HOW TO MAKE AN EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER PROGRAM IN 2024

Find below how to create an Employee Influencer Program in 2024. Learn how to write a program that converts your employees into the best influencers of your brand.

Brought to you by Mau, a senior Influencer Marketing Specialist at eDigital.

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HOW TO MAKE AN EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER PROGRAM IN 2024

Knowing how to work with influencers does not mean you can use the same tactics to turn employees into brand ambassadors and advocates. 

WHAT IS AN EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER PROGRAM?

An “Employee influencer program” is an initiative generally led by marketing or corporate PR to turn workers/employees into small-scale influencers powered by software and apps that make it easy for employees to post and be rewarded (in some cases).

An “Employee influencer program” remakes a company’s employees into public-facing company advocates. It generally asked volunteer employees to post on behalf of the organisation they work for.

A well-designed “Employee influencer program” may invite employees to publish different types of content, from a “behind-the-scenes” look at life at a specific organisation to product delivery or best product usage.

By giving a voice to its front-line employees, a company’s “Employee influencer program” can humanise its brand and give customers authentic, relatable content that they want to see and engage with.

In some cases, a successful Employee Influencer Program turns employees into a social media force to be taken into account and might presage a future in which workers are tapped to promote products, broadcast promotions and combat the bad press.

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THE OPPORTUNITY

According to Linkedin, employee engagement and advocacy are among the hottest topics for marketers, so it’s no surprise articles about Employee Influencer programs will continue to resonate well in 2023.

Creating a culture that encourages your team to get involved and share content should be a top priority in 2023.

As marketers, we have to be able to practice what we preach, which means creating a culture of employee influence and engagement inside our organisations.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak at the “Investigating the Social Media” Conference in Sydney, Australia; a couple of years ago and one single thing that surprised me from all the enterprise attendees I talked to was no one had created an implemented an Employee Influencer Program.

Since the launch of Facebook in 2006 (See social media history timeline), brands are feeding employees marketing content to share on social channels and in most cases, it’s not good content. It makes the employees look bad and it makes the brands look bad.

ENTER THE AGE OF THE EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER

The good news today is companies are realising employee social channels are a valuable amplification channel for both corporate PR and marketing.

The bad news is some companies are not respecting the value and integrity of personal brands.

A few companies elevate the employee brand above the company brand, respecting the value of the employees’ preferred brands and working directly with employees helping them become the superstars of their employee influencer programs.

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Employee Influencer programs (also called: employee advocacy programs) should be part of your employee engagement plan.

Mau – Senior Digital Marketing Manager at eDigital

Your Employee Influencer Program should be part of a plan for the employee journey that looks at every touchpoint of the employee experience, from recruiting and onboarding to enabling, listening, developing and retaining. Your Employee Influencer Program should be part of your overall Employee Engagement Plan that includes:

  • Intellectual buy-in (communicating vision, plans and “how you fit in”)
  • Emotional buy-in (gamification, social amplification, peer recognition)
  • Brand advocacy (Employee Influencer Program)

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WHY TURN EMPLOYEES INTO INFLUENCERS AND AMBASSADORS

  • Make your employees the start of the show!
  • A broadened view of Customer Service and Customer Development: more people can educate your most profitable customer segments.
  • Not only promoters of brand stories but creators of them.
  • Free brand amplification at all levels of your company. An Employee Influencer program (aka Employee Advocacy Program) is not only for senior executives. You should invite all the talented people on your team. The average employee has (on average) 500 social connections, and because people trust people more than brands, that makes employees a fantastic partner to create and promote your brand stories.

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THE TOP 15 BENEFITS OF EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER PROGRAMS

  • Acceptable level of Social Media Engagement– Encouraging social media interaction from employees can be a slippery slope that leads to employees not managing their time in the most productive way possible. Make sure you have an appropriate Social Media Policy or Guidelines in place to ensure that all employees are made fully aware of the acceptable level of social media engagement that is permitted whilst at work. You might want your lawyer to check your Social Media Policy and add it to an Internet use policy, as well as into the employment contracts of each employee. By adopting and implementing a well-curated and well-communicated social media policy, your company staff can enjoy the advantages of social media while mitigating the associated risks.
  • Avoid negative social media commentary from employees – Failing to have the appropriate regulations inserted into your Social Media Policy can result in employees inadvertently or purposefully publishing bad commentary about your business. This can hugely damage your business’s reputation and has the potential to result in defamation claims against your business. To make things worse, if the comments are damaging a competitor, it may result in anti-competitive behaviour claims, which can result in large legal costs. A well-structured Social Media Policy can account for this kind of behaviour.
  • Clarifying who owns what when employees leave – It is a huge risk to employers when ex-employees social media accounts contain confidential business information, such as client numbers and details, and the employees continue to communicate with these clients. Your Social Media Policy should account for these risks by inserting an intellectual property clause into the Social Media Policy that states that all intellectual property, at the termination of employment, will remain the property of the employer. If left unchecked, this can easily result in litigation due to the complexity of the ownership issues. While in most cases it is understood that client lists remain the property of the employer following termination of the employment relationship, the lines between ownership of social media accounts are blurry at best, such as when the client list being claimed is a list of followers on the employee’s social media accounts.
  • Bad-mouthing your own company – It isn’t hard to imagine employees having an argument with their boss and then resorting to social media to vent their frustrations about the company. This can lead to employers wanting to terminate their employees’ employment contracts. This area is seldom dealt with in the Courts, so make sure you consult your employment lawyer before you fire an employee for this kind of behaviour.
  • Guide employees  – with practical and real best practice examples including comments about your company’s activities, assets, brand names, IP and employees. This will clear up any doubts.
  • Minimise negative publicity from a comment made by an employee, franchisee or contractor via social media.
  • Set guidelines on how to respond to public or unhappy customers’ commentary (social media trolls, terrorists).
  • Ensures what sort of topics should be avoided when commenting on social media.
  • Clarifies who the official public spoke persons are and/or brand ambassadors who are the ones talking to the media.
  • Break down any misinterpretations about what is considered IP and not.
  • Shed light on the dangers of not thinking before posting online.
  • Make plain guidelines on how to become a “social media ambassador” for your company.
  • Explain who to contact when a media outlet is looking for employees’ opinions.
  • Avoids threatening staff (Commonwealth Bank issue 2011) over the use and commentary via social media channels.
  • Ensures staff understand their social media role when they are representing the business via social media channels.

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BEFORE CREATING AN EMPLOYEE INFLUENCING PROGRAM

  • Effective training is needed. While you should never try to control anyone on social media, at least with this audience (Employee Influencers) you do have some involvement in how they represent themselves – by giving them effective training and guidance to be successful.
  • Check a couple of Social Selling and Advocacy software. Some options are https://www.trap.it/
  • Mapping and using internal influencer networks should be routine. Also, research the ways that different social media platforms are already being used. Audit what sort of conversations are happening among the most popular platforms and provide examples of what’s acceptable and not.
  • No ‘one size fits all. Drafting an Employee Influencer Program can be different from business to business. This largely depends on the company‘s culture and strategy towards social media. For example, an e-commerce website conducting business online would focus on risk managing their social marketing strategies on how they interact with customers online. This focus would be different from a professional services consultancy which would be more concerned with maintaining the goodwill of clients. Both need to protect against the risk of damage to their reputation. An Employee Influencer Program needs to be individually tailored.
  • Involve managers across your organisation. Do proper consultation with your department managers as different departments might have different ways to talk about your company and brands.
  • Track via alerts that negative employee commentary or bad sentiment when mentioning your company name or brand names on social media channels. You can do this using the free Google alerts or paid tools such as Radian6 (SalesForce), Brandwatch and others. You should pick up patterns from this and take action and fix any problems. People are talking about it for a reason.
  • Use positive sentiment and commentary as examples when drafting your new Employee Influencer Program. Make it easy and clear for managers across your organisation to understand the social media voice and tone your employees are encouraged to use.
  • Consider and predict problems that could arise in the future, especially for upcoming new products or services that might create some level of controversy.
  • Consultation is key. Understand employees’ key objectives when talking about your company via social media. This will help you gain trust and get buy-in when implementing your Employee Influencer Program. Employees often know more about social media platforms than the managers who are trying to regulate them.
  • Standard Employment Contract. Your standard employment contract should stipulate that your business has an Employee Influencer Program that will be updated from time to time. Your employment contract should also set out potential consequences resulting from an employee’s failure to adhere to best practices as an influencer. Ensures all employees are aware of the benefits and risks of making a public comment about your company.

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TOP TIPS WHEN IMPLEMENTING YOUR EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER PROGRAM IN 2021

  1. Define a content strategy – if you don’t have a strategy, you will fail
  2. Define your audiences – I say audiences because it is not singular. Customers, employees, influencers, potential recruits, partners, etc… Also, work out where they are. Customers come directly to you in the last 8% of their buying journey. How can you capture their interest during the 92%?
  3. Content hub – A hub is a place you can drive customers to. It’s how you measure and understand the impact. It makes it easier for your customers to find you.
  4. It’s all about GREAT content – no matter what you do, if the content is poor or your employees aren’t proud to share it, then you are wasting your time. Being awesome is all that matters
  5. Build a great team – writers, editors, photographers, designers or social animals who will find the stories in your business. Look within your company and without
  6. Find engaged employees – start with those already doing it. But you’ll uncover surprising stars too – in my training, I have taken people from doing nothing at all to becoming superstars on social media and with content. Sometimes you just need to unlock the potential and it’s not always obvious.
  7. Reward/celebrate – it doesn’t have to be much – $100/blog, annual awards, monthly stars. Just make sure you honour your superstars because they are the future success of your business
  8. Have a clear record within your business that your employees are aware of the terms of the social media policy. Each employee should be asked to read and sign an acknowledgement that they have read the social media policy.
  9. Updates. Ensure you regularly update it to deal with new behaviour and new technologies.
  10. Accounts ownership. Add a clause about ownership of social media accounts that are utilised to market the business, and their forfeiture upon termination of the employment relationship;
  11. Be clear on what not to do. Your social media policy might state, for example, that employees should not:
    • mention mired disputes in a public forum or social media;
    • claim to speak on behalf of their employer without permission; or
    • use the company logo, trademarks, IP and customer’s details without your company’s permission.
  12. Ensure that your employees are aware of the existence and current terms of your social media policy. Give employees regular reminders about the terms of your social media policy. If you conduct regular staff reviews or hold regular team meetings, these are excellent forums for discussion of existing policies and any policy changes.
  13. Integration with other Policies. It’s also important to ensure different policies are not viewed in isolation from each other, she says. For example, there should be clear interaction between the organisation’s social media policy, the internet and email use policy, and the bullying, harassment and discrimination policies. Each of these should refer to the social media policy, and the social media policy should refer back to them. If the policies are not integrated and, for example, social media is used to facilitate bullying, there could be confusion over which policy to apply to the situation.
  14. Consistent enforcement. Having a great policy is one thing, but failing to enforce it can undermine all your hard work. You need to properly identify and investigate potential policy breaches before speaking with the employee concerned, then carefully document the discussion or warning so that there is evidence of the breach. Be consistent in enforcing the policy across the board for all employees at all levels of seniority to keep the message strong. If staff members notice that some employees are getting away with posts that others are being disciplined for, the employer’s inconsistency could be used to challenge subsequent terminations. Regular or repeated breaches of your social media policy, particularly by a ‘repeat offender’ or an offending group, can create a hostile work environment and be damaging to your business. Although each breach viewed in isolation may not provide sufficient grounds for dismissal, multiple breaches viewed together may constitute serious misconduct. This is because repeat offences reflect a disregard for your business policies and priorities, and can destroy the trust in your working relationship. The Fair Work Commission considers repeated breaches of a social media policy by an employee to be incompatible with the employee’s duties and has upheld the decisions of employers to terminate employees in those instances.
  15. Clearly outline your expectations. Clearly and unambiguously outline the standard of behaviour expected of your employees by setting out what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable use of social media. Including examples where appropriate. This standard of behaviour can range from requiring your employees to maintain an updated LinkedIn profile, to restricting your employees from making any reference to your business or its customers on social media.
  16. Reflect duties imposed by law. Your company and your employees have a variety of legal obligations under anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws, and these aspects should be covered in your policy so that your employees are familiar with the legal requirements.
  17. Intellectual Property. Your business name, logo and slogan all constitute your intellectual property, which can be damaged and devalued if misused. Your social media policy should remind employees that your intellectual property is valuable and that their unauthorised use of it would likely result in real damage, including financial damage.
  18. Set out the consequences of non-compliance. To avoid the costly and time-consuming nature of legal action, it is vital that you set out the consequences of failure to comply with your social media policy. Consequences can range from requiring an employee to attend a social media policy training session to an employee’s dismissal, depending on the seriousness of the breach.  
  19. Group unacceptable social media use behaviours in your policy according to the likely consequences, so that your employees understand the severity of the behaviour and the corresponding consequences. Clarifying the consequences from the outset will assist you in effectively enforcing the policy if breaches occur. Your policy might also state that multiple minor breaches of the policy, taken together, can lead to dismissal. Employees should be made aware that some behaviour may have consequences that extend beyond the termination of employment. For example, misuse of your business’s intellectual property or specific instances of destroying customer relationships may give rise to a claim for damages with financial repercussions for the employee.
  20. Appropriately regulate personal use of social media. Just because your employee uses social media in their time does not mean that their use is private – in fact, it is usually for the whole world to see, including you and your customers. ( Example: People can easily take screenshots of Snapchat images and conversations). This means that it is common for companies to place appropriate restrictions on their employee’s personal use of social media to safeguard the company’s legitimate business interests. Recent decisions of the Australian Fair Work Commission show that disciplinary action may be taken against an employee if their social media use has seriously damaged their relationship with their employer, other employees or customers, or damaged the reputation of their employer’s business. This remains the case even if the use was outside of normal working hours. Accordingly, your social media policy should set out your expectations regarding your employees’ use of social media for private purposes. For example, your policy may require your employees to name any online posts as their own opinion. This ensures that your business is distanced from any comment that your employee makes that does not reflect your business opinions. You should also consider whether it is appropriate to restrain your employees from discussing topics on social media that are likely to cause offence or incite an argument. Whether or not this is a reasonable policy will depend on the nature of your business and the degree to which your employee’s reputation is connected to the reputation of your business.

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HOW TO GET YOUR BOSS TO APPROVE YOUR EMPLOYEE INFLUENCING PROGRAM 

  • Having a Social Media Policy document is only the first step. You need then to find the most appropriate way to explain and remind your employees, franchisees and contractors about your company expectations when talking via social media channels.
  • For new employees, it is important to give them a printed copy and spend a few minutes explaining what it is and what it means. Giving them examples of both bad and great social media behaviour can reinforce your social media policy.
  • For current employees, especially key brand ambassadors, public spoke persons, the CEO and other top executives; it is imperative to offer them training on best social media commentary practices.

UPDATE YOUR EMPLOYEE INFLUENCING PROGRAM

You should review your social media policy when:

  • There has been a breach in the policy by an employee, you need to find out whether your policy was not clear enough.
  • When there is a new way of social media communication on an existing social media platform or when there is a new popular social media platform.
  • Once a year to check the validity of guidelines, people to contact and any other factors.

WHAT TO AVOID WHEN LAUNCHING YOUR EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER PROGRAM

  • Avoid policy requirements that are onerous and unreasonable. Example: suggesting employees control their friends’ commentary about your company via social media.

EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER PROGRAM EXAMPLES

Some companies already running successful and popular employee influencer programs include Walmart, H&M, Amazon, Samsung, Dunkin’, Zappos, Dell, Netflix, Vincit and others.

Walmart Social Champs TikTok

Walmart‘s Social Champs content on TikTok – Employee Influencer program

SHOULD EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER PROGRAMS BE MANDATORY?

No. Employee Influencer Programs should be a choice for employees to participate in.

THE TOP 3 SOFTWARE AND APPS TO RUN EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER PROGRAMS

  • Brand Networks
  • DSMN8
  • EveryOneSocial

CONCLUSION

Start Designing your Employee Influencer Program today! Start with some Social Media Guidelines to encourage people to think and act as your brand influencers.

NEXT

eDigital can help you conceptualise, plan, develop, run and optimise successful influencer marketing campaigns that generate leads and sales for your brand.

Our digital marketing services include:

  • Strategic planning for social media and other digital marketing channels.
  • Online advertising management and optimisation (Search, Display, social media ads and re-marketing).
  • Marketing training: social media training and digital marketing training. 
  • SEO strategy and execution. Including content development (articles, stories, eye-catching and SEO-optimised visuals).
  • Celebrity and influencer marketing campaign strategy. 
  • Brand development. Logo creation, brand personality development and design of marketing materials.
  • Consumer contests/competitions/giveaways.
  • Email marketing. Dip sequence design and deployment. 
  • Conversion rate optimisation. It is also called “path to purchase” optimisation. 

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HOW TO CRAFT AN EMPLOYEE INFLUENCER PROGRAM IN 2024

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