Budgeting for an employee advocacy program and extending your social media program outside the usual confines of the marketing department can be a challenge.
In our experience, financing and budgeting for business-wide employee advocacy activation is one of the biggest obstacles to social maturity success.
Yet, with 75% of CMOs stating they are being asked to do more with less and 86% reporting that they’re under pressure to make significant changes to how marketing works to achieve sustainable results (Harvard Business Review), the urgency to optimise budget allocation has never been more critical.
In this article, I share:
- Why typical marketing quarterly campaign budgets don’t work long-term
- Where to source your budget
- All the resource costs (from the obvious to the less obvious) you’ll need to consider - along with top tips to stretch your budget further
A Truly Social Business Wasn’t Built In A Day QuarterSocial business transformation and reaching employee social maturity takes time as it involves a deep cultural shift. Yet many organisations work with short-term budgets, which creates a campaign-focused approach rather than planning for the bigger picture.
This means there will be no budget left for training and content creation, just when you need to optimise and scale your strategy.
It’s always a good idea to use a short-term budget for running a pilot to provide a proof of concept. And you don’t need more than 10% of employees already championing your organisation on social media to do so (or 5% in larger enterprises).
But after this, you need to commit to a budget to cover the longer term if you want to develop a successful social business.
Where To Source Your Budget For Business-Wide Employee Advocacy Activation
Reallocate BudgetsMost B2B marketers will have felt the increasing frustration of dwindling organic reach on social media and increasing their paid budgets to overcome this.
So, calculate the estimated earned media value of reaching 1,000 people per employee and then compare that with your last sponsored post.
Then, consider conversion rates. Employee advocacy acts similarly to customer word-of-mouth marketing, so conversion rates are often much higher than advertising or even website leads.
Innovation BudgetIn larger organisations, marketing departments often have an 'experimental budget', usually about 10%, to try out new ideas or strategies.
It's important to remember that initial tests might not show an immediate ROI because B2B sales usually take 6 to 9 months.
This situation highlights the need to move away from only using creative campaigns or expensive digital ads that get lots of website visits but few conversions.
Instead, it's better to focus on showing real results with more in-depth data. An excellent example of this is our Stewarts Law Firm case study.
Their trial employee advocacy program significantly improved their online and offline engagement. They saw an 89% increase in web traffic from social media, 60% more meaningful conversations on LinkedIn, and a 33% rise in offline meetings through LinkedIn connections.
This case shows the benefits of a well-planned employee advocacy program, even in a traditional field like law, and highlights the importance of innovation and using data to guide marketing efforts.
Partner With Other DepartmentsSocial business transformation enhances employee engagement, draws top talent, and fortifies customer relations.
Employee advocacy is central to this, with stats showing employee-shared posts receive 561% more reach and induce 800% more engagement than company-shared posts (Source: Peer2Peer Marketing).
This effort should go beyond just marketing, with help from various departments. By pooling resources and working together, we can boost brand trust, cut marketing costs, and increase sales, making a united approach vital to reap the full benefits of employee advocacy.
How Much Will Social Business Transformation Cost?The critical question that doesn’t have a definite answer! Here are some typical costs you will have to budget for (and some tips to help you reduce them!).
Employee Advocacy Tool Licences
Licenses for advocacy tools typically cost approximately $8 dollars per person (although at a company-wide level, it is usually a flat rate, which will be a lower cost per person).
Our Employee Activation Workbook will help you get started with your program.
Tip: We strongly recommend starting small with a pilot scheme of 10% of your employees (or in larger enterprise organisations, a minimum of 250). So don’t feel coerced into signing up for more licences than you need. It’s always easier and more cost-effective to scale up, not down.
Training/Enablement/OnboardingIn our experience, the enablement budget is often overlooked until organisations run into problems. You should really budget 10-15% for training/enablement and onboarding.
Once you begin to see the results, you should allocate 20% of your licence costs because that’s how you start building a community and tailored training to scale your efforts.
It may seem a lot, but too many businesses fall into the trap of believing that all their success will come from the tool alone, but it won’t. Remember the Pareto Principle: 80% of your results will come from 20% of your employees. So, focus on delivering the right training to different user groups.
Tip: At Tribal, we have a saying that you can use to effectively scale your training to deliver the most impact as it’s needed: Train the Masses, Train the Many, Train the Few.
(Find out more about The 9 stages of employee social media maturity here.)
Engaging The C-Suite And LeadershipIt's crucial to get leadership buy-in for social business transformation and maintain it. Engaging your leaders will play a massive role in building a successful employee advocacy program.
You should, therefore, budget for creating persuasive presentations and providing regular updates to keep them engaged with the process, setting an example to others.
Most importantly, consider budgeting for executive social media optimisation and coaching – or even social media kickstarts transitional help - so they can experience the program first-hand - seeing is believing! And believing is critical to buy-in and creating leadership ambassadors.
Tip: Learn more about how senior leaders on social media build brand trust.
Content Curation And Creation
One of the biggest challenges of employee advocacy is employees not knowing what they can and can’t share. Employee-generated content (EGC) is a powerful tool for companies to showcase their brand and attract top talent. However, you may also need to curate content for your employees to share and continually train and encourage them.
This part of your budget depends on your resources. You should ideally have 4-5 topics and add content daily to every topic, but for smaller companies and budgets, it should be updated at least weekly.
Without the right quantity - and quality - of third-party and internally-produced content, your program isn’t going to work. It needs to have a mix of:
- Brand and employee-generated content created to build trust and credibility
- Curated content
- And shamelessly self-promotional- i.e. it features a call-to-action of some sort!
Tip: Blogs are usually already produced as part of any content or inbound marketing strategy, but the more that you can encourage employee-generated content and curated content suggestions, the more you may be able to tap into your marketing budget in future!
Gamification And Incentives
As your program expands, you’ll likely want to include gamification features, such as leaderboards for those who receive the most clicks/shares.
Many companies offer rewards or incentives. These don’t have to be particularly expensive and remember that experiential rewards are usually more motivating in practice.
Optimising Budgets and Choosing the Right Tools for Success
I’ve seen many struggle to get the optimum budget to activate their employee advocacy programs business-wide, but it can be done.
Budgeting for a company-wide employee advocacy program goes beyond finances, aiming to foster genuine team social engagement. A crucial step is selecting a tool that fits your company's needs, is user-friendly, and offers good support.
This thoughtful selection not only propels your brand on social media but also cultivates a culture of shared engagement, making your budget a foundation for united efforts towards achieving your social goals.
Download our Kickstarter Guide to Launching A Social Media Advocacy Program.