In our 2015 State of Social Business report, we found that Employee Advocacy programs were the least mature in organizations (18%) and yet it was the #1 priority this year (42%) for new pilots and planning. It’s easy to see the catalyst for employee advocacy, mainly, increasing the reach of brands through employee posts in social networks. As social platforms like Facebook lock down their feeds and demand advertising to reach consumers, they are one factor creating demand for emerging employee advocacy programs.
Just as in life, divisive topics in social media have the potential to harm relationships. In the US, the most divisive political periods—now stretching almost two years—are presidential elections. When employees mix their own personal POV along side branded content, it creates an association that could be harmful in two ways: 1) reducing their reach and influence (through defriending, shrinking their network); and 2) harming brand health (through “guilt by association”), Consider the following:
Minimize Risk by Controlling and Monitoring Divisive Associations
While you can’t limit your employee’s political expression on their personal social network profiles or time, you do have control of how your brand is connected to their social personas. Listening for unwanted associations should be part of your social monitoring program and apply to each of these situations:
Have a Risk Plan
As with any risk in social media, have a risk assessment in place that, at a minimum 1) names the risk (i.e., political posts associated with our brand); 2) identifies the likelihood of the risk occurring (e.g., consider what percentage of your employee base advocates actively) 3) estimates the range of harm to the brand; and finally, 4) lists controls—especially monitoring—to track each risk and create a closed loop between the risk plan and actual outcome.
Two of our reports may help you devise a plan for this coming storm (both are free downloads):
In the end, arming your employee base with advocacy tools can do a lot of good, but it can also harm both your brand and their own reach and influence.
Employee advocacy of your brand coupled with divisive political expression can harm both your brand and employee influence in social networks.
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