A significant appeal of employee advocacy stems from the notion that an employee’s message will be perceived with infinitely more trust. Why? Because we feel that an employee would not spread the good word about his/her product or service unless the feelings were genuine.
But what happens when we incentivize our employees with rewards and freebies to become brand advocates? There are critics who believe that monetarily incentivizing employees as part of an employee advocacy initiative will erode trust. And it is easy to see why. Rewards, incentives and prizes could then become the primary and at times, the only motive behind an employee’s praise for the company. These incentives would challenge the integrity of the employee’s advocacy.
A case in point
When an Indian IT Services provider with a headcount of 150+ launched their employee advocacy program earlier in the year, they were eager to get the maximum number of employees onboard. So, the management offered free movie tickets, power bank among others as rewards for the most active brand advocates. The content for social sharing by advocates was also not categorized and all employees were given access to the entire content.
Attracted by the rewards, a good number of employees turned into brand advocates on social media, but the end result was not quite satisfactory. There was large scale sharing of all the content by many employees, which quite raised the notion that some employee advocates are not genuinely interested in promoting their brand, but were just spamming their network with brand content to claim the rewards.
Does this ring a bell with you?
So then, can a business run a successful employee advocacy program without monetarily incentivizing the workforce?
Yes, it is tough, but it is indeed possible.
Foster a positive workplace culture
Employees are driven to personally market their company when there is a positive work environment that appreciates their contribution and encourages employees to share their points of view in an open and honest atmosphere.
83% of employees say that recognition for contributions was more fulfilling than rewards and gifts.
Source – A 2013 study by Badgeville, a US-based business gamification company