Are you botching your employee advocacy efforts?

Many organizations want their people to become brand ambassadors, yet they make easily remedied mistakes. Here are five common missteps and ways to fix them.

In many modern organizations, the right hand doesn’t always know what the left hand is doing.

Marketing is … crafting messages?

Sales is … building relationships?

HR is … handling benefits?

With each department so fervently focused on its own objectives, we often have a rather limited view of what our co-workers are working on. As a result, the whole doesn’t always end up being greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s not necessarily a lack of desire on our colleagues’ part. Most people want to be engaged with their work in a more meaningful way. Unfortunately, only about one-third (31.5 percent) of employees in the U.S. say they feel connected with their company’s mission.

An employee advocacy program can help. By curating content through a central platform and inviting your colleagues to share interesting and relevant information across their social media networks, you can help connect the dots within your organization.

Such efforts will not only amplify your brand’s reach and engagement, but they will also affect individuals in a measurable way. According to the Gallup Organization, engaged employees are 22 percent more productive while also being more punctual, more present and more likely to stick around with their company.

In spite of these promising data, many brands aren’t set up for success. They either aren’t thinking through social media as an essential factor for their business, or, if they do have a formal employee advocacy program in place, they are executing it in a way that just isn’t sustainable or as effective as it could be.

With that in mind, here are five common missteps to avoid when running an employee advocacy program-and how to solve these challenges to improve engagement at every level.

Misstep 1: Relying too heavily on incentives

Some organizations attempt to gamify their advocacy programs to drum up employee participation. Though this can provide a measure of success, putting incentives at the forefront of your efforts is not recommended. Proceed with caution.

Too much focus on gamification conditions your employees to regularly expect some sort of incentive. Over-gamification puts a carrot in front of every intended action, from sharing content to reading important company news. Can you really sustain rewarding employees for every action? If incentives get curtailed because of financial constraints or other unforeseen circumstances, you will be left with the rug pulled out from under you.

Solution: To motivate your employees in a more sustainable and scalable way, you should provide frequent, targeted and easy-to-consume information that makes each team member feel essential to the overall organization. That means drawing the line between what’s being shared and why it’s important to different departments, with specific individuals given a shout-out for contributing to some larger effort. Incentives can support these efforts but shouldn’t be the focus. Check out these 21 recognition ideas for what might be a better bet.

Misstep 2: Forgetting to curate content

Employees are constantly inundated with emails, texts, calls, articles, social media posts and much more throughout the day. Keep in mind that you are competing for attention within a crowded space. Most workers spend one-fourth of the workday just reading and responding to email alone. Amid all that noise, it can be difficult for your employees to discern what company news they should be paying attention to, and why.

It’s up to your curation team to make the case by providing context and targeting messages to the right people. A lot of organizations overlook this altogether, assuming all their content is relevant to all parties at all times. This fatal flaw undermines consumption by giving people too much information to sift through.

Solution: Curate the most important content to different segments within your organization, stating clearly why it’s relevant to each. At the same time, know what constitutes the big news that everyone needs to know, which will probably be an easy sell to get people sharing across their social media networks.

Misstep 3: Not letting employees make the message their own

All too often, companies will curate an article for their employees to share and then queue up a Tweet, Facebook post or LinkedIn update-but in locked mode so that employees can’t add their own thoughts or tweak the language to be more in their own voice.

This defeats the purpose of employee advocacy. The intent is to empower your people to share important information while positioning themselves as trusted experts in their fields. Locking messaging undermines this effort by making your employees seem like nothing more than cogs in the mass marketing machine.

Solution: Though compliance issues and legal concerns are valid, it’s best to provide suggested messages that employees can personalize when possible. To ensure that the messages going out across your employees’ networks are always on brand, provide training and guidelines regarding your brand’s voice and tone.

Misstep 4: Ignoring employees’ personal brands

When organizations are overly concerned about controlling conversations, they often limit what their employees can discuss publicly all together. This approach must be re-imagined for the modern era, as social media becomes more integral to our communications (both personal and professional).

One important aspect of an advocacy program is supporting the personal brands of your employees.

If you understand and communicate that basic principle, your employees will feel more engaged, knowing your company cares about their professional development instead of just turning a profit. Unfortunately, the individual brand-building component of an employee advocacy program is often an afterthought.

Solution: Support your employee’s professional ambitions by giving them direction on ways to build their career through training, mentoring, and support from leadership. Also, ensure you have the right policies in place to guide your people about how they should approach different social networks with specific tactics. Remember to curate content that highlights employees’ success-from speaking engagements to mentions in the news.

Misstep 5: Not promoting the program

“If you build it, they will come,” rarely applies in business. This is particularly true with employee advocacy. Most organizations do a good job of promoting their advocacy program when it launches but then fail to keep selling it internally. Remember: The attention of your employees is divided among different tasks, making it easy to ignore a program that doesn’t seem to be a priority for leadership.

Solution : Set benchmarks for overall adoption of your program as well as individual shares. Pursue these goals with fervor by reminding people to log in to the platform to share fresh content. This can be supported through automated emails, special broadcasts and integration with other tools, as well as through internal ad campaigns showing how different people benefit from the program. Encourage each department to stress the program’s importance, ensuring that your employees understand the value of the information being curated.

Build a results-driven program

Perhaps the most important measure of an effective employee advocacy program is knowing that you have helped connect the dots for all the people within your organization. The corollary will be a greater impact for your organization.

Take a more thoughtful and strategic approach to this process, and your business will be well on its way to achieving even greater success-which everyone can share together.

Krzysztof Kazibut is the general manager of Bambu by Sprout Social. A version of this article first appeared on Convince & Convert.

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