Employee social advocacy programs are having a moment. Come to think of it, they’ve been having a moment for a while now. Fact is, more companies are globbing on to this trend–and, for good reason. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, the most trusted relationship people have right now is with their employer!
Companies like Starbucks, Reebok and Humana (just to name a few) have implemented employee social advocacy programs over the last few years. And, I’m sure we’ll see many more in the year ahead.
As you probably know, these programs are usually built using some form of tool (Post Beyond, Bambu and LinkedIn Elevate are common). And, these tools then serve up content employees can post on social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The idea is usually to encourage employees to personalize the content, but as many of us know that have worked in this sphere, that rarely happens.
So, employees end up copy-and-pasting content from these tools to their feeds. Easy-peasy, right? Everyone wins, right? The brand wins because the employee is “advocating” for them (even selling, in some cases). The employee wins because….wait, how does this benefit the employee again?
And, there’s the rub: It doesn’t.
In fact, in many ways, I would argue employee social advocacy programs are at direct odds with the concept of building your personal brand.
I’ve seen it too many times to think this is an anomaly.
Think about it. You see your friend who just took a job with Home Depot. Suddenly, they’re sharing a dearth of Home Depot content in their LinkedIn feed. Some posts feature the brand and its financial performance. Others highlight rock stars across the Home Depot company. Yet others showcase the new Home Depot advertising campaign. You know exactly what I’m talking about, because you have a friend like this, too. We all do. Many friends, in fact.
And, in some ways, all of that is great. You should be proud of the company you work for. You should want to shout it from the mountaintops. You should want to brag a little.
Except, that last word is the key point. If you’re thinking about your personal brand (and I would argue you should ALWAYS be thinking about your personal brand), then sharing company updates non-stop in your LinkedIn feed is a de facto way to annoy the heck out of friends, colleagues, former colleagues, and, the worst part: prospective employers.
After all, don’t we coach brands that way on social media? Be helpful. Be a resource. Provide informative content! This is the advice we give our brand partners. Yet, when it comes to showing up on social media ourselves, some of us share only information from our employers (and most of that is fairly self-promotional).
Does that jive with the personal brand you want to build?
It wouldn’t for me.
For an example of what I’m talking about, take a peek at a post by local recruiter and long-time community builder, Lars Leafblad:
Lars is hitting on exactly what I’m talking about. You build “brand” (i.e., trust, affinity and goodwill) by providing value online. You do it by being likeable. And you do it by helping and showcasing others. NOT by promoting your company or service every time you get a chance. That’s how you get labeled as a corporate mouthpiece.
Here’s the big danger: In a world where there is no loyalty in business (sad, but true), you absolutely cannot afford to sell yourself out and promote your company 24/7 on social media channels. You can’t do it. Well, let me rephrase: I wouldn’t do it. And, that is exactly what employee social advocacy programs are set up to do. They want you to share everything. Their success hinges on volume. It doesn’t hinge on your building your personal brand.
Those two things are at odds. And, as long as that’s the case, I think employee social advocacy programs will struggle.
Of course, just my two cents. What do you think?