Skip to main content
PodcastEmployee Advocacy

“Quick Wins” Are Detrimental to Employee Advocacy Success [Podcast]

By Emily Neal21/06/2023August 23rd, 2023No Comments

[Episode Thirty-Five of ‘The Employee Advocacy and Influence Podcast] 🎧

In this episode of the podcast, Bradley and Lewis highlight why an employee advocacy program won’t work if you only focus on achieving quick wins. They expand on the importance of putting together a great launch strategy that focuses on social media training to ensure continued use of your employee advocacy tool.

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.

Welcome to the new and improved version of The Employee Advocacy and Influence Podcast. 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, and with me, I have the star of the show, Lewis Gray.

LG: I love these intros. They’re just getting better and better every time.

BK: I’m going to hype them up each week.

LG: Perfect. Perfect. Yeah, today we’re going to be talking about why looking for quick wins can ultimately hurt your employee advocacy program. So let’s get into it.

LG: Okay, so the idea for this episode came about through a number of channels, really.

So I was listening to a number of sales calls speaking with the sales team, basically, to put together content ideas and something that kept coming up as a, I don’t wanna say an ejection, it’s a bit of a pain point. So it’s almost a crossover here into customer success. And I’ve spoken with the team there as well, and they’ve kind of echoed the same thing.

And it’s this idea that employee advocacy seems to not work for organizations when they’re so focused on getting quick wins. So obviously, if you’ve got this thing signed off, it makes total sense. You wanna drive results as quickly as possible. But in these instances and with the example that I got from our customer success team that the client actually ultimately churned, and I have no issue with saying that. And I don’t think they’d mind me saying that either because it sounds like, unfortunately, they did a lot wrong from the offset.

So with this particular, in this particular instance, they’d done exactly what we’re explaining here. So they’d focused primarily on just driving results as quickly as possible. They invited as many people as they possibly could when they first launched, but the reason why things, I think, went south quite quickly is because they didn’t put any emphasis on putting together a proper launch plan.

They didn’t put any emphasis on, on social media training. A number of things, they just, they weren’t very careful with launching. So they didn’t take the time to ensure the continued success of the platform. And so ultimately, what they saw was when they launch, because they’d invited so many people, a lot of people obviously got excited about this new tool, they started sharing content because that’s what they were told they were supposed to do.

But those people didn’t know why they should continue to use it. They didn’t understand the benefits for them.

They hadn’t been trained on how to use the platform or, you know, even some social media training. So they saw this initial launch, and then very quickly things plateaued and then just dropped off.

And like I said, eventually, you know they, I guess they found it hard to renew because of the or to get approval to renew it again for a year because of how the first year went. But ultimately, they churned, and you know, employee advocacy didn’t work for them. It’s not to say it couldn’t have. It’s just because of the way that they rolled out the program.

So that’s what I wanted to focus on today, we’ll kind of go through the importance of putting together social media training, rolling out correctly and putting together a launch plan and not just focusing 100% on results.

BK: Firstly, I didn’t know that we’ve ever had a customer churn. So this is news to me.

LG: Mic drop moment.

BK: Mic drop moment, yeah. So yeah, no, it’s really common. Not that people churn. It’s really common that people focus on short-term wins.

But that’s true in everything in life, right? If you’re training for a marathon, as a segue into you doing a marathon, you didn’t go out on day one and try and run three hours straight, right? You built up to it. You learned. You prevented yourself from getting injury. And ultimately means that you get to complete a marathon.

Red Flag #1: Pushing for Results ASAP

BK: I think what happens with employee advocacy because traditionally, and it still is, but traditionally it’s been sold as a marketing channel. As soon as someone’s got those, like the keys to the castle, they want to kind of exploit it as soon as possible.

And they can do that, but they really do forget why they wanted it and why they actually want this to continue to give long-term success and not just to promote, you know, the latest of you know, the latest thing that’s happening.

And, in fact, a red flag to me would be if somebody was signing up and we do this process where, I might mentioned this on a podcast last week or a week before. But when salespeople do, they join the kickoff call, the first call.

And as part of that presentation, they have to present basically the current state, the future state and the value that our product is giving to somebody, the long-term value. Salesperson has to basically stand in front of, you know, it’s not a stand, but in a Zoom call with me and the clients. And basically, this is why someone bought it.

If somebody was saying the reason why they bought it is, they’ve got an event coming up next month. They really want to push results for that event. That would be a huge red flag for me because, yes, you can use it for that event. But after that event finishes, what then? Like, do you have a plan beyond that point?

LG: Yeah. And that’s the thing you have when you say about these red flags, you know, our team will pick up on stuff like that. So I don’t know if they’d mind me naming them. So I’ll just avoid it. But the person I’m speaking within our customer success team, I know for a fact that they will be there, you know if they notice something going wrong or something kind of going awry or they’re kind of straying from the path a bit and maybe going down a dangerous path with, with their program, as this one did, then this person would interject and say something.

But obviously, as a customer success manager, you can only send so many emails, you can only suggest so many calls, and you kind of just have to stand back and watch this thing fall off a cliff. So there’s always, the help’s always there. And it’s not, it’s not something that’s, it can happen to any organization, but it’s, I don’t know, it’s about getting it right from day one.

But the analogy that I pulled back to when I was talking to our sales team was something any good marketer knows is when you’re putting together your strategy for the year, you kind of have three instrumental steps.

So you’ve got your market research. This is very broad. I’m kind of summing up a lot of work that will go on here, but you’ll do your market research. You’ll put together your strategy. You’ll focus on your tactics, and you’re, you know, how you’re going to employ them essentially.

BK: Mm-hmm.

LG: If you’re just focused on results with your employee advocacy program, essentially, what you’re doing is the equivalent of a marketer just focusing on tactics.

Maybe they’ve done their strategy, but they’re just not calling back to it. But if you haven’t done that strategy, you’re essentially just hoping that if I throw enough mud at a wall, some of it’s going to stick.

And I think that’s the, I dunno, it’s the equivalent of when you’re running an employee advocacy platform, if you don’t put your strategy together to launch properly and to ensure continued use, then you’re really just sort of swinging and hoping, really.

Red Flag #2: Making Employees Feel Like They're a Marketing Channel

BK: Yeah. And most people, sorry, most people don’t, well, people produce a lot of content, but how much content does a brand produce that is there to serve the employee versus serve them?

So if I launch an employee advocacy program today, I invite 5,000 people to it, however many, and the first ten pieces of content that go in that, in that advocacy program are, please download our white paper, please attend our webinar, please go to our website, register for a demo. Here’s 20% off.

The employee is going to feel like they are literally just a marketing channel. So they’re going to stop using it. So that’s when you spoke about that initial spike is yes, it’s there, and you will get people use it out of curiosity, but to use it on an ongoing basis, it has to serve the individual.

So I think a classic case of where people focus on the short-term wins is actually in the tone of voice that they use when they write social media when they write the posts for the advocacy program.

LG: Yeah.

BK: Because, and I’ve actually contemplated talking to the product team about this idea of having like warning words, you know, like we, as an example, it’s a big warning word. We are excited to launch our new product. So if we say that, and I’m a person sharing it, who am I referring to? The Royal we, like I, It’s not a person speaking. It sounds like it’s marketing.

So an example would be my show notes that I wrote down here. So yes, as an example for, if you were doing a webinar, which, let’s say you’ve launched a program, you have a webinar that comes out next Friday or is on next Friday, and you want to get as many people to join, it’ll often be common that someone will say something along the lines of, we are excited to announce our webinar, please sign up here.

Or, you know, there’s a really simplified version, but essentially that as where what it should say is, because this is a person saying it, something along the lines of, I was just looking at the agenda for our webinar that comes up next Friday. I’m really excited to hear X speak, especially because Y if you’re interested in attending the webinar, the link is below. That’s how a person speaks.

It’s a bit softer, far more likely to actually generate the results, but marketing teams can sometimes get so stuck in the way that they speak on their corporate channel that they don’t think to adjust it for their advocacy program. You know, and we work on that ourselves. So, you know, and this is our thing. So it’s not it’s not pointing fingers. It’s just it’s one of those things. I think people need to understand and learn.

LG: Yeah, and I have to take a step back from time to time and kind of switch off my marketing brain and think, oh, hold on, like I’m writing for a person now. This isn’t something that I’m sharing to DSMN8’s official channels. Something I wanted to call back to you that you said a moment ago, which is just, just a second slipped my mind.

BK: Do we do silence on the podcast until you remember or?

LG: We need almost like a filler sound or…

BK: Yeah.

LG: like Tweety Birds or something like that when that kind of thing happens.

BK: Yeah, we’ll get Selina to drop it in. But just to kind of while you remember what you were going to say, so just to kind of go further into that.

So we always tell people, if you’re putting content into the platform, put the content in that serves value to the person sharing it. So one of the things that we’ve just launched is this concept around evergreen content.

So evergreen content basically means it’s content that can be shared all year round. It’s not time-sensitive. It’s not pushing a product, or it’s really just insights, and you know, really well-written social media posts. If I was to go in there and hit random, it’s probably going to serve me something which I could slightly tweak and edit and actually would make a really good social media post I think naturally as business owners or marketers.

We immediately think, how can this benefit me? How what’s the post going to do for me? How’s it going to generate web traffic for me? How, you know, and we keep thinking about that way, but actually what it does is even if it’s a text-only post that is just to generate engagement with the audience if that person clicks and expands the post, they like it, the next time you share your, we’ll call it your self-serving content, it’s far more likely to be seen because the last three posts have been, you know, not a survey, but maybe just an insight or a piece of industry news. And things that are more person-led rather than company-led.

LG: I’m going to take a step back just because I was sort of laughing to myself for a second there. The second that I said switch my marketing brain off, I need to switch my marketing brain off, my brain quite literally switched off, and I forgot what I was gonna say. I did remember I was gonna say this still.

BK: You forgot to switch on Lewis.

LG: Yeah, I forgot to switch it back on.

BK: You just went completely into standby mode.

LG: Yeah, just nothing going on.

BK: Fire up, Lewis, go.

LG: Yeah, so with the captions, basically what I was going to say was. If you don’t switch off your marketing brain and you end up, you know, writing a load of captions that include ‘we’ and all these kind of like corporate buzzwords that don’t sound like a person’s written it, this is where training comes into it because if you’ve taken the time to train your employees on how to correctly use the platform and maybe done a bit of social media training as well, not doing that, you run the risk of them just mimicking what you’ve written as like, captions for them to use when sharing.

So obviously a dream scenario. If you curate a piece of content for the rest of your employees to share, you’ll write a few captions in there just because, obviously, it saves them time. So they can just use one of those captions and share it to their socials.

The ideal scenario is they’ll tweak it themselves. So they’ll use that as a guide to, you know, save time and to kind of understand what, not what they should be saying, but just to give them some pointers.

BK: Hmm.

LG: And then they’ll tweak it slightly. If they haven’t had the training, they’re just going to mimic what you’re doing.

So even if they are writing their own posts, they’re going to start saying, we’re like proud to announce this or, you know, the name of the company thinks that whatever it might be. I’ve kind of taken us a bit off-topic there. Brad, apologies, but I just, my brain just kicked back in again.

Red Flag #3: Social Posts That Obviously Look Like Employee Advocacy

BK: You know, I can spot. So if we’re in, you know, I think I’m becoming a cliche now on our podcast, but if I put my sales hat on for a second, I can look through LinkedIn, and I can spot posts that are written by employee advocacy programs. I can see it a mile away.

And then, you know, not our clients, other people’s clients that have a competitors of ours, and then they go straight into our CRM or somebody to try and speak to. Because you can see, the way it’s structured is not written by a person, it’s written by a social media manager.

And while this might not be a very popular thing to say, it’s very common to say that certain percentage of salespeople aren’t very good at their jobs. To be fair, it’s as common for marketing people to not be very good at their jobs either.

It’s actually more likely if a salesperson’s bad at their job, a quota is what tells you, and then they basically lose their job because they don’t hit their target.

You know, when we speak to people, we get really excited when someone’s forward-thinking about how they’re going to run their program, but when they think strategically about how they’re going to do it, you know, it doesn’t matter what brand they are, you know, the correlation between how well known your brand is and how well your employee advocacy program is going to run, there is no correlation between those two things.

You can have a really well-run brand, but the person running the program, just pumps self-serving content in there. How can I get more people to download our webinar? Sorry, attend our webinar, download our white paper.

You switch that single individual into thinking about the person and how this is going to serve them.

All of a sudden, the whole thing changes, which is great because it means that to run a good employee advocacy program, you don’t need to be a tier one Forbes listed brand.

It all comes down to the marketeer’s own strategy and not thinking about how is this going to benefit me in 30 days. You think about how it’s going to benefit me in, you know, 12 months.

LG: It’s interesting what you said before about being able to spot posts that have come from other employee advocacy programs because I feel like I have a very similar thing, and there’s, there’s almost always a direction to the CTA.

So to the call to action, it’d be like click the link below. Nobody would ever say that, like no advocate or just employee who doesn’t work in marketing would ever feel the need to direct to a link that they’re sharing to social because the links there, it’s like, I’m talking about the piece of content, here’s the link. It’s not. Click the link to learn more.

You know they have to do that, but again, this is the result of no training. When you’re writing, when your advocates are writing social posts, I’ve seen this time and time again, and this isn’t me being able to spot something that’s clearly come from an advocacy program. This is more being able to spot when somebody’s not a social native.

So I’m just trying to stress the importance of having a bit of social media training too. Because you’ll see people writing social posts almost like emails. So if you spend enough time on social, I don’t think you need to go through a course or blog post to know how to put a very basic LinkedIn post together. You kind of understand the essentials.

Whereas I will see posts that are literally just, it’s a paragraph. Like it doesn’t say anything, it’s literally just a paragraph with an update, doesn’t look engaging. And I know obviously there’s a, it’s almost like there’s a fine line between the two.

You don’t want it to look too marketing oriented or like it’s been written by marketing, but at the same time, something like that is very much the extreme on the other end of the spectrum.

BK: It’s making me laugh because you said about the social media posts. So there’s a very well-known business person who I was connected to on LinkedIn.

And he posted a post kind of post-pandemic when every other post, but you remember when AI wasn’t a thing or Open AI wasn’t a thing. And all those posts were about people going “Do you prefer working in the office or, at home or hybrid? Which one do you like?” It was those posts right where that was 50% of LinkedIn.

And he had written this post about why he thinks everyone needs to get back to work, right? Go to the office. And then, at the end of the social media post, he had signed it off with his name, right? So he said about it being like an email. So he had written like, it was almost, I can’t remember if it was kind regards, but it was kind of like kind regards and then insert well-known business influencer’s name here.

LG: Was it a full name or just first name?

BK: Full name, like

LG: Ah, that’s even worse.

BK: So then I commented on it. And I said, “I don’t know what’s more old fashioned, your view on the workplace or the fact you sign off social media posts with your name, and now I’m not connected to him anymore. So he actually went in and unconnected with me.

LG: Oh, I thought your mean it had annoyed you so much.

BK: No, no, I just commented on it just for fun. It just said like, you know, like, cause I’d seen the fact he’d signed off his name, I thought that was funny. And then

LG: Yeah, yeah.

BK: It was kind of, yeah. And then, yeah, so no longer connected. So, you know. Tear face. But yes, so you can see it. You can see it when it’s not the person. And I’ve connected someone on LinkedIn, and they’ve got a huge following.

And I guarantee if I look at it, it’s bigger than their companies, right? And all of their social media posts do not contain full stops, and they’re all written in lowercase. And they have a bigger following than their company. Now, I don’t. You’re a different generation to me. So is that a style thing, or is that?

LG: I feel like I’m going to divide opinion here. It is, but it really gets under my skin. So it’s something you have to actively try and do is write all lowercase because I mean, to be fair, not everybody is using an iPhone, but I know for a fact with most smartphones, if you start a sentence in lowercase, it’s going to correct you to uppercase It will just do it automatically.

BK: Yeah, It’s like the most common word used in my phone is ducking, apparently.

LG: Oh, brilliant!

BK: Yeah, the amount of times I write the word ducking in a message it’s unreal.

LG: There needs to be a way to turn that off.

BK: Yeah, I’m going to try. So yeah, sorry.

LG: No, no, it’s just, yeah, it gets under my skin because I know it’s something that I think is, maybe I’m just getting older, but it’s something that I know people do to kind of stylize things. So you’ll often see it with like very trendy celebrities will post their Instagram captions all lowercase, no punctuation and that kind of thing.

Should Non-Marketers Write Employee Advocacy Posts?

BK: Do you think there’s a component to it when you’re when you’re putting copy into an advocacy program that there would be value in having a non-marketing person do it?

And I think back to when, if you think about again, I’m going to do the whole talking about sales thing, but if you’re super polished, like in your cold call, people hear how polished you are. I know as soon as I get a cold call from someone and they know exactly how to launch the call, tonality is great.

I know it’s a sales call because of how good they are at introducing themselves on the phone. As where if there’s a little bit of like, pause and kind of finding their words, it’s actually more likely to be somebody who’s calling me out of the blue.

Lewis: Mmm.

BK: And I wonder whether, with advocacy, maybe there would be value in looking for a group of non-marketing people to help write the copy for the posts. So it is more authentic.

LG: I think there’s value in that. I think the only downside is, in my mind, it’s only a matter of time before they start mimicking. You know what’s been done until this point.

Cause if you just give them a brief, and it’s like, okay, these posts are gonna be used by any number of employees. We need to write in a few different styles as well; bear in mind cause you know, some captions might be assigned to the marketing team, some might be too senior leaders or whatever.

So I think it would only be a matter of time before they started writing them slightly differently. But I think it would be good to just get other people’s takes.

BK: And to focus on not doing those quick wins, you know, a way of doing that is actually to if you think about launching an advocacy program is like launching a product.

Okay. Everyone says that Apple didn’t do like, you know, they don’t do customer feedback or whatever, and they just know what customers want. But I think that’s probably rubbish.

You know, do you think that people should be speaking to their employees before they even put anything in the content in the program to say, what, what content do you want? Like what tone of voice do you like? And actually gathering that so you can build a product based on customer feedback.

LG: 100%, definitely. Any opportunity you can get, if you’re connected with and have the relationship with these employees, obviously, with us, we’re not a small company, but compared to companies with tens of thousands of employees, obviously, we can pretty much reach out to anybody within the company.

But if you can reach out to anybody and just get a bit of ad hoc feedback as to how they’re finding the platform, it’s all super valuable because you might hear one thing that’s slightly negative and think, oh, I hope, you know, everybody else doesn’t feel that way.

So then it kind of spurs you on to just go and ask a few more people, say, okay, this person mentioned this. Ask them the same questions, then maybe shoehorn in this new one.

So this person mentioned this. Is this something that bothers you as well? Because it will just help you refine it, and just like I said at the start, continued usage is just as important as initial adoption rates.

So don’t drop the ball once you’ve launched it like you need to focus on continued usage. And the only way you’re gonna get that is if you know that employees are using the tool. And the only reason they’re going to be using the tools if they’re happy with it.

BK: Hmm.

LG: And to, to be happy with it, obviously, as a program manager, you’ll have done your research on, on different vendors and determine which is the best one, but to be happy with the platform, you’re the one that needs to make it something for the employees. You have to put the content in there.

BK: Yeah, and you know, were obviously we’re biased, but there’s, there’s a number of credible employee advocacy platforms. I mean, there’s loads. But there’s probably four that I would see as being serious and, you know, able to, you know, look at, you know, and we’re in that four, by the way, spoiler alert.

So yeah, there’s, there’s prob, but ultimately if you don’t have a strategy behind it, you’re just buying expensive tech that you don’t know how to use.

It’s just like buying a stupidly, you know, fast car and not having a driving licence or even a basic fundamental understanding of how to drive it. You still have to have the knowledge behind it.

And like I said, when we work with clients where we could see that they’ve actually thought these things through and they see this as a 12, 24, 36-month thing, actually the short-term success is actually bigger as well. So it does work. It works for both the short and the long-term.

LG: Okay, so to summarise, I think the most important thing to take away from this is the age-old phrase of short-term gains create long-term pains.

You need to, from the start, put together a launch strategy that focuses on user adoption and training. Listen to feedback. So it’s not just about the launch strategy, and it’s not them results. It’s about continued usage. There’s three steps to this.

So listen to feedback to ensure continued usage. And just manage your expectations. So most employee advocacy programs will show ROI within the first month, but if you put too much of an emphasis on results, realistically, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. Brad, I don’t know if there’s anything you wanted to add to that.

BK: No, I think you earned your name as the star of the show. That was an amazing summary. So yeah, I think it summarised it very well. So it was a good summary.

LG: Perfect, I’ll take that. Thanks, man. Amazing, right, well, I don’t think we’ve mentioned any resources in this episode, but if there’s anything that we think could be of further value, we’ll drop that in the show notes below. But as always, if you wanted to connect or reach out to myself or Brad, LinkedIn is the best place to do that. But yeah, thank you very much for listening, and we’ll catch you next week.

Ready to get started with employee advocacy?

But not sure if you’re ready for an employee advocacy platform?

Take our short quiz to see if you have the foundations in place!

Prefer to cut to the chase and speak with a member of our team?

Roger that!

Schedule a call with one of the team.


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.