The power of your people: how Sage reinforces employee pride, builds confidence in the brand and empowers external storytelling with their employee advocacy programme. Alison Boothby speaks to Sonia Rosua-Clyne, Global Advocacy & Social Selling Manager at Sage.
It’s been a long time coming, but organisations are waking up to the fact that employee expectations around communication have radically outpaced enterprise communication practices. At the same time, it’s clear – as expressed by Facebook in January this year – that while companies have relished the impact of social media, posts and videos from businesses, brands and media publishers are not as popular as those from friends and family. It’s not just the diminishing reach of postings that is a concern for business. The progressive erosion of trust in corporate social media means that brands need to find new and authentic ways to engage employees and reach their customers. An employee advocacy programme could be the answer.
Sage is the market and technology leader for cloud accounting, payroll, people and payment systems, supporting over three million customers in 23 countries across five continents. “Our CEO Stephen Kelly loves social media and is an influencer in his own right. In his eyes, the 13,000 Sage colleagues are all brand advocates and it was a natural step for us to harness their enthusiasm,” explained Sonia. “In order to empower our employees to tell our story, it was essential that we found a tool that allows people to share content safely,” she continued.
…keeps them aligned and engaged
More than employee advocacy
Sage chose to work with Dynamic Signal, an employee communication and engagement platform, trusted by world-class companies to streamline, modernise and measure employee communication by informing and engaging employees with timely, relevant content across channels and devices. Sonia added: “While employee advocacy, or social media sharing, is the business outcome, there is much more to it. The content we want employees to share is the same content that keeps them aligned and engaged with the latest positive brand news and stories that support the company mission and values. In this way we reinforce employee pride, build confidence in the brand and empower external storytelling.”
There is no doubt that the Sage Voices programme, as it is called, is an ambitious project and intricate in its categories and divisions. Streamlined content is curated from a wide variety of sources and every piece is moderated. Each employee can pick and mix options to ensure that they get a regular feed of stories that are of relevance and interest to them alongside the core compulsory content. Chris Seth, MD of Dynamic Signal for Europe told us, “It’s a platform that copes well with the complexity of very large and disparate multinationals and offers an astonishing 17 languages.”
The Sage Voices programme is built on three pillars: Education, Technology and Content. Sonia explains: “At the core of the programme is a focus on why building your personal brand online is a good idea. In the last six months we have run 128 training sessions for colleagues, teaching them what good looks like and sharing best practices. We demonstrate how a strong personal social brand can unlock opportunities for them, like converting sales leads, getting invited to speak at events and conferences, or even positioning them for new roles. We want them to become thought leaders in their own right. And we have organised for professional headshot photography for all those who attend these training sessions.”
“Then, there’s the question of how to sustain your personal social brand. We know this can be time-consuming and that’s where the right technology solution can really help us. The Dynamic Signal platform we use for Sage Voices saves time, ensures a personalised experience and enables easy, compliant social sharing. It’s got some really cool features too; the favourite of mine is the auto schedule option, which optimises the best time to share my chosen content on each of the platforms I’m linked to. Socially savvy people may build their personal social brand natively. That’s fine, but for most of our colleagues, using our platform takes all the worry out of it. There’s a big focus on ease of use and the mobile first platform provides an intuitive experience, closer in look and feel to consumer technology.”
The platform provides an astonishing range of rich analytics and usage data, way more useful than the usual out-of-the-box measures. With custom tracking codes (UTM) it is possible to understand a potential customer’s online behaviour once they have clicked a link. This makes it easy to showcase the value of the tool to those not in marketing.
only about 25% of the content is Sage branded.
“Content is the currency of success and at the moment virtually every piece of content is moderated,” added Sonia. “We are always thinking about what will keep our employees interested and engaged. One of the reasons I believe it has been so successful so far is that we have steered clear of using Sage Voices as a marketing tool. It’s not compulsory for anyone to use, and we deliberately ensure that it is not a brand-heavy experience. In fact, only about 25% of the content is Sage branded.”
Content is pulled in from various social channels as well as the internal team of content writers producing content from interviews with senior leaders, or customer stories. Users are encouraged to submit content that they think their colleagues would find interesting and useful. “Surprisingly it is some of our longest serving employees who are our biggest content contributors – our Power Users. They have enormous experience and expertise and some great content to share. Some of them have become moderators too.” Managing the content is a big job: Since last October nearly 17,000 pieces of content have been approved and 82% of these have been shared.
Top Tips to drive a successful advocacy programme
- Don’t mandate – educate on the reasons to get involved
- Incentivise: leaderboards, competitions, recognition, points, prizes
- Set realistic goals
- Know your employees – what makes them tick; what content will they share?
- Use a good advocacy tool to track your progress
- Make sure everything is as trackable as possible (UTM codes)
- Get granular – no size fits all
- Get your leadership involved from the start
- Feedback constantly on results
- Make advocacy a sub-channel for amplification
Within the infrastructure of the platform leaderboards stimulate competition and allow for incentivisation, something that Sage Voices has used to good effect. “Our users collect points for getting involved with the platform, whether that is sharing, commenting, retweeting, adding their own opinions, using emojis, hashtags and the like. This all goes towards a global competition – 22 countries involved – called Beat the CEO. Basically, if you can get above CEO Stephen Kelly on the leaderboard each month you are eligible for a prize. All monthly winners then go towards a bigger annual prize. Prizes are all wellness based, so meaningful and valuable. It’s pretty cool and it works!” said Sonia.
Performance validates the programme
In the 6 months since launch:
- over 50% of Sage colleagues are registered on Sage Voices in 22 different countries.
- 5300 posts submitted by Sage employees
- 192,000 pieces of content shared, generating over 95,000 reactions and 263,000 clicks
- 144 million potential impressions
Chris Seth commented: “Dynamic Signal is proud to partner with Sage to help engage its people in every market, empowering them to tell the company story in a meaningful way. The momentum we’ve seen across Sage Voices serves to emphasise the urgent need for organisations to modernise the way they communicate with their employees, and to find a partner that can adapt to the often complex needs of a global business to deliver commercial returns at scale.”
There is no doubt that Sage Voices has been enormously successful in its first six months and Sonia is working with social media managers in each country to get them fully up to speed to help with moderating local content. At the moment, Sage Voices is a stand alone employee advocacy programme but the platform has the potential to do a great deal more. There are plans to look at how to integrate better with the intranet as well as working more closely with internal communications and the employer brand team. Watch this space…