Yes, Hootsuite built the best platform for employee advocacy. No, we weren’t using it as well as we could have been. Here’s how we fixed that.
You probably already know that employee advocacy is great for employers. LinkedIn reports that, on average, an organization’s employees have ten times more combined followers on social media than the organization itself—so tapping into that reach is a powerful and proven way to increase reach and reputation.
And you likely also know that advocacy is equally effective at helping employees enhance their credibility and position themselves as industry experts. In a report by Hinge Research Institute, nearly 86% of employees involved in a formal advocacy program agreed that it had a positive effect on their careers.
So you’d think that for a world-class example of a high-performing employee advocacy program, you could look to Hootsuite. After all, we’re the company that created Hootsuite Amplify—the tool used by leading organizations like Sodexo, Meliá Hotels, Ochsner Health, and Georgia State University to manage their highly successful advocacy programs.
But after so many years in the business—and after helping top brands build their own advocacy programs—our own internal program had lost focus. Our social team was struggling to find the right content to share on the platform. We weren’t effectively engaging with the rest of the organization to deliver the content they wanted. We had not created clear benchmarks to understand our performance and identify areas for improvement.
It was time to take a hard look at our strategy and get started on a plan that would set us up to fully leverage our own suite of leading-edge tools.
Beginning with the lessons we had learned as the first customers of our own product, we assembled an expert team to revitalize our employee advocacy program. The team’s focus was threefold: Help make advocacy relevant across departments and roles, curate the right content mix, and roll out a redesigned program built to last.
Hootsuite builds tools to help brands of all sizes manage social media. And from the start, our own social marketing team has been “Customer Zero” for the software, using it in their day-to-day work and sending their feedback and insights back to the product team.
By testing different strategies and tactics—like using Amplify for marketing campaigns and running internal contests to increase adoption rates—the team has become a repository of knowledge and best practices for developing high-performing employee advocacy programs. But after years spent developing great products, training, and resources for our customers, we had fallen out of the habit of implementing our own expertise right here at Hootsuite.
Ironically, one of the most important lessons we’ve learned is that advocacy is most effective when it’s leveraged horizontally across an organization—not just within the social team or the marketing department. With that in mind, we knew it was time to completely revamp our own advocacy program. And to lead the charge, we turned to our own superstar social marketing and employee advocacy team lead, Brayden Cohen.
To make the program a success, the team needed to ensure that content would be relevant and appealing for different roles and departments.
By surveying employees across the organization, identifying key use cases, and collaborating on program planning, the team took a holistic approach to identify goals and content that would resonate across the company. This approach helped ensure that all employees would be able to find content specific to their expertise and interests, which they could then use to amplify their own social voices and grow their networks. And the benefit to Hootsuite has been considerable, with the company garnering measurably greater reach and awareness for key campaigns and objectives as a result.
Managing the Amplify program at Hootsuite has allowed me and my team to build important relationships with key stakeholders across the organization. We now work collaboratively with a variety of teams across the organization that we otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to work with.
In our own research and across reports from industry experts, we’ve seen that brand health and trust improve with employee advocacy. Eighty-four percent of mature organizations surveyed for our Social Transformation Report saw significant success in improving key brand health metrics, such as relevancy and positive sentiment, with the use of employee advocacy tools. And Edelman reports that more people trust a company expert over the brand itself.
So naturally, when it came time to plan a content mix for our redesigned advocacy program, brand health and awareness were top of mind for Brayden and team. The team identified four key categories of content to help drive these objectives: internal announcements, product announcements, thought leadership, and recruitment.
To ensure the revamp of the program would be a success for everyone involved, Cohen worked with stakeholders across the company to design a six-step approach.
1. Create a content council to lead a platform-wide content makeover
Brayden and team surveyed Hootsuite employees and asked what would make them want to share more content from Amplify directly to their social channels. Throughout the responses, a common theme was that employees wanted more content relevant to their area of expertise.
To respond to this need, the team created the Amplify Content Council, a diverse group of experts from across the business. By administering and advocating for Amplify within their region, department, and team, the council ensures all aspects of the organization are highlighted in quality content that’s made available in Amplify for employees to share on their social channels.
2. Add variety and diversity with curated third-party content
To offer a greater scope of topics and content sources, the team uses Hootsuite’s Curate by UpContent integration, an integral partner in its ecosystem of best-of-breed systems. The integration allows Amplify users to discover high-quality third-party content—based on user interests— directly from within the Hootsuite dashboard. They then add it to Amplify for employees to share. In the last year, Hootsuite has seen organizations actively leveraging UpContent for Amplify posts—adding up to 15,833 posts or 10% of all published content.
3. Make it easy to share key information and announcements
To build a bigger buzz around major announcements and top-tier marketing campaigns, the team set up Amplify to send push notifications for those topics to all employees with the Amplify mobile app, helping get more eyes on this important content. And to ensure it matches their voice and best represents their truth, employees are also encouraged to modify the content before sharing it to their social channels.
4. Reward program participants with incentives and recognition
To encourage adoption and build excitement, the team launched the Amplify Recognition Program, an internal incentive program to reward employees for sharing content from Amplify to their social channels.The program features different contests every month, with prizes varying by month and quarter. Prizes like a gift card awarded to a small business of the employee’s choice, or a quarterly donation to a charitable organization the employee wants to support, encourage participation and help employees feel good about giving back to the online and offline communities where they work and live.
5. Set up new employees for success
To help new employees get up and running with the program, the team created training for all new employees that covers how to set up an account and use the Amplify mobile app. The on-demand video is available to employees at all times, and Brayden and team are available to answer any product or advocacy-related questions that different teams may have around the value Amplify has to their personal brand and Hootsuite’s customers.
6. Measure and report on success
To measure the success of the revamped program, Brayden and team use two Amplify reports in Hootsuite Analytics, with one focused on user adoption and the other focused on the performance of posts shared by employees.To keep things simple, the team focuses on three key performance indicators:
Adoption rate: Active users as a percentage of the users who signed up for Amplify
Sign-up rate: User sign-ups as a percentage of the users invited
Share rate: Sharers as a percentage of active users
Amplify has become part of my daily and weekly routine of working at Hootsuite. The more I use it, the more empowered I feel to build credibility with our potential or existing customers. And I love that it also provides me with the right content depending on the region I’m working with.
A year after the revamp of our employee advocacy program, we’re once again using our own tool to the best of its capability. The Amplify Content Council alone pours 10 posts into Amplify per week, or 38 pieces per month, and has added almost 500 posts into the tool in the past year overall—equipping employees with a wealth of high-quality content to share.
The Amplify Recognition Program continues to be a resounding success. With a 94% adoption rate (up 9% YOY), an 86% sign-up rate (up 8%), and a 64% share rate (up 3%), the program is winning adoption across the organization and helping more employees enhance their credibility and position themselves as industry experts.
As we work to recruit top talent in the highly competitive tech industry, Amplify has been a powerhouse for our employer brand. Employee advocacy contributed to an amazing 94% of all organic employer brand content impressions, with Amplify shares accounting for 4,178,623 organic content impressions in the first quarter of the year alone.
Amplify also played a key role in helping our people build deeper connections across their networks at times of both crisis and celebration. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hootsuite’s “Stay Connected” content reached over 268,000 individuals in less than two weeks through employee sharing alone. And content related to our Wellness Week—where the whole company took a week off to stave off burnout—saw a 32% share rate on Amplify with a reach of 440,000 and a positive sentiment score of 52%.
Today, Amplify plays a vital role in rolling out major updates like annual reports and marketing campaigns, and it has gained global adoption in every region where our people work.