Employee Advocacy: How we started and grew our LinkedIn evangelist program

People buy from people, not companies. 

That’s why employee advocacy is one of the most powerful and effective forms of marketing you can implement into your business.

Employee advocacy enables organizations to achieve marketing objectives such as brand building and lead generation, sales objectives such as prospecting and social selling, and human resources objectives such as recruiting top talent from employees’ social networks.

TL;DR: Activating your employees helps them build personal brands while amplifying your company brand. 

What results have we seen from our evangelist program? 

Since starting our evangelist program, we’ve closed over $311k in annual revenue directly attributed to LinkedIn. We also: 

  • Helped 20 employees build their brands. 
  • Drove traffic to our company page (without even posting on our company page!)
  • Gave our audience loads of free thought leadership content. 
  • Received invites to podcasts, virtual events, and LinkedIn lives wanting our opinion on topics related to what we’ve been posting. 
  • Used our findings from the program to help our customers with their LinkedIn strategies. 
  • Helped pave the way in LinkedIn employee advocacy initiatives before it was popular. 
  • Grew our collective following to 85,423 followers. 

Results by quarter

Q2, 2021 – The Test Quarter

When we first tested the program, we onboarded 5 evangelists outside of leadership. 

Previously we only had 3 employees who were super active (@Logan Lyles, @James Carbary, and @Dan Sanchez), and they collectively garnered 658,203 views.

When we tested the program in May and June 2021, our 8 evangelists accumulated 937,285 views.

That’s a 42% increase in reach, which is substantial considering many of our employees had never posted on LinkedIn before and had minute followings. 

In this quarter, we closed $127k in revenue directly attributed to LinkedIn.

Q3, 2021 – The First Full Quarter

We had 12 committed evangelists this quarter. Our team of 12 published over 546 posts in 12 weeks.

Collectively, those posts saw 1.5 million views – a 64% increase over Q2!

In this quarter we closed $67k in annual revenue directly attributed to LinkedIn.

Q4, 2021 – The Stalled Quarter

In this quarter we had 15 evangelists. 

Our content views dropped 38% for a total of 931,412 views.

We saw $21k in annual revenue directly attributed to LinkedIn.

Our team was extra busy this quarter, so we only published 327 posts. 

Q1, 2022 – The Restructuring Quarter

In this quarter, we shifted our focus from producing large quantities of content to training employees on how to create quality content.

Our team of 14 published 502 posts in 12 weeks. 

Collectively, those posts saw over 1.3 million views.

We closed $96k in annual revenue directly attributed to LinkedIn. 

The most exciting thing about this quarter: 590 shares! 

You may be thinking, “that’s all good and well, but how did you get the ball rolling??” I’m glad you asked…

How we structured our program: 

1. The first thing we did was get leadership on board. 

One of the biggest obstacles to implementing an employee advocacy program? Lack of leadership buy-in. 

Thankfully, three members of our leadership team were game to post consistently to see if LinkedIn advocacy really did work. They had already been active on LinkedIn for years, and then they started posting consistently before we opened the program up to the whole team. Because they had spent time on the platform, they saw the benefits of being on LinkedIn firsthand and were able to prove it to the rest of the team. 

2. We hired a full time social media specialist to take lead on the program. 

Her responsibilities included: onboarding new evangelists into the program, creating a personal brand document for each evangelist that outlined their content pillars and brand personality, encouraging and teaching each evangelist in 1:1 brainstorm and coaching sessions, creating written and video training resources to teach employees posting and engagement strategies on LinkedIn, and leading monthly live training workshops.

Because our success relied on posting consistently and frequently, she was also responsible for writing 3 statuses per evangelist every week. 

3. We created an internal document that listed the program requirements and commitment. 

The program requirements asked evangelists to: 

  • Commit to being active for a quarter at a time. 
  • Post three times a week. 
  • Engage with people in the comments of their post.
  • Actively engage with others on LinkedIn. 

No one is forced to join the program. It’s promoted as a benefit. 

Program benefits include:

  • Personal brand development and content training.
  • Our Social Media Specialist will write three posts for you a week.
  • Access to Shield Analytics to measure your progress. 
  • A personal brand and audience you can take with you well beyond your days at Sweet Fish (this is huge!).

If our evangelists agree to the commitment, we onboard them. In this meeting we cover their content topics, personal brand, positioning, and LinkedIn workflow. 

Oh, one other thing: We don’t require evangelists to post about podcasting. (We do ask them to put our positioning statement + banner in their bio.)

We also don’t penalize anyone for being active on LinkedIn during working hours. In fact, we give them permission to do so.

How we motivate employees to post on LinkedIn:

After lack of leadership buy in and lack of resources, one of the biggest obstacles to implementing an employee advocacy program is lack of employee motivation (which is really lack of confidence or capacity).

Here’s how we encourage our employees in their LinkedIn journey:

1. Identify their “why”.

Personal benefits of posting content online:

– Increased personal brand awareness. 

– Positioned as the go-to expert in their industry. 

– A community of thought leaders to learn and collaborate with.

– Possible invitations to podcasts and events.

– A portfolio of content. 

2. Educate them about how the company benefits from their posting content online.

– Increased brand awareness.

– Shortened sales cycles.

– Increased talent attraction and retention.

Notice this is listed as number 2, not number 1. When companies struggle to get participation on LinkedIn, it’s usually because they make it about the company, not the employees.

3. Lead by example. 

You’ve either got to have a channel champion or someone on the executive team posting consistently if you want your colleagues to buy in. 

4. Help them flesh out their content pillars based on their skills and expertise.

Often times people feel overwhelmed and just need someone to facilitate the process for them and help identify their content pillars. We help our evangelists identify their general interests, values they want to be known for, character traits, the 4-5 stories that make up their general narrative, and the topics they will post about based off of their passions, interests, and expertise.

5. Encourage them to comment on other people’s posts.

Who doesn’t feel gratified and motivated by good conversations? Engagement is crucial to growing an audience, and it’s a great way to practice copywriting skills! 

6. Check in frequently. 

– Send weekly Shield screenshots to show what kind of posts are resonating and which posts need improvement. 

– Send biweekly “How are you feeling about the program?” messages in Slack. 

– Jump on a 1:1 check-in meeting once a month. 

7. Share training resources. 

A lot of employees feel uncomfortable posting to LinkedIn. If you can share videos, articles, or live training sessions with them about how to create good content, they’re more likely to get active on the platform! 

– During onboarding: Internal training videos and documents on personal branding and LinkedIn best practices. 

– Weekly: 2-5 minute “status performance” videos, editorial calendar prompts, interesting articles, or educational LinkedIn posts in the collective slack. 

-Monthly: A LinkedIn training workshop. 

8. Celebrate them!

Sense of belonging is a huge factor in a successful employee advocacy program. Celebrating wins is one way to reinforce that camaraderie.  

-Celebrate wins in one on ones.

-Highlight their results in the group Slack channel.

-Praise them on LinkedIn. 

How we track and measure success: 

Personal Brand Growth 

Like I said earlier: part of the reason we implemented this program was to help our employees build their personal brands. 

Success in that area can be difficult to measure: we encourage employees to share things like DMs and replies from their favorite LinkedIn influencers, invitations to podcasts, virtual events, LinkedIn lives wanting their expertise, and reshares and mentions on others’ profiles in our Evangelist-Program Slack channel. 

Personal brand growth can best be measured by looking at an individual’s profile views, connections, and following. If those numbers are rising, we know they’re doing something right! 

Brand Awareness

Brand awareness can be hard to track. Substantial brand mentions, DMs, and traffic to our Sweet Fish LinkedIn profile are good indicators of increasing brand awareness. (We don’t post to our Sweet Fish LinkedIn consistently, and our traffic has increased steadily since we started!)

A lot of people on LinkedIn mention Sweet Fish because they’re satisfied customers who want to shout out our service, because they’re fans of one of our evangelists, or because they’re highlighting our evangelist program. 

Thought Leadership

We want our brand and our employees’ brands to be seen as knowledgeable, likable, and trustable. 

We use comments and reshares to track thought leadership. If a post gets a high number of comments, we know we’re accomplishing our goal of giving away valuable insight and creating and engaging in meaningful conversations.

If our reshare number is high, that means we’re saying something that resonates with or helps someone. 

Market Share Capture

We track how much closed/won revenue we attribute to the program within HubSpot. But that’s a lagging indicator of all the times we’re winning mind share with buyers who are merely problem aware or even problem and solution aware. We help them move to the next stage of awareness; when they’re ready to buy, we’re the name on the tip of their tongues. Market share is harder to track, but we see it happening with proxy indicators like views and followers.

LinkedIn Analytics

We love using Shield to track our analytics! Shield lets you see all the metrics that LinkedIn doesn’t show you. You can access statistics on your content’s views, comments, reactions, and shares, as well as data on your profile’s follower and connection counts, profile views, and more. 

Our top posts: 

James Carbary, CEO

Dan Sanchez, Director of Audience Growth 

Logan Lyles, VP of Innovation

Rex Biberston, VP of Revenue

Benji Block, Host of B2B Growth

Emily Brady, Creative Content Lead

Walter Gainer II, Producer

How others are doing it

We’re certainly not the only ones doing employee advocacy (nor are we the most well-known ones, if we’re being honest!)

Here are a few companies that do employee advocacy really well: 

Chili Piper

Chili Piper’s company social profiles have seen impressive growth in recent years thanks to their employee social advocacy enablement. 

How do they do it? They encourage employees to post about whatever they want, they created a #chili-love Slack channel to help amplify each other’s posts, and they do periodic “social takeovers” to promote new content, product launches, company news, and more.  

Dreamdata 

Having seen the business impact a successful LinkedIn post could have, Dreamdata decided to incentivize posting on LinkedIn. They told their employees if they hit 300,000 views from combined posts in a quarter, they’d be treated to a team dinner at the end of the quarter. Their team managed to hit +520,000 views of their posts!

Gong 

Gong used LinkedIn employee advocacy to grow 8x in a little over two years. They post consistently and focus on providing valuable content over MQLs.

How do they do it? Gong hires outstanding talent who want to post, their C-suite leads by example, and their social media team makes it easy with internal comms and writing prompts. 

Refine Labs

Chris Walker and his Refine Labs team of employees are well-known for the value-added content that they each provide, via their personal accounts on LinkedIn. 

How do they do it? All Refine Labs teammates go through a LinkedIn Accelerator training during onboarding. Chris hosts office hours where he helps people dial in their personal strategy. They host competitions around experimenting with new channels like LinkedIn or TikTok and give away prizes & awards people actually want. 

Others: Angelpoint, Alyce, Drift, Dooly, EveryoneSocial, Outreach, PandaDoc, and Salesloft. 

In Conclusion

It’s a fact that the most efficient and cost-effective way for companies to build their brands and drive revenue growth is through employee advocacy on social media.

We see time and time again that people are more likely to trust and engage with a person than they are a brand.

If you’re in an industry that’s not naturally spending a lot of time on LinkedIn, employee advocacy might not benefit your company. 

But if you are…what are you waiting for?!

Emily Brady headshot

Emily Brady

Creative Content Lead at Sweet Fish

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