Why Your Employees Aren’t Advocating Your Retail Brand

Why Your Employees Aren’t Advocating Your Retail Brand

According to the “Employees Rising” study from Weber Shandwick, social encouragement has an outsized impact on employer advocacy among employees. For example, employees with socially-encouraging employers are significantly more likely to help boost sales than employees whose employers aren’t socially encouraging (72% vs. 48%, respectively). Makes sense.
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The study goes on to say that: “One in five employees (21%) is estimated to be an employee activist, and another 33% have high potential to be employee activists. As the movement grows at an increasing speed, employers have an enormous opportunity to engage and capitalize on these powerful advocates, or risk missing out on an important group of supporters and, at worst, fail to curtail detractors who have the potential to upend company reputations.

Retailers failed to respond to more than 80% of consumer questions and requests on social media in the last year. [Source: Sprout Social’s Q4 2015 Index]

Here are some great stats to from Social Chorus [which is an awesome news/sharing app for workplaces] on how employees feel about Employee Advocacy:

  • 93% of employees say they will make good advocates for the brand
  • 87% of employees see career benefits from professional social sharing
  • 94% of employees want to hear about what’s going on from leadership
  • 86% of employees would feel more engaged if they knew more about what was going on

As business leaders know, the impact of social media on an employer’s reputation is now an everyday reality. What some employers don’t fully realize is how critical social media is to employee engagement and how it fuels employee activism. Here are some eye-opening facts from employees perspectives [Source: Weber Shandwick]:

  • 50% post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer
  • 39% have shared praise or positive comments online about their employer
  • 33% post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer without any encouragement from the employer
  • 16% have shared criticism or negative comments online about their employer
  • 14% have posted something about their employer in social media that they regret

Employee Perspective On Why Brand Advocacy Is Broken

  • Fast-Paced & Chaotic Organizational Changes:
    • 84% of employees have recently experienced an employer change such as a leadership turnover, extensive lay-offs, merger/acquisition, financial slowdown, etc.
  • Ineffective Internal Communications:
    • Only 42% of employees can describe to others what their employer does and only 37% can articulate what its goals are.
  • Weak Employee Engagement:
    • Only 30% of employees are deeply engaged with their employer. This low level of engagement is not surprising given the acceleration of change combined with poor communications.

Reach & Influence

  • Reach: The “reach” of your employees combined can easily span beyond your brand reach, and beyond the platforms you’re currently on. While you’re focusing your efforts on Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter, your employees probably already have a presence on other social networks you haven’t even explored yet, like Reddit, Tumblr, Path…the list goes on and on. While “diluting” your online presence is often frowned upon (i.e. being on so many social networks just for the sake of saturation), your employees are probably already on these platforms, so your reach can expand thanks to them, and you won’t have to make any compromises to your existing social strategy.

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  • Influence: Influence comes with authenticity, trustworthiness, and reach. Keep in mind that offline influence is rarely counted into online algorithms – your employees may be influential with what they do outside of social networks, sometimes more than they portray on social media.

“A confident employee voice emanates from a real understanding of, and ability to, communicate the value of your product to customers. Genuine and transparent conversations occur when employees speak in their own voices, accurately and without hesitation.” – Cynthia Pflaum

Impediments To A Thriving Employee Advocacy Program

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  • You Haven’t Earned Their Trust: Fundamentally, your employees need to be engaged and connected to the business for advocacy to work. Engaged employees that are proud of your brand and your culture want to share that information and that is when a retailer can truly tap into top quality and earned media potential. This is why it is so important to discuss your organizations Mission Statement and Values, consistently. When there is an alignment in purpose – you will have people who willingly and enthusiastically share the brand purpose and all the great things your organization is doing for it’s employees,  customers, and communities.
“The biggest fear holding employees back from social networking is the fear of saying something wrong…so they say nothing at all” – @SarahGoodall
  • You Haven’t Developed Them To Share Information [Or Told Them It’s Okay To]: Right now, it is very rare to find a retail organization where Social Media training and guidelines are shared during the onboarding process. However, it is necessary to bring understanding and clarity to this very important business initiative. Retailers need to be crystal clear from the very beginning of the relationship life-cycle that social media is encouraged and appreciated – and that this initiative is supported with tools. This can get a little tricky:
    • When creating and sharing company content that you would like your advocates to share, answer four W’s for employees:
      • What should I share?
      • Why should I share it?
      • When should I share it?
      • Where should I share it?
      • These things should answer:
        • Who do you want to reach?
        • What is your target audience?
        • Do you want to reach your existing demographic, or do you want to reach out to a different demographic?
        • Do you want to increase brand awareness?
        • Do you aim to increase the positive perception towards your brand?
        • Do you want to focus on customers (including potential customers)?
    • Communicate results that show progress of the program or initiative:
      • As with all programs – it is easy for the employees to become disengaged or lose momentum when there is no communication around the process so:
        • Connect employee contributions and initiatives to your business results consistently.
        • Establish desired results in aggregate and in individual performance and discuss actual results of both to encourage team effort and employee contribution.
    • Here are the metrics you can track:
        • Traffic Driven
        • Sales/ROI
        • Employee Conversion Rate (YOY or monthly increase/decrease – how many of your employees are active advocates?)
        • Employee Activity (who are the most active advocates? How often are they engaging?)
        • Employee Influence (how has this program helped boost your employee’s online influence?)
        • Advocacy Impact (how is your employee advocacy affecting your organization’s online presence?)
        • Sentiment Change (towards your brand; For example, improved NPS score)
        • Reach (is employee advocacy boosting your organic reach?)
        • Demographics Change (are you noticing a shift in brand demographics due to employee advocacy?)

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  • You Haven’t Established Clear Guidelines: Have clear guidelines, but not too restrictive to counteract trust and freedom. Don’t impose guidelines, but if you can, crowd source them to determine consensus. Make the guidelines realistic, easy to understand, and easy to follow. You need guidelines that enable advocacy instead of hindering it: guidelines on what to share, how to share, ideas on where to share content, and an outline of the incentives that employees can benefit from. Here is the most difficult component for retail organizations to embrace: What your employees want to share is entirely their prerogative. Whether you want them to share your latest deals, information about your products and services, or the latest articles from your content site, it needs to be something that your employees consider relevant to them and their followers. If your employees don’t feel that your content or hashtags are relevant to them or their network, the chance of sharing and supporting will be very, very small. This is why you need to make sure that the content you want shared encompasses an array of interests, to reflect the diversity of interests, opinions, and personalities among your employees.
  • You’re Making It Too Complicated: As you can tell by this post – this can be a daunting task but with organized effort and a clear set of guidelines you can create a great and supportive advocacy program for your organization/or team. If your organization is absolutely serious about supporting an employee advocacy program, invest in a tool that will help you amplify your relevant and branded content in a scalable way with analytical reporting to help measure and report on the business impact. Here are some great organizations for this:

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  • Your Content Isn’t Authentic: For example, if your just sharing promotional content, that is basically a self-serving advertisement – you won’t find sustainable advocacy among your team members with this style of Social Media sharing. Finding the right content mix for your current and future customers [and future talent attraction] is critical to a successful program. The heart of any employee advocacy strategy has to be curating and creating content for sharing that is “relevant, timely and purposeful”. Do your research and listen to what your customers want to read and what your employees want to share. Utilize the guideline of the 4-1-1 rule. Share 4 pieces of third party content to 1 piece of branded thought leadership content and 1 piece of straight promotional content. According to Dynamic Signal and MindShare – 74% of employees feel they’re missing out on company info and news. So, don’t think of your employee advocacy tool as a mechanism just for the amplification of  your branded content; think of it as a way of helping your employees stay informed, adaptable, and engaged with all company information and priorities.
  • The Executives In The Organization Don’t Embrace Social: This 23 page study by Weber Shankwick discovered that executives with social CEOs say their CEO’s social media presence makes them feel inspired (52%), technologically advanced (46%) and proud (41%)! Show, by example, that it is encourage to dedicate time to social media and that it is a really fun part of everyone’s job.

This topic popped up primarily because of all of the postings on LinkedIn right now asking for placement of displaced employees from the many retailers that are going out of business. Lots of District Manager’s and Store Manager’s have become very vocal advocates for themselves and their teams. If we can tap into that authentic desire to advocate and draw “customers” – in this case, future employers – into their environments, perhaps so many retailers wouldn’t be in such a desperate state if we embrace our natural inclination to share the things we are proud of and excited about. It starts with the employers and how they introduce and teach advocacy – organically – into the culture.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | beth@excellencein-retail.com [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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