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PodcastEmployee Advocacy

The 3 Enemies of Employee Advocacy [Podcast]

By Emily Neal11/05/2023August 23rd, 2023No Comments

[Episode Twenty-Nine of ‘The Employee Advocacy and Influence Podcast] 🎧

In this episode, Bradley and Lewis discuss what they consider to be the three most common/problematic roadblocks (or “enemies”) of an employee advocacy program.

Organizations all over the world in every sector are driving strategic competitive advantage by scaling the impact of their employees’ voices… and now YOU can too! As we delve beyond the why and get straight to the how so that you can put employee-driven growth at the heart of your organization.

We’re back for season 2! Welcome to the new and improved version of our show. In this new format, CEO Bradley Keenan is joined by DSMN8’s very own Lewis Gray (Senior Marketing Manager) as a co-host.


BK: Welcome to the Employee Advocacy and Influence podcast. My name is Bradley Keenan. I’m the founder and CEO of the employee advocacy platform DSMN8, and this is version 2 or season 2 of our podcast, so for people who have listened to it before will know that generally, it’s just me speaking essentially where we’ve got to with it is, I’ve run out of stuff to say. So I’ve asked Lewis to join me on the podcast, So I’m gonna hand over to Lewis now, so he can introduce himself.

LG: Yeah, my name is Lewis Gray. I’m the senior marketing manager here at DSMN8. Brad, I never thought I’d hear the day that you said you’ve run out of things to say.

BK: I’m just being polite. So this podcast, when we originally had the idea of producing a podcast, we wanted to keep it really tactical. So when people were listening to it, they could essentially come away with something rather than this just be an opportunity to interview people and kind of get their life story.

So the goal of this podcast remains the same – that if somebody is listening to this, ideally, they are either running an employee advocacy program at the moment or they are looking to launch one soon, and our objective is to give you information that can help you do that.

And we tried to keep everything platform agnostic, obviously we run an employee advocacy platform, but pretty much everything we speak about you could put into place even if you weren’t using an employee advocacy platform. So this podcast is, we’re going to try and pick topics or things to discuss, so we’ve come up with the idea of having this podcast focused around the three enemies of employee advocacy.

LG: What I consider, I’ll start with what I consider to be one of the biggest enemies of employee advocacy, which is an outdated or just not up-to-date social media policy, so either not having a social media policy or having one that’s outdated.

And what I mean by that is if you think back to the advent of social media, companies were introducing social media policies, but generally speaking, they took the approach of “don’t talk about us on social media, and if you do, you’re in big trouble”.

What you have to consider is, if you’re trying to launch an employee advocacy program and you haven’t communicated this change in attitude towards social, then your employees are going to assume that the attitude to them posting is exactly the same as it was when social media first came about, which is “don’t talk about us on social media or you’ll you know you’ll get in trouble”.

So you either need to update your social media policy so that it clearly communicates this changing attitude towards social or you just need to write one. You’d be, Brad, I don’t know how many times you’ve seen this, but I’ve heard about so many companies who just don’t have a social media policy at all.

BK: One hundred percent, so your enemy of employee advocacy was one of mine, and I’d phrase it’s slightly different, so I had the enemy of employee advocacy being a fear-led social media policy. Which is something that I see all the time, so people would say we’ve got a social media policy, and essentially what that policy is is a document that would, quite frankly it would, just scare the crap out of someone to ever actually post on social media because it’s just a list of things that can go wrong.

We had a client or potential client who I spoke to a couple of months ago, and they were talking about their social media training, and basically, their social media training was just here’s all the things that could go wrong. And I was saying, well, this isn’t gonna make people want to post on social media.

It should be framed around how do you do this in a way that essentially prevents it from going wrong in in in the first place. But yeah, but corporate world, typically people are, you know, scared of getting things wrong, so the policy document will tend to lean that way.

LG: I think that as well. I mean, fear-led, that is probably the better way of putting it because that’s exactly what it is. That’s what these old social media policies are. It’s also a case of getting it in front of your employees. So social media policies are typically in employee contracts and things like that, right there’s no reason to.

I’m sure it’s gonna be on a on an intranet as well if you wanted to access it and find out what the company social media policy is but unless it’s communicated that this has happened, they’re gonna be none the wiser.

Even just doing something as small as sending out an email to, you know, all employees just saying that you’ve updated your social media policy, but in terms of launching an employee advocacy program, just making it part of the onboarding process. So just getting the social media policy in front of them, but also kind of leads me off to another point which is, make it easy to digest.

Because historically and even still, social media policies are going to be written by, you know, legal departments, they’ll definitely have their eyes on it, so as a result, that policy is just, well, the document is, you know pages long it’s just black and white text, and it’s full of legal jargon that nobody really wants to read.

If nobody wants to read it and if it doesn’t look engaging, they’re just not going to read it anyway, so you could update your social media policy to make it pro-employee advocacy, but you know if it’s a document that nobody’s ever going to read then you’ve kind of wasted your time. So it’s a case of getting all three right: updating your social media policy or potentially just writing one if you don’t have one getting in front of them, but then also making sure it’s a document they actually want to read. 

BK: Yeah, and there’s a big movement now towards companies producing legal documentation but doing it in a kind of palatable and design-led way. So we recently got approached by a company that we’re looking to take our master services agreement, our scope of works, which is essentially a legal document but actually adding design to it so it is something that’s easy for people to read.

So I think with social media policies it should be no different that you know if you give someone a 45 page black and white document nobody’s going to read it, even the person who probably wrote it, so I would say that we’re completely aligned on that one. So shall I move on to my first?

LG: Yeah, let’s hear it!

BK: So this is actually a bit of a bugbear for me, and I’m probably gonna upset some people with this one. But I think the number one the number one enemy of employee advocacy is social media teams that focus on vanity metrics and don’t care about actual outcomes.

So what I mean by that is, when an employee advocacy program is launched inside a company, it is typically the talent team, employer branding team or the social media team that run the program. Or a combination of both because typically, social media teams know how to write a social post which is quite a critical ingredient in running an advocacy program.

But what happens is that their own personal targets are not on business objectives, like high-level business objectives, such as growing revenue, reducing churn or whatever their metrics are grow likes on our company page, so what happens is when they launch the advocacy program, they see only value if the if it’s actually hitting those metrics.

Even if it’s raising significant awareness and reach outside of their corporate channels, they almost disregard that as valuable because their own personal metrics are those vanity metrics. So I think that’s changing a bit now, where people are thinking about it more carefully, but I would say that is my number one pet peeve.

LG: I think it’s one of those as well where it’s like you can kind of understand the frustration because, like with any new initiative, you launch, you want to be able to attribute the results, and you want to be able to measure the performance.

With talent and employer branding especially, you’re not always going to be able to. If your employees are sharing your content on social media, obviously, that’s great from a marketing side, sales side, whatever you can measure the performance.

But you can’t really measure the impact that is having on your on your employer brand, which is substantial, especially if you’ve got loads of employee-generated content going into your platform for your colleagues to share.

If you’re sharing a lot of company culture content stuff from staff away days or behind-the-scenes content, that kind of thing. It’s not necessarily gonna be measurable, but it’s a branding thing, right? You know, if loads of people are seeing your content, you have to realise that that’s what you have to appreciate that’s still having a significant effect on your employer brand.

BK: Yeah, one hundred percent! And the attribution thing is a big issue because, I mean I, my previous incarnation before being involved in employee advocacy was in e-commerce, where everything was tracked. So how many people land on the page, how many people go to the cart, and what’s the average order value of a cart? Everything’s metrics.

But when you’ve got so many different channels, where you’ve got some people posting on LinkedIn, on the corporate channel, then you’ve got people posting, attribution’s basically impossible. So you almost have to take a gut feel of whether is this helping, and typically businesses don’t really like that.

So comparative media spend is pretty much the best metric to use, because you can look at what awareness did we get for the content, and what would that have cost if I’d gone elsewhere. So what’s your second Lewis?

LG: My second one is I feel like this is the most one of the most common one, which is not communicating the employee benefits. And you can understand it, so this is communicating it with the people who are going to be participating in your program.

Because, from a program manager’s perspective, when they’re evaluating employee advocacy tools, maybe they’re on G2. If somebody landed on DSMN8’s website, for example, the first things you’re going to see are the business benefits, so you’ll see the benefits for marketing, sales teams, employer branding teams, which is obviously super relevant, especially if you want to get this thing signed off.

But when it comes to onboarding people and actually rolling out your program, you need to be able to communicate the employee benefits with the people who will be participating because otherwise, you know you’re going to invite them to this thing and their immediate thought is gonna be why would I do this? What’s in it for me?

So you have to kind of take a step back, put yourself in their shoes and consider their role as well. So let’s say, for example, it’s your sales team. We know social media is playing an ever more important role in sales processes with social selling.

It’s gonna be easy to communicate the benefits to them, because you can say this will help you manage your social media presence. It’s ready to share posts. Your marketing team, obviously you, can talk to them about the content they produce is gonna be seen by more people. Employer branding people for the for the reasons that we just mentioned.

Obviously, it’s gonna elevate their employer brand so you can communicate those benefits.

But for anybody outside of those departments, you have to focus on the personal branding benefits. So that could be you could talk to them about the various benefits of personal branding. Let’s talk about career opportunities, for example, whether that’s external career opportunities if you’re talking about their long-term career, but you can also communicate the internal career opportunities that it brings. So to be seen as somebody who’s participating in this thing and actually, you know, supporting marketing campaigns and, you know, promoting the company’s message, and seems to be somebody who’s actively engaged with the company.

Eventually, people are gonna realize, you know, when it comes to going for a an internal promotion, that saying it’s you versus somebody else, that’s just the kind of thing that will give you the upper hand. You have a personal brand online, but also you’re actively engaged with the company, and you seem to really care.

There’s so many different benefits you can communicate, but just so often, when program managers are inviting people, they’ll just say we want you to do this because we want our content to go the extra mile. That’s great for the company, but you have to make it valuable to employees; otherwise, they just won’t see the value.

BK: Yeah, and unless you’re going to either financially incentivize people or give them big rewards for it, they’re not just going to share content because it benefits the company. It’s literally as simple as that. But I think the problem is with legacy.

The concept of employee advocacy has been around longer than we have as a company. Right so, the original idea of employee advocacy what it what it originally was before it was even called, that was we can use our employees as a marketing channel. Which you know is still true.

But it was so one-sided that it was just like, “oh, I’m just gonna get my employees to share everything, and that would be great for the company”, but why would somebody actually do that? And especially when they get turned into a walking billboard, and it’s so obviously company-centric content being pushed out by employees. And I think that has actually harmed the industry long term because people actually when they think about employee advocacy, that’s their immediate position.

But the interesting thing with that is confirmation bias, because if that’s what you think about it when you see it done like that, it reaffirms that’s what employee advocacy is. We’re kind of playing around with this idea of having the concept, so we use it from a sales perspective when we’re selling to our clients we have, as all companies do a concept of an ideal client profile which is who can we approach who we think we would add value to who would make a good client to us.

So what we’re starting to do with clients is use this idea of an ideal advocate profile which is who inside your organization is actually the person that can benefit from this and, in turn, will benefit the company. So easy example is a salesperson.

Salespeople get paid commission based on deals they close, so if you can give them something which helps them close deals, they benefit from it, and the company benefits because revenue grows. That’s a good example of a good advocate profile.

Where it falls short is if you say oh, I just want everyone in the company to share all bits of content, regardless of what job they do. It works for a little bit, but because there’s no real value behind it, kind of can fall apart. So yeah, I think that was a that was a very valid enemy of employee advocacy, and I’ve got one that actually kind of links onto that.

LG: Good segue!

BK: It is a good segue. Yeah, it’s a skill.

So mine is people who use employee advocacy as a job board. Which I think is kind of the same one as you did, but it’s slightly different. So what can happen? It happens less now. I would say four years ago, it would happen very frequently is that obviously, if you’re going to advertise for a role, you have to pay LinkedIn to do that, so if you can get your employees to share your job ads, that’s a much cheaper way of making people aware of opportunities within the organization.

And it’s fine to do that, but the bit that I actually think is the enemy is when people fail to put context around it first. So if you’re going to share job ads, and let’s say we use the example of an engineer, right so if you’re an engineer, the probability is you went to university with other engineers that went on to work at other companies, so if I am an engineer and I share a job ad for an engineer at my company, my audience is relevant.

But if I haven’t done any work beforehand, talking about why my company is a place that people would want to work, then the job ad is just a bit of content that won’t get any reach.

So I would always say that for every one job ad you’re sharing via your employees, you probably need to be sharing ten other pieces of content which are about the employer experience, what it’s like to work in the organization, what the value is, the mission, all those kind of things so when you do share the job ad people actually want to to apply for it.

LG: Yeah, I think the interesting thing with that as well is people that made that mistake will often use, so this is probably a separate enemy within itself,  the language that they use when they’re writing posts for their colleagues to share so if it’s these job posts, for example, they write like the company would write. So the captions are always like super robotic.

BK: Yeah. 

LG: It’s like they,

BK: We

L: Yeah, always we!

They always say we and they’re using like the company buzzwords. I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Also, I don’t really want to call anybody out but. It’s so… you can spot it a mile off, but it ultimately harms your employee advocacy program as well, because put yourself in the shoes of the person who’s seeing that piece of content in their feed from that employee.

It looks so inauthentic, like nothing says my company told me to post this, like never posting about how good it is to work there, and then suddenly you’re posting a very robotic message about a new job opening, so it’s kind of like a double whammy isn’t it.

BK: Yeah, absolutely, and I think employee advocacy should be about enabling people who want to be active on social as opposed to just forcing everybody to do it. Obviously, we speak about that a lot, but it does surprise me how many people struggled to, I guess, think about the user, the advocate, and what that text actually looks like when they share it.

So they will say, oh, I don’t like it when it companies, you know, put corporate jargon, but then they do it themselves because they feel like that’s the right thing to do, but I think that’s changing a bit now. I think the maturity of the market is interesting because if you think, I compare what an employee advocacy program is against sales enablement tools just cause my background is in sales.

So I think about things like Outreach and Salesloft where they’re email sequencing tools, and arguably they’re kind of coming to the end of their cycle, and they probably need to reinvent themselves. But when email sequencing first started, the technology was one thing. How sophisticated people were at using it was a completely different curve. It’s probably four years behind the tech.

So people just spamming people on email with, you know, sending the same email to 1000 people is what they would have done at the start, and I feel like that’s what employee advocacy was, but I think there’s a new generation of people who are adopting the technology and actually saying actually there’s a smarter way we can use this, we can be more strategic, which I think is a is a good thing.

LG: Definitely! You’ve kind of something you said before has kind of segued me onto my 

BK: Another segue!

LG: And I promise to anybody listen to this, we genuinely didn’t know what each other’s points were gonna be, but sometimes you know. 

BK: Now you said that people gonna assume that you didn’t. It’s like when a comedian says oh, this is a true story.

LG: Yeah, you know it’s not.

BK: It isn’t so 

LG: Yeah 

BK: But we genuinely didn’t know, I promise.

LG: We genuinely didn’t. But yeah the, so what you were saying before about people failing to kind of take a step back and put themselves in the shoes of somebody who’s viewing that in somebody’s feed. My 3rd enemy of employee advocacy was this is the one that I said I’d have to explain is greed.

And what I mean by that is often, program managers will launch an employee advocacy program, or a company will launch an employee advocacy program, and they want to see results fast, which is great. Obviously, you want this thing to get off to the best start. You want to see maximum results. That’s obviously your goal. That’s great!

But what they fail to do is limit the number of times employees can share per day. So let’s use LinkedIn as an example, and let’s use DSMN8 as the example because within DSMN8, you can choose how many times employees can share through the platform per day.

And the reason that we offer that is because if your employees are posting let’s say 5 to 10 times per day, and you’re encouraging that, whether that’s by saying share as much as you can because we want to get this piece of content out there, or maybe you’ve offered an incentive that’s caused this to happen.

So let’s say you’re using a gamification tool like you’re running a leaderboard within the platform for people who share the most, and maybe there’s a prize for whoever tops that leaderboard at the end of the week. And as a result, people are sharing 5 to 10 times per day, so we want to get all those shares out. What you’ll see, to begin with, is an increase because, obviously, your program will start to go up and up and up because your shares go up, and clicks will start to go up.

That will then plateau very quickly, and it will actually have an inverse effect, and it will start to go down. So the performance will rapidly decrease. The reason for it, I mean, there’s two reasons: people will quickly realise it’s inauthentic if you go from not posting at all to all of a sudden you’re posting 5 to 10 times per day even, you know, three times per day I think can be a bit much.

It looks inauthentic. People stop engaging with your content, but that has a double whammy effect, because LinkedIn’s algorithm then says hold on, you’re posting a lot, nobody really cares about the content that you’re sharing, nobody’s engaging with it, and as a result, your future post is shown to less people, and that’s why obviously like I said it plateaus, but that’s where the decrease starts to happen so.

It’s great that you want to see people sharing more, and you want to get as many clicks, you know, right out of the gate as possible that’s amazing! But do it strategically and do it within reason.

Don’t get greedy from the start and think, you know, I’m gonna ask people to share as much as they possibly can, and then I’m gonna take the first week’s performance to, I don’t know, the CMO, for validation or whatever it is. Limit if you can. I think that’s one of the most important things is just limiting the amount of times they can share for authenticity sake and for the longevity of your program as well.

BK: Yeah, absolutely. People sharing five pieces of content a day, especially if every single one of those piece of content is just a link to another piece of content. It’s definitely not something people want to do.

I think one of the problems that’s caused by that is actually gamification. So obviously, I have to tread a little bit carefully because we have gamification in the platform, but gamification is great if it’s an afterthought and it’s a kind of thank you.

When it becomes the primary objective, it just alters the way that people view the idea of employee advocacy, and we’ve seen it where we’ve had customers who have launched with gamification, and they put such an emphasis on it that even when we get a support ticket people will refer to it as “the game” and they will say you know “how do I win the game”, and it’s like well there’s no there’s no game to win.

But then it just encourages people just to not think about what they’re sharing, to just post ten times a day just because they think they might get an Amazon voucher. And it’s just not a sustainable way of doing it, so I think it comes back into that idea of being more selective over the people that you actually bring into the platform and educating them on why they would do it for themselves and not just to win an Amazon voucher.

LG: Yeah, and also it’s, not only does it appear in authentic because suddenly they’re sharing 5 to 10 times per day, or does it say more than three chances are they’re also just not taking the time to write their own spin on that piece of content.

So the beautiful thing about an employee advocacy platform is that you can provide, again I’m speaking about DSMN8 here, but you can provide captions for your colleagues to use when they’re sharing.

Perks of doing that obviously, they can then share without having to think about it. They can just jump in. There’s content ready to share. It’s pre-approved by you know yourself all the program manager.

But you want to encourage them to kind of have their own take and to write their own captions that’s there for convenience, but you want to encourage them to share authentically, and if you’ve done a good job of communicating the employee benefits, then they should be doing that anyway because they want to add their own take they want to build their personal brand. But if they are sharing three plus times, and it’s just very quickly gonna get you to know clearly, not putting any thought into it.

BK: I mean, I’ve tested posting every day, and I’ve tested posting twice a day and even testing twice a day. It has a big impact on reach. As soon as you share something, it basically cancels out the growth you were getting from the last post, so if you share five things a day, you’re basically giving your post an hour before you cancel it. So yeah, I think that’s good one.

My final enemy of employee advocacy is internal communication teams, and I’ll explain why. So they’re not always, but there’s a big misconception in employee advocacy that it’s an external function, and it’s an external channel, and it isn’t true.

So what can happen is if you work in marketing so, there’s a blurred line between marketing, employer branding and even internal communications. They’re all communications functions but doing basically a different task, right?

So an internal communications team is really there to educate their workforce about what’s going on in the company: the mission, the value, all those kind of things, and your external function marketing team are there to take a message which we want to broadcast to the outside world, and we’re going to do that in through social and events or whatever we do.

So sometimes an internal communication team, if they see that somebody wants to launch an employee advocacy program, especially if that program involves an app they, will see it as competition against their internal communication function, their intranet or whatever. And it becomes a bit bit of an internal tassel. Tassle? Is that word? Tassel? Tackle?

LG: Yeah, it works.

BK: Argument between marketing and internal comms, where they almost fighting for that space of having the app. But in reality, when we looked at it, and it was some time ago, it was about a year ago, we looked at what percentage of interactions and clicks and comments were coming from internal people when somebody shares content externally, and it was over 30%.

So what that means is that if your senior leadership are sharing content on social media, they’re actually reaching the workforce that is an internal workforce, so it’s an external channel that has internal value.

And actually, when you compare that against the percentage of people who are logged into an intranet on a regular basis, you could argue that employee advocacy is a more effective internal communications tool than most internal communications tools it’s just done using an external channel. 

LG: It’s a really interesting one. Actually, I can think about times where that’s happened in the past where it’s not something you know, we work relatively closely together, let’s say you shared something to social, it could be a piece of industry news or something like that I might not have seen, but I can absolutely see how if you’re in a big company it could be something that the sales team shared.

I don’t know, and somebody from marketing has seen it, and suddenly they’re a bit more clued up about something that’s going on in sales. So it’s an interesting one! It’s not one they’ll actually consider to be honest.

BK: Yeah, it’s kind of like if you worked for a public company. Obviously, you’ve got earnings calls that happen quarterly, and that is probably the best way to get your internal news. Right? Because that is the truth, it’s what you can’t lie to those calls.

They’re very important, so if your CEO goes on there and says that revenue is down, then that is true. If internal communication says everything’s fantastic, there’s no validating that. So most people who work for a public company will, you know, not most, but a large proportion of them will tune in when they do their earnings calls because that is internal news. So I think employee advocacy can be very similar to that. 

LG: Definitely, yeah, I was gonna finish up by saying about a few of the resources that will pop in the description or below, or you know, wherever you’re listening to this podcast, it’ll be in the show notes description. But that’s probably something we can include in there, right Brad, that piece of research we put together.

BK: Yeah, absolutely! I think there was a social post that went out. It’s probably something we could redo, actually and see how that’s changed. Obviously, this probably was during COVID, so it’d be interesting to see what that data looks like now in the kind of hybrid workforce thing. So yeah.

LG: Definitely, well with regards to the to the points I mentioned, we’ve actually put together a social media policy template just so that if anybody out there needs to update their social media policy, you can download our template.

Build on it, edit it, take away from it, whatever, it’s just some ideas so that you guys can kind of get the creative juices flowing and include whatever else you need to include. But it’s just a guide there for what we think is necessary, so we’ll pop that in the description, and I’ll pop a link as well to a guide that we’ve got on what we consider to be the Comprehensive Guide to the Most Common Employee Advocacy Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.

BK: Awesome then. If anyone wants to get in touch with us, LinkedIn is always the best way to do it. Appreciate everyone taking the time to listen to this podcast today, or watch this podcast, and any feedback you’ve got; please feel free to send it over. Thanks for tuning in!

LG: Cheers, guys!

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Emily Neal

SEO and Content Specialist at DSMN8. Emily has 10 years experience blogging, and is a pro at Pinterest Marketing, reaching 1 million monthly views. She’s all about empowering employees to grow their personal brands and become influencers.