Here in the final months of 2016, now is as good a time as any to take stock of your branding efforts—where you’ve been, where you are now, and, perhaps most importantly, where you’re going in 2017. Whether you’re one of the 90 percent of brands actively pursuing social employee advocacy or one of the 10 percent of brands still sitting on the social fence, there’s always new frontiers waiting for your brand to explore, new boundaries waiting for you to push.

And the best way to start pushing? As we explain “Social Employees: The New Marketing Channel,” our video tutorial for (@Lynda), there’s no sense in trying to build Rome in a day. Start small, discover who your brand’s social leaders are and how they’re generating success, and then move ahead from there. A pilot program is the ideal way to accomplish this. While the 22-part course offers a comprehensive overview on how to begin your own social employee advocacy journey, here are a some tips to get started.

Identify Potential Brand Stars

According to Jim Whitehurst (@JWhitehurst), CEO of Red Hat, employees are either thermometers or thermostats. While the former can help you gauge the social climate at your workplace, the latter help set it.

So how do you find and empower these thermostats? Well, you could do things the hard way, searching for your employees on the web one by one to see who’s the most active—and most likely to celebrate your brand. But we’ve got a better idea: just ask them.

Social employee advocates are often happy to participate and try new things. If you’re looking to recruit some of them into your pilot program, just make your intentions known and ask for volunteers. Not only is this self-selection process more likely to bring in a strong, enthusiastic crop of social employees, it also models the very social processes that your social employees should emulate.

In our best-selling book The Social Employee (McGraw-Hill), we learned how pioneering social brands Adobe identified and empowered its social employees. After an internal audit, management was thrilled by the sheer number of de facto social advocates and early adopters within the organization. However, they also found that, in the absence of a formal social program, these informal social processes had inadvertently creates silos and redundancies within the organization. The lesson was twofold: Social adoption is happening in your organization with or with your approval, and the best way support this adoption is to oversee and empower employees through the process.

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