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In a prior piece published on the Tweetwall blog, I discussed how you can ace social media without spending a cent.  One of the ideas I brought up that piece was getting your employees more involved in your organization’s social media presence. Today, I’d like to expand on that idea a bit more.

Now, we aren’t going to spend a great deal of time talking about the benefits. It’s pretty obvious that getting your staff interested in your brand’s social presence will lead to positive growth, and that more people talking about your brand means a wider audience. Instead, we’re going to expand upon what you can do to inspire them to get involved.

How can you convince employees to make an effort on your organization’s behalf?

Understanding What Advocacy Is – And What It Isn’t

The first ground rule I want to lay down right out the door is that you cannot treat your employees like a sales team. In the past, I’ve said that social media is vastly different from traditional marketing. Direct sales messages aren’t really the right way to go about mastering it.

Nowhere does that ring truer than here.

See, chances are good that even if you offer some pretty sweet incentives, you won’t likely have people willing to interrupt their personal social feeds for corporate messages. They aren’t going to want to tweet about sales or share information about your business – nor should they.

That isn’t what brand advocacy is, after all.

What your employees should be doing instead is sharing things naturally, says social media expert Arik Hanson.  Encourage them to share absurd selfies at company events, and set up a company Snapchat or Instagram account where you can aggregate all the stuff they’ve shared. Have them share details about how they’re spending their time away from the workplace on vacation, or how they use your company’s products.

Perhaps most importantly, allow them to use social media while in the workplace.

That sounds crazy, but hear me out here. As it turns out, social media usage in the office doesn’t actually waste as much time as you’d think. Matter of fact, it can actually lead to enhanced productivity, less fatigue, and better moods.

And as an added bonus, it also makes employees far likelier to naturally become brand advocates.

The most important thing is that you allow them to be themselves. Let them maintain their unique voices when they post, and don’t distill their messages with corporate talk. You’ll see the most success if their messages are both natural and organic.

Actively Involve Your Staff

Brand advocacy isn’t a passive thing. It requires a continual effort on the part of both the advocates and the business itself. To that end, it’s important to get them directly involved with the marketing process – keep them apprised of stuff like social statistics, give them progress reports, and encourage them to be active on social while at company events.

The more involved they are, the likelier it’ll be for your company culture to shine through in what they share.

“Balance employees’ urge for social sharing with clear guidelines to help them understand what is acceptable and favorable to share, and what is not,” writes Iris Vermeren of Brandwatch. “Analyze the data quarterly, monthly, or even weekly. Currently, your employees will only be able to see the direct impact of their interactions. However, a social media analytics tool can also tell you the impact in term of reach and impressions, brand mentions, sentiment, and more.”

And that data is valuable – not just because it lets you know your progress, but sharing it with your employees can further inspire them, especially if you’re willing to congratulate people for successful posts or shares.

Remember: You Can’t Force Advocacy

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember about turning your employees into brand advocates is that you can’t force the process. There are going to be a few employees without a desire to share – and that’s perfectly alright. The trick is to find the ones who will, and leverage them to grow your brand.

“Savvy employees are reading about your vertical, your competitors, and trends in the industry,” writes Buffer’s David Hassell. “They know which articles and blog posts are most relevant to your brand. Your employees are well versed in your marketing language and product positioning.”

“It just takes a little nudge to get them to share—and a little encouragement could make a big difference,” he continues. “Leverage your employees’ desire to share their lives—including their work–on social media. Once you put a system in place, your social media presence will grow rapidly.”