A lot of employee advocacy programs rely on apps that deliver content for employees to share. It’s a reasonable premise: These apps make it easy for employee ambassadors to find and share content they think their online communities will find interesting.
There’s a problem with this premise, however. If the app itself isn’t engaging, employees won’t make a habit of opening it.
Coming back to an app over and over again is called “retention.” In the app world, retention is a critical issue. Research has shown, for example, that for all the apps people install, they generally only use five apps with any degree of frequency. Another study found that half of smartphone users these days install zero apps in any given month.
It’s a mistake to assume an employee will routinely use an advocacy app just because she has volunteered to participate in a program. It’s also a mistake to define advocacy as nothing more than sharing items the company shares through an app. In fact, employees can advocate on behalf of their companies in all kinds of ways, including face-to-face conversation and answers to questions posed by people who know where they work.
Employees are now your most credible spokespeople
That kind of advocacy is vital these days. The just-released 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed a precipitous decline in trust. However, front-line employees remain highly credible compared to other sources of company information. Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Edelman CEO Richard Edelman said companies need to focus on their employees instead of investors if they want to win back trust. “Influence actually rests with mid-level people, who speak peer-to-peer,” he said. “If they’re for you, you win.”
A critical element in the effort to make sure your employees are “for you” is to keep them informed of news and information that is relevant to them and their work. Employees are more likely to advocate on their employer’s behalf —to be “for you”—when you provide a simple and convenient way to keep them informed, especially about issues and activities that affect their team and their work—and when they see the organization acting in ways that make them proud to work there.
SocialChorus is building a platform for employee communications that delivers relevant, timely information to employees across complex organizations with diverse workforces. An app is part of that, but because the content is visually compelling, accessible the same way employees get information from popular news apps, and is tailored to their information needs, it engages them. Engagement leads to that coveted retention. And, based on data provided by SocialChorus, retention leads to higher levels of advocacy even if advocacy isn’t the core purpose of the program.
What’s more, an app or digital tool needs to engage more than just the small group of socially-savvy employees who are already inclined to use an app and share whatever the company sends them.
Interesting, relevant communications drives retention
Thanks to SocialChorus digging into the data from its customers, including some of the biggest brands in the world, I learned…
- Employees using communication apps return twice as frequently as those using social-focused apps (like advocacy-focused tools); that is, communication programs have twice the engaged usage rates as social programs
- Programs designed for communication and engagement retain employees 70-80% better than tools designed to promote social sharing over the first 90 days an employee uses the app.
- Programs that retain employees for 90 days or more share 300% more than employees using apps that don’t produce strong retention.
- Those retained employees account for 65% of an app’s sharing activity.
Employees who have the information they need – to make informed decisions, to ensure their work is consistent with business goals, to be engaged and feel good about what they’re doing, to see the company and its leaders living and breathing the organization’s values – become true advocates, both through the app’s sharing functionality and through the other encounters they have every day at and away from work.
As Richard Edelman says, that’s how you get them on your side. That’s how you win.
Disclaimer: I am a business advisor to SocialChorus.