Businesses are getting on board with social advocacy programs today. Many companies are beginning to leverage their most valuable spokespeople: Their employees. Employees will share their enthusiasm and promote products and services -- if they feel empowered to do so. Employees are perceived as more credible, and often have wider social reach than the company brand does. And in truth, according to a study by Weber Shandwick, 50 percent of all workers are already updating social media with messages about their employers.

An employee advocacy program can yield tremendous benefits for your brand, including helping to humanize the business, creating emotional connections, building out competitive advantages, demonstrating thought leadership, supporting new product introductions -- and so much more. To that end, more and more companies are implementing employee advocacy programs to harness their employees’ social connections and online reach.

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Unfortunately, many companies get frustrated and feel their efforts fall short, which I think boils down to one common problem -- focusing on the wrong things. For an employee advocacy program to succeed, you not only need to know what you hope to accomplish and to develop a strategy; you must monitor and measure the right key performance indicators (KPIs).

How to measure employee advocacy programs.

Any advocacy program will falter over the long term if you can’t report on its results -- not just to the executive team, but also back to your employees. So, how do you determine which are the right KPIs for your employee advocacy program?

Start by asking why does a particular metric matter? And, if it doesn’t have measurable value -- as in, it can’t be connected directly or indirectly to a particular dollar value -- or to accomplishing the stated goals and objectives -- that particular metric probably isn’t important.

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In a social campaign, like an employee advocacy program, we track certain common performance indicators such as:

  • Mentions: The number times your company name, products, and services, or any other brand-related terms you have previously identified for monitoring, are discussed in online conversations. Your KPI is the number of mentions over a fixed period, or from a particular social network.
  • Reach: The number of people who see your messages. Be careful not to limit yourself to social network numbers -- advocacy can happen anywhere, including discussion boards, blogs, and even email. You can measure reach by tracking the number of shares, the number of mentions, the number of followers each identified participant has, or by using analytics that measure the real-time reach of individual posts or updates. Your KPI for reach could track the number of people exposed to your message over a specified period.
  • Engagement: The level of activity around your employees’ updates about your brand. Have the comments sparked discussions or driven traffic to your website or blog? Have you seen an increase in sales leads that you can link to a social media comment? Have your employees’ updates and images been shared by their networks? An engagement KPI would track the types of responses to your program and the increase or decrease in their number during the campaign.
  • Social leads: Those driven by activity on social channels, whether through direct interaction with your branded account or conversations with employee advocates. You can track social leads through your website analytics, participation in lead nurturing programs, comments on your blog or website requesting follow-up, phone, email or text inquiries, monitoring keywords and phrases or identification through your sales process. A KPI for social leads would track the number and sources of leads over the period you run the campaign.

Your program’s KPIs may differ and may or may not include the ones I have described. The important thing to keep in mind is that your KPIs should track the data you need, to be able to know how your program is performing. This data is important for you and your team, for the employees who are participating and for the company’s management as justification for the program’s implementation.

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As your campaign progresses, your KPIs will show you what’s working and what isn’t, and you can make changes to improve its performance. At the end of your employee advocacy program, by having monitored and measured the right KPIs, you will have meaningful data and be able to report back on the program’s success. Everyone, from the C-Suite to your employees will appreciate knowing their activities on the company’s behalf have been successful.