Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

shutterstock_155104142[Note: I’m glad to have Jason Spencer co-author this post with me on the subject of starting an employee advocacy program. Jason is one of the excellent community managers I have the pleasure to work with on Humana’s Enterprise Social Media team. He and I started planning an advocacy program in December, 2014 and launched it in late May, 2015. We are thrilled with the early results and the prognosis for a very bright future for the program, so we thought we’d share our early experience with you. First, Jason will share his thoughts and then I’ll close out the article with some thoughts of my own.]

Here is what Jason writes on the subject…

We are all story tellers. Not only that, but we love hearing a good story. As brands, we have a story to tell, too. Our challenge is getting the attention of our consumers to hear our story. We also need to build trust with our consumers in order to be given the chance to have that conversation. Much like building real relationships, we have to build trust before we can try to sell anything or even talk about ourselves.

In comes employee advocacy. Employee advocacy is empowering and enabling your employees to tell your story as a brand. At Humana, we have a huge potential to activate our associates to tell our story of being a health and wellness brand. Humana as a company refers to its employees as associates and we are calling our program “Humana Advocates.”

While there are programs that allow for social selling from their employees, our regulated industry does not allow for that to happen. And, practically speaking, if our employees start harassing their friends and followers on social media to buy health insurance, they are going to lose their social clout very quickly. The story that we want to tell from our brand is that we want people to be healthier and to live a lifestyle focused on well-being. Our enterprise social strategy supports that and it makes it a lot easier for employees to share that story. The stories that we want shared from our advocates are mostly health and well-being focused with some company news and updates.

In order to be successful in using our associates to tell our brand story, first we needed a platform that would support the program. We met with several of the larger names that provide employee advocacy solutions. We spent time meeting with and reviewing Addvocate, Dynamic Signal, Everyone Social, GaggleAMP, PeopleLinx, SocialChorus and SocialToaster. Determining who we would go with was dependent on several things. The first criterion was that we needed a customized solution to be able to scale and grow with us as we developed the program. We also needed a mobile-first solution where we could put an app in the hands of our advocates for them to choose how they wanted to engage with us. We also wanted to give our advocates the ability to choose what social networks they were going to share to, when it was going to be shared and give them the ability to personalize the text they were posting. We also wanted to make a decision on a vendor whose products and services met our requirements today – not capabilities that were only on a roadmap for a future rollout. After doing our research, demoing the platforms on the short list, and observing how posts were shared, we decided to go with Dynamic Signal.

Jason Spencer

Jason Spencer

Once we had the platform and determined what we wanted shared, we needed employees to share our brand’s story. We wanted to begin the program with associates who were not only influencers but were excited about working for Humana and wanted to start sharing content. We decided to start with a small group of employees so that we could learn from their experience during a smaller scale “Phase One” period. We chose our first group of associates based on how active they were on both external social media and on our internal enterprise social network. We knew that hand-selecting associates who were influencers would give us an idea of what we could accomplish in the program. We launched this first group on May 29, 2015. Now that we have two full business weeks under our belt, we are now looking to the next phase of the program – opening it up to the enterprise and allowing other associates to join after the two-month Phase One completes.

In order to be a Humana Advocate, associates must attend a 1-hour training session. Since we are in a highly regulated industry, we decided that we wanted the program to only include associates (not customers) and we wanted them to fully understand our social media policy and how to fully support our social program. One of the goals of the program is to increase the knowledge and use of social media. Our enterprise social media team not only wants to teach how to be a part of the program, but also how to improve an individual’s skillset on social media. We want to teach how to engage with other people online and how to actually be social in the digital arena.

The next phase of the program is scaling to the enterprise. We know there are many more business cases for utilizing an employee advocacy program and we plan to fully utilize as many as makes sense in moving Humana forward. As we develop the program, we see opportunities to group associates together by lines of businesses, campaigns or specific markets, then feed content specifically to those groups based on what would be relevant for them. We also want to push content to advocates based on what they might be interested in sharing.

In order to understand how the program will be successful and achieve our objectives, we are measuring everything. Dynamic Signal gives us the ability to not only measure how many advocates are in the program but how many friends and followers they have on their social networks. We are then able to pull metrics on impressions the shared content is generating, clicks to the articles and our website and reactions from their social networks to the content they are sharing. Reactions are defined as native likes, comments and shares on their social networks. We are also able to gamify the program by awarding points to the advocates based on their activities in the platform and rank them by leaderboards.

For a brand to start an employee advocacy program, they need to determine how they want to be perceived on social media. They will then need to determine the objectives they are trying to achieve and how a platform will achieve those goals. Start with a small group of employees to engage with and use them to learn how to grow the program to the next level. Finally, the community manager for the program needs to create metrics on how the program is making a difference for the brand.

And now some thoughts from Jeff Ross…

A lot of planning went into the process of standing up this program. Jason and I started setting aside blocks of hours per day last December to talk through aspects of the program such as goals, training considerations, regulations and governance, how to bring in advocates, evaluating the major players among the several vendors in the field, implementing recognition and rewards, and setting out a timeline for launch. We presented our initial plans to the full Enterprise Social Media team at the end of December for feedback before committing to a vendor and pursuing the next stage of planning and pre-launch.

I want to sing the praises of the vendor we selected – Dynamic Signal – for several reasons, but mainly because they went out of their way to be helpful and provide us with even more than we asked for during the vendor selection process. They were quick to create a website, giving us full administrative access so we could kick the tires behind the scenes, and they provided a mobile app so we could easily test and compare the Web and mobile experiences. Once chosen, they provided a Basecamp with detailed lists, documents and plans to get us ready to launch, and they have met with us once or twice a week since January to guide us through the process. So not only were we most impressed with the product, but the service has been outstanding. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of a great relationship with the vendor, and this has certainly been such a partnership.

Jason and I attended a SocialMedia.org members-only meeting in New York City the week before launching our advocacy program. It was great to hear what other major brands had already done or were considering in this area. It was also nice to walk away from that meeting convinced that we had done a very good job in our due diligence the previous five months preparing for launch. That added boost of confidence made the launch the following week even more exciting.

JeffRoss-4-377x377

Jeff Ross

With the first two weeks of phase one behind us, we have trained and invited about 50 participants. Most are sharing across several social channels daily, reaching people the brand would not reach directly without the advocates’ help. Most are customizing the posts to personalize them as we suggested they do (although we force a #HUMemployee hashtag on all posts to play it safe with the FTC). They are genuinely excited about spreading great content related to health and well-being, and their positivity is contagious. The results are already amazing us beyond what we expected, with week two alone seeing over 1000 shares and nearly 400,000 impressions.

Once our two-month first phase is complete, we’ll roll it out to the enterprise. We have a goal of having at least five percent of the associate population trained and engaged with the program by the end of 2017. Following the enterprise rollout (phase two), we’ll build on the organization of the program by utilizing the most engaged associates as captains of teams of 10-20 advocates each to keep the participation personal among small teams and to encourage a little friendly competition between teams.

Throughout our planning and execution of the program, we have been mindful of answering the “What’s in it for me?” question for our associates. We have no interest in this being a way in which only the brand wins at the expense of the time and effort of our faithful and giving associates. We want our associates to win as well. We want to be a more social business inside and out. We want to help our associates mature in their social presence and influence, in their use of social media personally and professionally, growing their networks as a result of participation. We want to help them benefit from participating just as much as we want the brand to benefit. It’s important that we not lose sight of that goal.

Having ongoing open lines of communication among advocates and between the advocates and program leaders is important. To that end we created a private group on our enterprise social network (Buzz) where that ongoing conversation is happening. The group page contains links to the training, the advocates website and already many helpful discussions started and participated in by a host of advocates. Jason and I get immediate notifications about new posts in that group so we can be timely in responding to questions or issues. I started a discussion thread a few days ago so that we can capture in one thread the best pieces of advice participants would want to share with newcomers to the program. Their contributions on day one to that discussion were invaluable and will certainly be incorporated into future training sessions.

So we’re excited about this program! I’m proud to have worked alongside Jason throughout the process, thinking through the details. Jason will be the primary face of the program and the one managing it. As his manager, my role will be to help guide and do all I can to see that he and the advocates are successful. I see the program growing in significance for the company to the point where managing it will surely be a full-time responsibility in itself given the massive opportunities to work with lines of business and the enterprise for various campaigns.

We also look forward to tracking the results and having the opportunity to share our story with others – both in the company and outside – in the months and years to come. We already have a meeting with a major brand a few days from now to discuss the subject and our journey to date. This post is just the first report from the early days following the launch. We have much yet to do and experience and report on, but we’ll keep you posted as it all unfolds. So far, all signs point to an exciting and worthwhile employee advocacy program.

What about you and your company? Do you have an employee advocacy program? Can you share in a comment some insights you’ve gained or questions you have that might spark continued conversation here on the subject?

ESNchat-smallOne of the most satisfying things I’ve done professionally in recent years is to start the weekly Twitter chat #ESNchat in September 2013, to see it grow through the 13 months I hosted it, and now to see it have new life and new leadership going forward through The Community Roundtable (@TheCR). After sensing a void in the world of enterprise social networking in the summer of 2013, I started the chat to provide a regular, free, vendor-neutral place where practitioners and enthusiasts involved with businesses’ internal social networks could share insights and help develop the field of enterprise social.

My friends at TheCR were receptive to the idea of them becoming the leaders for the chat when I approached them in August 2014. They kindly agreed to take on the challenge and as of October 2 they have been the very capable facilitators of the chat. Now that a little time has passed since the transition, I’ve had time to ponder the journey of that 13 months. I’ll share a few simple reflections on the experience here.

I recall the first chat on September 12, 2013. I had secured the domain name and the Twitter persona, discussed it with a number of people in the field, and started promoting it as best I knew how (which wasn’t very well in hindsight). I recall how nervous I was before that first chat wondering if anyone would show up. Had I done all this planning in vain? Was it going to be a giant failure that embarrassed me publicly? I was jittery as the hour approached from the uncertainty of it all.

Thankfully, people showed up (phew – that was a relief)! We had a great discussion and the chat was immediately an important part of my week and an opportunity to try to move the needle of enterprise social networking forward in some small way.

While the subject of enterprise social networking is near and dear to my heart as the community manager for Humana’s ESN, this effort was never under the auspices of my work. It was just Jeff’s little effort for good or bad, for success or failure. I never counted a single hour of the time devoted to #ESNchat as time working for Humana. That makes it all the more satisfying now that over a year later we typically have about 40 participants, hundreds of tweets, and excellent conversation every week.

I am thankful for the 225 participants we had over that first 13 months and I enjoy seeing new faces every week in the chat. I am thankful for the great archive of topics we have accumulated over time and continue to build under TheCR’s leadership.

There were a couple of surprises and disappointments along the way. For example, I woefully underestimated the amount of time per week it took to host a one-hour Twitter chat. I didn’t track the time in detail, but my best guess is that it took on average about an hour a day seven days a week due to the planning, archiving, promoting, and notifying participants of updates. That was a bit more than I bargained for, but it was time well spent.

The only real disappointment I experienced in the 13 months hosting is totally my own doing in that I did not bring to fruition the ESN Handbook I envisioned as a collaborative effort among participants. Given the existing commitment of time just to pull off the chat (along with other work and volunteer activities), I couldn’t get the handbook done. There’s a collaborative ESN Handbook eBook/website out there just waiting to be created and annually updated for some entrepreneurial group (hint, hint).

Now that I’m a regular participant in the chat with no leadership responsibilities, I get to experience weekly what those 225+ others have experienced rather than frantically trying to host the chats and simultaneously take part in the conversation. Frankly, it’s a bit more fun now for me and a lot less stressful.

One of my key lessons learned for 2013 was to take risks. When I wrote about that end-of-year lesson, I had #ESNchat in mind. It would have been easy to bemoan the absence of such a free, public forum for ESN practitioners. It would have been easy to think someone else should do it. It isn’t easy for introverts like me (yes, I’m an introvert) to put myself out there so publicly and try to start something that could go down in flames quickly. But I gave it my best shot and with the regular participation of many talented, knowledgeable professionals whom I have come to know and respect, we succeeded.

Now when I sit back for a moment in chats led by TheCR, when I see new faces introduce themselves, when I read the kudos from participants who benefit from the chats, and when I develop new professional relationships with fellow ESN enthusiasts, I smile a quiet but very satisfying smile like a proud papa watching his child grow up and go out into the world on his own.

Chats only succeed when there are multiple people chatting. I may have started it, but only through others’ involvement has it continued, and I am grateful for each participant. I look forward to seeing where it goes from here. Where will it be in one year? Two Years? What innovations will TheCR introduce (such as the #ESNchat Mini-Decks they’ve already introduced)? What actions will come from the chats? What takeaways will be implemented in businesses of all shapes and sizes that make a positive difference in those organizations’ internal communications and social collaboration?

There is no way of knowing the answer to those questions, but I am quietly confident that such applications will be made and the impact will be significant over time.

Thanks to all who joined me in the venture. Continue to join me and so many others weekly on Thursday afternoons at 2pm Eastern time as TheCR leads us into the next phase of ESNchat. The future is bright!

GroupUsingPhonesIs this the least social time in human history?

The question may sound odd coming from one whose daily work centers around social media, but sometimes I wonder if he haven’t taken giant strides backward in recent years in our ability to simply be social with other real live human beings around us. Here are some examples of why I’m concerned…

  • It is nearly impossible to go out to eat with coworkers, family or friends without a majority of the people spending more time looking at their smartphones than actually engaging with and enjoying others sitting at the table with them.
  • How many homes have multiple family members each on some electronic device for long periods of time, but each rarely interacting in person with others under the same roof?
  • How distracted are we by multiple conversations on multiple social platforms to the point of never really giving our full attention to anyone – either face-to-face or online?

I’m a huge fan of social media and technology in general. It has been the focus of my life’s work for years and will be so for the foreseeable future. I’m not suggesting abandoning the technology; that isn’t going to happen, anyway. But somewhere along the line we must recognize that we’re missing out on the face-to-face present when our heads are buried in our phones, tablets or PCs. As an introvert, I need and cherish my times of solitude, but when I’m with others, they deserve my full attention.

We’re missing chances at rich conversation and deeper, more meaningful relationships when we don’t get past the depth of 140 characters in what we communicate. We limit our conversations and the wisdom we can glean from others’ experiences when our dependence on technology omits communication with those who don’t use the technology. Our monetary wealth and eagerness to spend it on gadgets contributes to a poverty in relationships due to the lack of investment we make in deeper, face-to-face interaction.

Life is always a balancing act. Living for extended periods on extremes is rarely advisable. If you wonder if the above picture fits you or not, it probably does. That doesn’t mean you run to the other extreme by deactivating your social media accounts or giving up your smartphone. It may mean, however, that you set it aside when in the presence of others to develop that which cannot exist online. It may mean you don’t respond to every notification sound or vibration when in the presence of others, reserving that check for when you leave their company.

Be here. Be present. Respect those you are physically with and give them your full attention. Let’s not let a wave of social media opportunities actually turn us into a less social generation. We can and should do better than that.

12TipsForSuccessfulESNOver the past several weeks I’ve written a dozen blog posts, each centering around one tip for building a successful enterprise social network (ESN). This post is a simple listing of the links to those 12 posts. I’m sure I’ll revisit the subject and make modifications from time to time. For now, though, these represent the most important tips I would offer to those seeking to have a successful experience in starting or improving an ESN.

I hope you enjoy and benefit from them. I would love to hear your feedback via comments on any of the tips.

Tip12ForSuccessfulESNIn this final post in my series on building a successful enterprise social network (ESN), I draw on my learning background and goal orientation. That said, tip #12 is:

Never be satisfied – keep growing.

This is true in a variety of areas for someone who has responsibility for a company’s ESN.

First, let’s consider the area of technology.

No platform is perfect. We’re in better shape in 2014 than several years ago in the capabilities of software and in our understanding of what is possible and wise technologically. Still, community managers and others responsible for an ESN must always be on the lookout for big and little changes in the platform that help the company accomplish its objectives better and that can also improve the user experience. Work with the platform vendor as needed to suggest changes. Give your users an easy way to suggest changes that you then vet and perhaps pass on to the vendor.

If you did your homework well when selecting an ESN platform, you should be able to stay with it for a long while to come, but keep pushing for improvements. A vendor who rarely provides updates will not meet an innovative company’s needs for long. If you decide that there is no alternative but to change platforms, do so, but understand that there is great pain that accompanies such a drastic change. Only change platforms if there are overwhelming business reasons for doing so. Likewise, don’t stay locked in to a platform and vendor that refuses to evolve.

The user experience is another significant area you should always strive to improve. This is, of course, related to the technology improvements mentioned above, but it isn’t limited to that category. Identify those who have a knack for seeing and using the software from the viewpoint of a new user or another particular audience and take seriously their feedback. Listen to what is said repeatedly over time about negative aspects of the user experience and address those issues. Most workers don’t have the luxury of a lot of extra time on their hands, so be diligent – even aggressive – about championing changes that improve the user experience so that they will enjoy it and want to return. One of the great things about an ESN is that you usually don’t have to go out of your way to solicit opinions or to get volunteers for some user experience initiative. You’ll probably find a large, willing group of volunteers eager to help in response to a simple post on the platform.

A third area worthy of continuous effort at improvement is that of deeper integration of ESN use – both in its physical presence across various platforms as well as in the day-to-day processes and work flow that guides so much work that happens routinely. As was suggested in an earlier post in the series, the most successful ESN will not be the one that is its own separate destination apart from the tools and processes where people normally do their work; it will be the one easily accessed in the tools people use and in the normal workflow of how that work gets done.

Lastly, be sure to grow as an individual along the way. Make use of internal and external resources to continuously expand your knowledge and grow professionally. I cannot imagine a life without continuous learning. I have several go-to resources for learning about ESNs in particular or social media in general. For example, I’m a big fan of Rich Millington and his advice given at Feverbee.com. I also have memberships in the professional organizations The Community Roundtable and SocialMedia.org. I will be blatantly biased, though, and say that my favorite ESN resource is the weekly Twitter chat I host – #ESNchat! With a different topic each week, many knowledgeable professionals contributing to the discussion weekly, and archives of that great content going back to September 2013, you will find a wealth of existing info and a tremendous opportunity for continuous learning weekly by taking part in the chat. Use the ESNchat menu at the top of this page to explore more and then join us each Thursday afternoon from 2-3pm Eastern time on Twitter by following and using the tag #ESNchat.

We don’t stop learning once we’re out of school or just because we’re no longer pursuing formal degrees or certifications. We continue to learn because we’re built that way as human beings. To quote a few lines from the children’s musical Education Rocks:

Never stop learning. Never stop growing.
Never stop seeking the brightest star.
Never stop moving from where you are.
Never stop trying. Never stop reaching.
Never stop doing what you can do.
Never stop growing your whole life through.

If we possess that attitude about learning and growing and constantly improving ourselves, I suspect that will translate into the same intention to continuously improve the areas of our work for which we have responsibility – ESNs or otherwise.

Tip #12 is Never be satisfied – keep growing.

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See the following posts for previous tips in this series: