee advocacy of a company and outreach about it toward customers can be useful one day, and uncontrollably devastating on a different day if, for example, something has occurred at work or in the marketplace to make the employees unhappy and/or vengeful. I would counsel employers to put their strongest advocacy efforts toward engaging their employees with the hope that trickle down outreach to their customers from satisfied and proud employees will be the happy outcome, but not the main goal.
The more engaged your retail workforce, the more effective they will be at engaging (and selling to) customers. Employee engagement also drives retention, referral-based recruiting, etc … a truly virtuous circle!