How employee advocacy drives engagement—and vice versa

Context and the WIIFM factor—what’s in it for me?—can help generate good will within your organization, and that prompts staff to promote your brand, which in turn boosts morale.

Dinner time in our household is not all that peaceful.

Recently, though, we started talking about the real world—what’s going on outside our little bubble.

We talked about the recent avalanche in Italy and the inauguration of Donald Trump.

I scaled back the explanation considerably from, “He’s the new leader of the free world and president of the United States of America,” to, “You know your keyworker at school? Well, Trump is a bit like the top keyworker for all other keyworkers.”

I think my girls get it—just barely.

Kids need simple explanations. When they understand, they get curious and start asking questions. When they ask questions, they’re engaged. They want to learn.

That exchange opened my eyes to a key element of staff engagement: Context is everything.

If you can’t answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” from an employee perspective, you’re probably not ready for employee advocacy.

Employees have to be emotionally connected to your employee advocacy program as much as they’re emotionally connected to your brand.

If employee advocacy is introduced in order to streamline internal communications, to boost marketing impressions or to provide a content hub for social media commerce, then you’re coming at it from the wrong angle.

Start with the employee

Imagine a pyramid.

The brand (at the top) creates content, content cascades to employees, and the masses shall share it on social media.

Wrong. No employee wants to be used as an amplification vehicle for marketing content—unless it’s relevant to their network and interesting to read.

Now, turn that pyramid upside down. Employees (the masses) are now at the top of the pyramid. The brand now supports the creation of lots of individual expert-led content—authentic employee voices that can explain the brand story in their own words and how they contribute to it.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How will employee advocacy help your employees?
  • What will they gain from getting involved?
  • How will this help them do their job better?
  • How will it support their next career move?
  • What’s their role within the program?
  • How can they progress through the program?
  • What training will they receive?
  • Does their direct manager understand the value of the program?
  • How will the business encourage their participation?

A business leader might feel this looks one-sided and that it isn’t going to generate revenue or decrease costs.

Wrong again. According to Aberdeen Group, companies with an employee advocacy program report a 26 percent increase in revenue year over year.

Other data show that organizational revenue deriving from customer referrals soars to levels more than three times greater than that of organizations without an employee advocacy program in place. (15.1 percent vs 4.6 percent).

Finally, organizations that have an employee advocacy program in place enjoy significant gains in overall sales team attainment of their annual quota, amounting to 2.7 times that of all others (13.1 percent vs 4.7 percent).

A recent report from Altimeter discovered that employee advocacy does indeed drive employee engagement.

When employees were asked how they felt after sharing work-related content, the leading response was, “I feel more connected and enthusiastic about the company I work for,” followed by, “I better understand my employer’s business.”


A connected workforce engenders an engaged workforce. This advocacy approach goes way beyond the silos of sales, marketing, communications and HR.

The collective employee brand is fast becoming more powerful than the carefully orchestrated business brand.

Organizations must embrace social networking as a way to connect all relationships across the business including their employees, customers, prospective customers, suppliers, partner, future employees and leaders.

After all, a connected business is a social business.

What do you think? As an employee, would you advocate your employer’s brand? What would motivate you to become a brand ambassador?

A version of this article originally appeared on the Tribal Impact blog.

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