June 14, 2023
Many marketers have heard of employee and customer advocacy, but many haven’t developed a tandem strategy yet. Instead, we continue to send the same old newsletters, Slack messages, and other platforms to connect with employees and customers with the same results.
Despite the idea of advocacy being around for years, C-suite executives and divisions outside of marketing are often unsure of the idea, which can make it a hard sell. Why do it? What’s the benefit? Does it work?
The answer is a resounding yes, and we made strides in both areas by running our programs in parallel to improve both customer and employee experience.
Why Advocacy and Why Now?
isolved is a people-first human capital management (HCM) company offering an intelligently connected human resources (HR), benefits, and payroll solution along with the right combination of services to meet the needs of People Heroes (HR, payroll and benefits professionals). We aim to free People Heroes from tactical work so they can exceed their goals, transform employee experience and grow their careers.We’re always looking for ways to elevate the voice of our customers and employees, so creating advocacy programs for both was a strategic initiative we took on with purpose and passion after our rebrand in October 2020.
At that time, under new marketing and strategy leadership, we established a brand team, redefined our marketing efforts and were ready to build meaningful social proof. We needed to provide third-party validation to establish our brand in the marketplace, especially after consolidating multiple brands and going forward under a single one with a unified vision.
To do this, we focused on three areas:
- Thought leadership: Accelerating brand awareness to earn the recognition and respect of future customers
- Social sharing: Building a digital presence for our sales team to engage potential customers and growing awareness and advocacy for isolved
- Analytics and ROI: Creating goals for our brand awareness, adoption and advocacy.
Employee advocacy involves turning employees into brand advocates, enabling them to amplify brand content across multiple personal social networks. Building an employee advocacy program was first on our to-do list and would allow us to address all of our focus areas and energize our own workforce across a shared mission.
A New Platform Would Help Us Meet Our Lofty Goals
Typical employee-facing content can easily get lost among other messaging and work-related tasks. We saw this firsthand in our earliest employee advocacy program, as most email requests became buried in inboxes. Plus, sending and responding to our messaging was very hands-on, creating friction that made initiatives fall flat (and fast).
By kickstarting a more robust employee advocacy program, we were determined to get closer to understanding employee experiences so we could offer more opportunities to grow their personal brand and connect with where they work. If we could create out-of-the-box strategies for supporting our employees, we could simultaneously improve our credibility and increase our brand reach.
We set pretty high goals:
- Increase user adoption by 50%
- Increase social media reach by 50%
- Increase website traffic by 10%
- Increase brand channel followers by 35%
- Raise web conversions on Google Analytics to 200 events per quarter
We knew we couldn’t get there with our current approach, so we turned to PostBeyond.
How isolved uses PostBeyond for Employee Advocacy
The adoption of PostBeyond played a substantial role in our first employee advocacy program. We were confident in our partnership from the first demo: the intuitive interface and clear analytics dashboard gave exactly what we needed.
Let’s take a closer look at the strategy.
Curating the content mix
We combine a healthy mix of branded and third-party content to ensure employees come across as objective experts. To do this, we encourage marketing, sales, and HR departments to suggest relevant content via the PostBeyond app. People actually want to read this content since all suggestions come from thought leaders, internally. It also helps us determine the right channel for the right message, since some content doesn’t make sense to share through official corporate communications.
We also have a very strategic content marketing calendar. Everything gets filtered through PostBeyond to ensure employees are aware of what information our customers will see. From events and videos to thought leadership and company culture, everything gets folded back into our social media strategy.
We also use PostBeyond’s alerts to build momentum around specific content, posts, or social media campaigns. We use push notifications to share information with our team directly from the app, enabling employees to play a role in developing and sharing content through their personal channels. Today, push notifications remain a large part of the exponential growth experienced by our brand on social media.
Getting leaders to lead the way
Company culture starts from the top down, so developing a culture of employee advocacy must begin with leadership teams.
Some organizations may experience pushback about the adoption of employee advocacy programs. Why should my team be involved? Should we have employees act on the company’s behalf? In this case, I recommend providing training and metrics to help leaders set expectations. For example, the amount of potential paid media offered to isolved through our advocacy program greatly exceeded expectations, which we could use to demonstrate the program’s success to our leadership team and a reason for continued investment.
Company culture starts from the top down, so developing a culture of employee advocacy must begin with leadership teams.
Working with power users is another great way to reinforce content efforts. At isolved, we recognize power users as anyone who suggests regular content and remains actively engaged with our corporate social channels. We want to encourage power users and other internal champions to suggest and share posts that refer to their personal initiatives, including blogs, job postings, or even new business campaigns. It’s important to identify top contributors early on to avoid creating an advocacy program in a silo.
Enabling internal teams
To that end, teamwork was a big part of our employee advocacy strategy. Like C-suite executives, internal teams may hesitate to engage with an unfamiliar employee advocacy program. We enabled our sales, marketing, and HR departments to team up for the launch of PostBeyond and our People Heroes Community (our customer advocacy program—more on that in a minute). This collaboration played a large role in increasing our reach and preparing employees for the shift ahead. We also worked closely with PostBeyond to develop a process to overcome some of those objections. These included:
- Engaging with managers and leaders to freely share ideas and information with their team
- Connecting personal apps with work apps by explaining the additional layers of security
- Explaining how sharing content from a third-party app won’t affect social media rankings
It’s a good idea to find new ways of encouraging continuous engagement. We still use newsletters and combine those with friendly contests to keep PostBeyond top of mind. We’ve also implemented PostBeyond into our current onboarding process, which makes engagement a habit from the first day of work, and many people jump in with both feet.
This employee advocacy strategy created a real difference for isolved. In just one year, we saw some encouraging results:
- 5.9 million increased reach
- $313,000+ earned media value
- 21,000+ clickthroughs
And this was only the beginning of isolved’s advocacy journey. With the success of our employee advocacy program now evident to all, it was time to begin part two of our strategy: launching a customer advocacy program with Influitive.
Customer Advocacy: Why isolved Launched Influitive
Customer advocacy is about mobilizing customers to become brand advocates and improving their experience in the process. The goal is to nurture meaningful customer relationships by working with them to share their testimonials, case studies, and reviews. It’s a powerful tool for validation and social proofing, which was critically important to the isolved team, especially after our rebrand and consolidation. It was equally important to us to address what was in it for the customers—we wanted to be advocates for them, too.
We started at ground zero. We didn’t have any named case studies or a formalized program for testimonials. Everything was very ad hoc, and focused on our company rather than our customers. We wanted to increase the voice of the customer while building the sales team’s reference pool and scaling customer interactions. To flip the script and reduce our turnaround times, we decided to join forces with Influitive to create a formal customer advocacy program.
Many of our leaders had prior experience with the platform and were big champions, which allowed us to move quickly. In the fall of 2021, we launched our formalized customer advocacy program, isolved People Heroes.
Influitive allows our team to utilize various features, such as challenges (targeted asks). We use these activities to advocate for ourselves without focusing too far inward, wrapping the strategy around a community that genuinely wants to engage. We are lucky to work with true People Heroes who want to help their human resource (HR), benefits and payroll peers as well as share their stories and experiences.
Working with Influitive was a big change from our previous customer advocacy efforts, where we tracked everything in a spreadsheet. We would engage people at events and gauge their interest in advocate activities, with a goal to eventually provide them somewhere to go to source advice, share their experiences, and socialize with their peers. Without it, we were just asking with nothing to offer in return for their efforts or their own personal and professional brand building. The Influitive community became a way for us to get away from the spreadsheet while providing a better experience for the customer.
The Influitive community became a way for us to get away from the spreadsheet while providing a better experience for the customer.
Without Influitive, our advocacy program would’ve been much more vendor-centric. Now, we have space to give to our advocates. Our People Heroes ask questions that range from, “Has anyone created this insert into their employee handbook?” to, “Has anyone dealt with this kind of experience at their company?” to, “I need to run a report in isolved, how do you do it?” And the response time has just been incredible. We have plenty of asks and opportunities for customers to engage in acts of advocacy, but everything wraps around a super helpful community that is offering genuinely helpful support (on top of our own world-class customer support teams).
Today, we lean less on our customer-facing teams for outreach to secure acts of advocacy, so we don’t have to pull them away from their valuable work. We’ve also streamlined our reference program, which was previously separate from the advocacy platform. Now we’ve created a singular view of all customer advocacy, People Heroes, and are able to improve their experience as a result.
Benefits of Using Employee and Customer Advocacy Together
Advocacy isn’t just about sending emails; it’s about cultivating relationships through multifaceted approaches. Not only does this help employees think about personal growth, but it helps “people people” like HR and payroll managers receive the recognition they deserve. Launching People Heroes with Influitive gave isolved a customer-centric tilt, enabling us to deliver better customer experiences and work toward a positive impact on revenue.
Launching People Heroes with Influitive gave isolved a customer-centric tilt, enabling us to deliver better customer experiences and work toward a positive impact on revenue.
We’re approaching our formalized customer advocacy program in five distinct phases:
- Phase I: Tracking volume and outreach, including registrations, case study growth, and response rates.
- Phase II: Measuring the impact of our online communities via conversations, engagement, and productivity gains through automation.
- Phase III: Tying our advocacy program to our revenue. For example, was a customer involved in a new booking? What did their journey look like?
- Phase IV: Replicating the success of the customer programs with partners.
- Phase V: Fully integrating People Heroes Community with our People Heroes University (learning experience platform) to form People Heroes World, where customers and partners can engage and learn together.
We initially wanted to make our customer advocacy program distinct from employee advocacy. And even though we manage the two programs separately, we’ve seen a great deal of overlap between the two and brought them even closer.
We believe in a simple formula: employees + customers = a holistic advocacy strategy. We realize now this unexpected marriage is a flywheel of holistic advocacy. It just goes to show, nothing good was ever made good on its own.
Want authentic customer stories like this for your company? Learn more about Influitive’s Upshot service.