Empowering employees to publicly promote and support your company as a brand advocate can give you a significant edge in the war for attracting high-quality talent. The recent trend towards marketing an employers brand and utilising social recruiting to find candidates have opened up the possibilities of engaging passive talent. An employee advocacy program can help encourage a company’s most trusted and dedicated advocates-it’s employees-to promote their stories through their social channels, which in turn, helps to significantly expand brand awareness of the company and job opportunities to a network of people the company may not have otherwise reached.

According to Edelman Trust Barometer 2016, employees that embody the culture and values of the company are three times more trusted than the CEOs of those companies. In other words, employee engagement and enthusiasm towards your brand can significantly affect people’s perception of the brand and consumer’s trust towards your company. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though: think about how your opinion towards a company has changed when you see the employees actively promoting company life by sharing content through their social media channels. A recent example of this is where Wistia, a video software company based in Boston, invited their staff to bring a personal item of clothing into work with them where their design team embroidered the company mascot (Lenny) onto it. Rather than hand out more of their standard swag to staff, this more personal approach has helped to create brand advocates both within and outside the company.

1) Share What’s Happening

To create a culture that fosters employee advocates, you first must become comfortable with sharing what your organisation is doing. Make sure your employees know what’s happening and provide them with practical tools and resources that can help them create and distribute content easily. For example, you may want to curate content, send weekly emails to suggest company blog posts or promote shining customer testimonials to employees. You can use a tool like click-to-tweet to make sharing a status update as simple as possible. Just be mindful though that template social updates used by multiple people can make your tactic quite clear for all to see, so you need to remind them to personalise the message to fit their own tone of voice and audience.

LinkedIn research found that over 60% of LinkedIn members who follow your company are ready, willing, and able to act as your brand ambassadors. As employees attract more interest than companies, it makes even more sense to help bridge that gap between them building their own personal brand and speaking positively about your company.

2) Embrace Your Local Community

Getting involved in the local community is a great way to bring employees together. Ask them for ideas on potential events and different ways your company can engage local people and other businesses. Is there a sports event or charity auction a member of your team is helping to organise? Perhaps you can donate your services or goods to the cause? Maybe there’s a charity walk or cycle to participate in or volunteer at? Do any of your employees want to organise a charity event where their friends, family or locals can drop off donated goods at your offices?  At Next Generation, giving back is important to us as a company so we have outlined our Corporate Social Responsibility which explains how we assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing.

3) Highlight Your Employees

If you want to help make employees feel important, an employee spotlight series where you highlight a new employee each week (or month) and draw attention to any new starters can work quite well. This will help you get to know members of staff better, as well as creating an opportunity for them to stand out as individuals and let others (internally and externally) know a little bit more about them. Employees will be more than happy to spread the word about the post, and along with the increased visibility, you will add some warmth to your brand which you may not otherwise have gained through traditional marketing.

An example of this is where we at Next Generation highlighted four of our newest starters by asking them a few questions about themselves. This has helped our audience (you) and other team members to familiarise themselves with the latest additions to our growing team.

4) Offer Rewards

It’s all well and good encouraging employees to speak positively about your company, but sometimes an incentive may be required to encourage people to take action. A cash reward may seem like the obvious solution, but brand ambassadors just want to be recognised for their contribution, so putting a plan in place to give them shout-outs in meetings, team emails and company-wide updates will allow you to celebrate their commitment to the company. You can also drive some healthy competition among brand advocates with a monthly leaderboard for the number of shares or ‘Likes’ their posts have received.

No matter which option you go for, it’s important that employees feel like they’re having a positive influence on both the company and their career. Don’t forget to measure the results though. Metrics will show you how employee advocacy efforts are helping the company to reach its goals. Did your Glassdoor ratings improve? What was the reach and engagement of your content last week? Who are the super-users within your company and how will you celebrate successes to keep the momentum up? Make employee advocacy work for you by having a clear plan about what you hope to achieve through it.