Build a social employee advocacy program — Live from the Brands-Only Summit

Coverage of this session by Cale Johnson of Connect with him by following him on Twitter.

11:15 —'s Kurt Vanderah introduces Humana's Jason Spencer.

11:16 — Jason: Today, I'm talking about employee advocacy. I lead it at Humana, as well as our social customer care.

11:18 — Jason: What is employee advocacy? It's essentially empowering your employees to share your brand messaging — but it's also being able to communicate with your employees. We often think about “how do we get our employees to share our content?,” but it's also a way to communicate with your employees in a new way.

11:19 — Jason: The key is they're opting in to the program. We all hate emails, right? Employee advocacy is a program where employees say, “I want you to communicate to me.” It's not just saying we're “using” employees — because that's a really bad term. You're not just using them to gain impressions and shares, you're giving them information that they may otherwise skip.

11:20 — Jason shares some data: 50% are already sharing about your brand on social media. It's the same reason you joined social in the first place: People are talking about you, you need to join the conversation.

11:22 — Step 1: Create your strategy. What are your objectives? Drive traffic, brand lift, engage employees, increase sales? What do you want to get out of the program.

  • Benefits for employee: Be first to know (insider); better understanding of company, help shape the company's brand; increase networking opportunities, etc.

11:24 — Step 2: Define benefits. Of course there are benefits to the company. He highlights a few:

  • Sense of community: One is a greater sense of community among employees. If you're on a global or national scale, you can connect in a way not possible before.
  • Establish advocacy team: Can be really powerful. You can tap them for feedback. See employees as a test group for new ideas, etc.

11:25 — Jason: You need to define compliance. Not everything is going to be OK for your employees to share. Another question is how much content — and the short answer is you can't give your employees too much content. The rules are different than your external audience — you can't really overload them. A good rule of thumb is 6-8 pieces of content to share. This gives them a reason to keep coming back to look for more to share.

11:26 — Jason: Give a good balance between third party content and branded content. Don't go with exclusive branded content — people can get really bored. As a health insurance brand, we share a lot of third party content around wellness, health, and eating right. People rally around this content.

You can also measure what performs better, whether it's branded or third party. The more third party content to share, the more your employees can share as thought leaders, and the more their followings will grow.

Jason talks about legal risks. You want your employees to say, “I work for _____, and this is my opinion.” Work with your legal teams on how to make disclosure clear and conspicuous.

11:27 — He also talks about issues around hourly employees. His brand faced this issue. So, they created a 1-hour training session. They go over existing policies, FTC regulations, and for hourly employees, they 1) check with their manager first to make sure it won't interfere with regular work, and 2) only participate during regular business hours. I posed the question of, what if an employee goes to Facebook and shares their own? — but the difference here is this is a formal program where we're training and encouraging people to do.

11:28 — Step 2: Selecting your vendor. There are a lot out there. One thing you want to do is ask them for a test community — they'll often hesitate, but they'll do it. When we were looking, I really wanted to test everything out — what the hub looked like, what content looked like when posted, etc.

You're going to ask a lot of questions — does it have a mobile app, what channels does it support (not all support all of them), can we edit content, what's the cost, etc.

11:30 — Step 3: Start with a pilot. Start with people that are community minded and are in different business units — that way, you can test how things will perform in different segments and business units across the world. Make sure to ask for feedback, not just about how it's working but about what kind of content interests them the most.

11:32 — Step 4: Report on what matters. When you define objectives up front, your reporting will be able to tell you how well you're doing. Report not only on raw share data, but also engagement levels of employees (how many are sharing per day).

11:33 — Jason: Some tools kick you out if you're not sharing enough — but I decided to go the opposite way by looking at who isn't sharing and then encourage them and weight the points differently. I wouldn't say kick people out, even though I know a lot of tools charge per user. Often, people want to be a part of what you're doing, but don't have time — so make it really easy. We found that the tool didn't work in our standard browser, for example, so we made sure the mobile app worked really well.

With great reporting, you can even develop look-alike audiences to see what content your internal team is sharing and then find those people in your external audience and offer them the same content.

11:34 — Step 5: Scale to the company. Allow members to recommend others to join. Extend membership past the first 50 to others.

11:35 — Jason: As you scale, one of the biggest challenge you'll have is content managers — now you'll need people to supply content for all the divisions you're expanding to. Think about the communication leads in those units, and partner with them early on.


Q: Do you set up a separate account for posting content on Facebook, vs. setting up two for business, for example?

A: Jason: I recommend one Facebook page, one Twitter account — as it's the same as we do individually.

Q: Do you have to deal with labor relations in employee advocacy?

A: Jason: We don't. The only difference we have are exempt and non-exempt employees.

Q: Our HR team is hesitant to tell employees too much of what to do for legal risks. How do you balance that for your advocacy program?

A: Jason: The best way you can tackle that is to give some guidelines. You can say you're allowed to talk ABOUT the company, but not on BEHALF of the company. Make sure it's opt-in, and say that once you participate we don't expect you to share anything — it's completely volunteer. You're not forcing anyone to be a part of it or do any work on your behalf.

Q: Can you share more about the disclosure part? Do you have a variety of hashtags?

A: Jason: We use stock ticker symbol, #hum plus, “employee” so, “#humemployee” and as of today, we use it on all channels. Even though they're not as prevalent on Facebook, we use them everywhere. I've seen other folks use just “emp” but that was something our legal team wasn't comfortable with.

Q: Knowing that it takes a while to phase this out to entire company, what are good percentages to look at once it's fully rolled out?

A: Jason: Best metric to look at is how many can you get involved, total? 5% is a good thing to strive for. For us, that's 2,500 employees. Once they're in, we strive for 80% being active in the program.

Q: Have you started a rewards program for you employees?

A: Jason: With budget consider, we've focused on intrinsic benefits of visibility, etc. But we've also focused on swag — in fact we have some for everyone in the room here. So we do hand out branded merchandise. We're looking at doing “lunch with leaders” so they can meet face-to-face.