Tips for setting up an enterprise social media advocacy network

One of the most glaring omissions I’ve seen in the deployment of social enterprise content strategies is the application of Metcalfe’s Law.

Metcalfe’s Law is expressed in two general ways:

1) The number of possible cross-connections in a network grows as the square of the number of computers in the network increases.

2) The community value of a network grows as the square of the number of its users increase.

For those of us with liberal arts degrees, this simply means that by getting more people to pass along a message, you will assure an exponential increase in social content distribution. If I send a story to 1,000 Facebook followers and I get each of them to distribute it to their 500 followers … and those followers encourage distribution to their followers ….. I think you get the point. We’re talking about reaching a lot of people..

The Metcalfe calculus makes sense, but actually creating a formal strategy for employee advocacy is a different matter. Add to this the bigger question you may be asking, “Why should CIOs and enterprise IT pros even need to be involved in what seems to clearly be the land of marketing and social media teams?”

The short answer is that enterprise IT needs to use employee advocacy strategies for their own internal branding purposes, just as much as corporate marketing needs to use them for external customer-facing communications. Here are a few ways to get employees on board with social strategy:

Define what you wish to accomplish

Have clearly definable metrics from which to judge the success or failure of the program. Some aspects may require quite a bit of social capital across the organization so doing it just because it “feels good” is probably not enough.

Get CEO and HR buy-in

History tells me that employee advocacy programs work best when driven from the highest levels and when positioned as part of a recognition program. Buy-in from the CEO and very close coordination with Human Resources reduces organizational friction.

Why HR? Well, an employee’s social media feed crosses an interesting line between personal and business. Some employees don’t like to mix these worlds. So any undue pressure to force them to do so could create unnecessary angst or pushback. On the other hand, there has been a trend for many employees to establish separate personas for work and for personal life. HR folks know how to deal with employee privacy issues, while also always being aware of employee recognition that benefits the organization.

In many cases, your goal may be to simply get buy-in from business units to promote the social media feeds of other divisions — no personal social media feeds necessary. For example, a financial institution might want its wealth management division to retweet messaging from its mutual funds division. While this may sound like a very natural thing to do, implementation is not for the faint of heart.

Do an employee advocate inventory

Once you get opt-in from business unit management and employees to participate, it’s now time to get a sense of the potential network.

This could most easily be done by requesting each employee fill out a social media footprint form, which includes their platforms and the number of followers or friends. As we will see shortly, it’s also important to know the nature of the employee’s audiences to the extent they know. This provides the ability to align central messages with the specific interests of segments in the advocacy network.

Companies like Gaggleamp actually map employees social graphs to graphically determined which ones have the greatest number of possible sales influencers.

Start with universals and then ease into vertical

Given that re-distribution of social media content is a very personal thing, business units and employees will want to select from a list of messages or links they feel reflect the personas of their followers.

I’ve experienced strong push-back from some business who felt they were simply being coerced into being a vehicle for retransmitting any promotional materials. And in many cases I felt I was being guilted into re-tweeting feeds that were of no interest to my audience. There was no win-win.

To avoid this, it’s best to provide a social media content link selection with as many universals as possible. This requires a social content aggregator who understands which pieces have a high propensity of redistribution from what you’ve learned about your employee advocacy network members.

Make the redistribution process as painless as possible.

The ability to redistribute or retweet the social content should be as simple as click to tweet. You also need to be sure that graphics are included in the prepackaged content listings.

Determine how you recognize high volume advocates.

Whether through a gamification process or simply by counting retweets and shares from employees, a reward system should be baked into the program. Considering the power of Metcalfe’s law, recognition should probably be a bit more special than the always popular Starbucks card.

Report results to employees and senior management

Regularly let your constituents know how much increased exposure the company and business has received as a result of the program. These numbers will vary depending on how compelling the social content is, but sharing metrics is a great way to encourage increased participation, recognize results and show participants how they are making a difference.


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  1. Great insights here. These are many of the tips we share with our clients. Great to see you also agree these are the strategies to implement Employee Advocacy programmes. Thanks for the share


  2. Thanks for the kind words Mike !

    Are there any tips you would add from your employee advocacy experiences that weren’t covered in the piece ?



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