Those of us who follow the buzz of social media development come across a lot of content that can lack substance, despite having a great title. So I recently reached out to a number of social media experts that I know and look up to for real-world recommendations on two specific items.

 

  1. What are your top three must-read business blogs or publications?
  2. What is your best tip for kick-starting a successful employee advocacy program?

Below are the responses that I received (in alphabetical order by last name). Great food for thought, indeed. What is your favorite piece of advice from this collection? Do you have words of wisdom of your own to add?

Samantha Adams Becker, Senior Director, Publications & Communications at The New Media Consortium

Must-Read Publications:

  1. Fast Company — to be inspired by business innovation. Social media can make or break start-ups, so there are often great tips or success stories to learn from.
  2. New Scientist — for concise, well-written articles on scientific and technological advancements that are shaping our future.
  3. Harvard Business Review — because the case studies and articles depict real-life exemplars. It’s a seasoned classic for a reason!

Employee advocacy tip:

“The proliferation of social media has fostered great opportunities for businesses to leverage their employees as brand ambassadors. And, in turn, employees have a platform to share with their networks exactly what they are working on and passionate about. Tip: Businesses that already have a presence on the major networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, look for employees who have significant communities and a following elsewhere, such as Snapchat, Instagram or Reddit. Rather than the company slowly building a presence on a new platform from scratch, they can rely on their already savvy employees who are on those networks to help grow them more rapidly.”

 

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research at Gigaom

Must-Read Publications:

It’s really more a question of what tools do the best curation for me.

  1. I’ve subscribed to a lot of smart people on Medium, but it’s not really about the pubs; it’s the people.
  2. I use Flipboard to read my Twitter home feed, and that’s a daily treasure.
  3. The Information — goes deeper than other news services. I gave it up for a week and had to sign back up.

Employee advocacy tip:

“Find people that are demonstrating the behaviors you want to advocate and ask them how to get a program started, and let them run it.”

 

Rob Christianson, Creative Director at CDK Global

Must-Read Publications:

  1. Any article written by Lolly Daskal at
  2. eMarketer (subscription-based)
  3. Nothing beats a good Twitter list of influencers to stay on top of what’s hot in social and content marketing: https://twitter.com/robchristianson/lists/influencers.

Employee advocacy tip:

“Invite your employees to participate in brand-oriented activities and engage them on social platforms as they do so (hackathons, volunteer events, featuring employees in regular spotlights via social, on-site recognition, etc.), and position the most engaged as thought leaders within your industry.”

 

David Dubois, Marketing Professor at INSEAD

Must-Read Publications:

I typically read HBR, Mashable and Fast Company on a regular basis. In addition, I draw from  academic journals (in particular, the Journal of Consumer Research and the Journal of Marketing Research) to get a sense for how the digital realm affects our behavior and learn about sustainable, significant changes in business practices.

Employee advocacy tip:

“In order to be successful, I recommend great care in identifying valuable influencers (which need not be those with the greatest exposure but those that have the better overlap with the brand/company/campaign DNA). I then encourage the building of a community culture around these influencers to make sure that everyone jointly work to achieve the objectives (and I’ve written posts on this topic, although in a B2C setting (http://knowledge.insead.edu/strategy/leveraging-communities-to-create-social-media-momentum-4290).”

 

Jeff Gibbard, Founder of True Voice Media

Must-Read Publications: 

  1. Six Pixels of Separation
  2. Business Grow Blog
  3. Occam’s Razor

Employee advocacy tip:

“The most important thing to understand about an employee advocacy program is that it’s not about you, it’s about them. Employees don’t magically become more interested in the company because there’s a new program for sharing company blogs. Employees become more engaged when the company cares more about them than it does about what the employee can do for the company. So start with understanding what is important to the employees and go from there.”

 

Seth Godin, Best-Selling Author

Must-Read Publications:

I think that people should read 100 blogs a day. Blogs that stretch, that confound, that surprise. They’re free; don’t be choosy. But eliminate the ones that waste your time.

 

Shel Holtz, Public Speaker, Author and Principal at Holtz Communication + Technology

Must-Read Publications:

Here are three must-read business blogs/publications. I have to admit that it was hard to choose three from the list of blogs and publications that I read religiously. I finally had to ask myself which three would I keep reading if I could only read three:

  1. VentureBeat — Insightful reporting on the tech industry and its impact on business and society.
  2. Business Insider — Overall excellent coverage of the world from a business perspective, with a research component that does world-class work on issues that matter.
  3. Seth’s Blog — Seth Godin has always had a unique and useful perspective on things. Often his ideas aren’t new, but they do reflect a way of looking at them that breathes new life into them.

Employee advocacy tip:

“Coming up with just one suggestion for building an effective employee advocacy program was equally challenging, but I finally settled on this: Set measurable objectives aligned with business goals. That advice works on a lot of other communication efforts as well, and I don’t mean to sound generic. But I see too many programs that dish content to employees in the hope that they’ll share it without knowing what it’s supposed to accomplish. (By the way, unlike some, I don’t believe sharing content is the be-all and end-all of an employee advocacy program. It’s more like an entry-level component.) They measure the shares and maybe even the reach, but to what end? I admire the programs that know the impact that they’re having on the company’s reputation, sales, or recruiting efforts.

By the way, if I could pick one more recommendation for an advocacy program, it would be to start with a small cohort of employees who have already demonstrated the depth of their engagement with the company rather than trying to roll one out companywide from the get-go.”

 

Elizabeth Lupfer, Founder of The Social Workplace

Must-Read Publications:

  1. OfficeVibe — While OfficeVibe‘s product is focused on measuring employee satisfaction, their blog is a fantastic resource for content and insight into employee engagement, employee advocates and employee net promoter score and employee recognition.
  2. SocialChorus — The SocialChorus blog has a plethora of resources related to employee advocacy, including webinars and “how-to” guides for creating an employee advocacy program and best practices for transforming employees into advocates.
  3. The Social Workplace — Yes, this is shameless self-promotion, but it has great content. A personal blog that provides insight, thought leadership and resources on a variety of topics, including employer brand, employee engagement and HR Communications.

Employee advocacy tip:

“Sometimes you put so much effort into sourcing and training your employee advocates that it’s easy to delay putting together a plan to sustain the program. It’s important to develop a content strategy that is comprised of diverse content, which is relevant to your employee advocates while also being illustrative of your corporate and employer brand themes. Nothing is worse than launching an employee advocacy program only to have the employee advocates drop off because they don’t have enough content to share. It’s also good to track your social sharing metrics. If your employees are sharing 100% of the content that you upload to your advocacy platform, then that also means that you don’t have enough content for them to share. In a nutshell, a good employee advocacy program should include a content strategy that is both diverse and plentiful!”

 

Joe Martin, Social and Strategic Insights at Adobe

Must-Read Publications:

I read the Wall Street Journal every single morning. It is my main source of business news, plus I still like how the paper copy feels in my hands :). I also read the Adobe Digital Marketing blog. It sounds a little self-serving, but there is always really great content on there from people that I greatly respect internally. Last, at Adobe we use a tool called EveryoneSocial, which curates content from some internal advocates. I find that getting crowd-sourced content from my peers is a really valuable way to save me some time.

Employee advocacy tip:

“I think that employees naturally want to share their love for their company. It just takes a few dedicated people that are willing to create some training and tools to harness that motivation. We have a fantastic Center of Excellence team at Adobe led by Cory Edwards. Through that, training and tools are provided and incentives given for people to share both professional content and content around our company culture with the hashtag #Adobelife.”

 

Ethan McCarty, Global Head of Employee Communications at Bloomberg

Must-Read Publications:

I’m naturally inclined to say Bloomberg.com is my top business read (full disclosure: I work at Bloomberg!). The integration of relevant video with the written pieces beats all, and the mobile app is indispensable for fast-breaking news.

Next would be Priceonomics — sometimes poignant, sometimes zany, but always fascinating takes on business, politics, marketing, etc. I can’t believe this site is free. I mean, it’s like 99% content marketing, but it is almost always worth reading.

Of course, I love the New York Times — their coverage of business kind of pales in comparison to Bloomberg’s depth, but given that I don’t have a finance background, the context they offer (as well as the stuff local to my life here in Brooklyn) is helpful.

Employee advocacy tip:

“Listen first. This has always been the case: people want to start an employee social media program or employee brand advocacy program by telling employees what to say. The better move is to listen first. Are your employees already talking about your company? If so, what are they saying? If not, are they talking about anything? When I came here I started to observe how Bloomberg employees behaved on social platforms, and it turns out that a lot of the activity comprises employees sharing Bloomberg.com content … a very good thing! Having real evidence of that has helped to make the case for a more formalized program and has been a great input to the program’s design.”

 

Paul Miller, Author and Founder/CEO of Digital Workplace Group

 Must-Read Publications:

  1. McKinsey Quarterly 
  2. The Economist 
  3. Seth Godin 

Employee advocacy tip:

“Use crowdsourcing mentality — a handful of recruits who recruit others.”

 

Miri Rodriguez, Senior Lead Community and Social Media Support at Microsoft

Must-Read Publications:

To me, in general, people should always connect to three types of sources, at least on a daily basis: A source that keeps you updated in your own industry (line of work), a source that keeps you connected with a network and a source that coaches your career.

Here are my recommendations for blogs and publications and why:

  1. Fast Company — I love this publication because it offers a good mix of technology, business and innovation. Their content is super relevant to all generations, and it’s lighthearted in nature.
  2. LinkedIn PulseEveryone should be on LinkedIn, and if you’re on LinkedIn you should check out Pulse. Not only does it offer an opportunity to get to know influencers better, but also connect with them, share their content and let others know what your interests are. Not only is Pulse educational on many levels, but it also offers a huge networking opportunity you can’t miss!
  3. Penelope Trunk Productivity blog — I love Penelope: Her sense of humor and authenticity. Penelope openly talks about careers, education, coaching … and these are topics that we all can learn more and more about. She also offers a lot of “How-To’s” (good practical information that anyone can find beneficial).

Employee advocacy tip:

“Have a good, open set of guidelines for participants. Include Dos and Don’ts, reminding employees that they are professionals and represent the company at all times, on and offline. However, give them enough space to express themselves as humans and build their personal brand. I recommend a good training with periodic refresh to keep employees up to date on social and brand trends. Overall, ensure that they have fun.”

 

Brian Solis, Author and Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group

Employee advocacy tip:

Being the prolific researcher that he is, Brian had already covered this subject in-depth and shared his report.

 

Regan Sonnabend, Social Media Strategist at Gerard Agency

I couldn’t resist adding my own two cents’ worth to the roundup.

Must-read publications:

  1. My LinkedIn feed. This is the most targeted and useful place I go multiple times a day to hear what my network is thinking about.
  2. AdAge blog presents diverse marketing topics before they become mainstream news.
  3. org blog provides a steady stream of current profiles and case studies on how household name organizations deal with a variety of challenges that we all encounter on a daily basis.

Employee advocacy tip:

“Allow your champions to self-select through engagement. People who engage with brand channels organically are a natural fit to serve as cheerleaders and mentors for the initiative. Give them the support and tools that they need to advance their level of engagement, then let them pay it forward and coach others to do the same.”

 

Tony Stewart, Head of Digital at scarlettabbott

Must-Read Publications:

  1. Euan Semple’s The Obvious? — Euan keeps it real when it comes to his observations on the use of digital communications both inside and outside the enterprise. His musings often leave you wondering why we still haven’t fully adopted the incredible tools that empower employees and help them do awesome things at work, but the blog also leaves you inspired to do something about it!
  1. Sharon O’Dea Digital Communications Blog — Sharon is my Digi Comms buddy, and we can often be found chatting at length about the future of digital communications and the potential for the myriad of platforms that seemingly spring up on a weekly basis. Sharon’s practical insight and new tech experiences strip away fancy-pants positioning and give a real sense of how they can be used to improve the lives of employees and consumers.
  1. Gloria Lombardi’s MARGINALIA Online — I love Gloria’s Blog! There isn’t a topic that isn’t discussed here, be it enterprise social networks, gamification, robots, artificial intelligence … it’s as forward-thinking and as comms-geeky as you could possibly hope for; I always leave a trip to MARGINALIA feeling inspired and excited for the future of employee engagement.
  1. scarlettabbott’s Inspire — I would include this, but the smarts that come from my colleagues on all things Internal Communications, Digital Innovation, Employee Engagement and the comms landscape in general just blow me away; some fantastic insight and thought pieces here!

Employee advocacy tip:

 “Rules of engagement — Governance is never sexy, but it’s essential to put in place before any program starts. Many of your employees will feel nervous when asked to advocate your brand in a personal capacity; they will be your brand’s biggest fan but can feel exposed when talking about ‘work’ via personal accounts. Proper governance and clear ‘it’s ok to do this …’ guides and messaging will do wonders for empowering employees.

 

A helping hand — Sometimes your colleagues don’t have the time to create brand-new content. And that’s alright, just be sure to signpost the top content that you’re sharing via the marketing team and make it easy for colleagues to reTweet, reGram and share on the channels most important to you. This can be as simple as displaying recent social activity on the Intranet homepage or suggesting that employees subscribe to official accounts, so they get a push whenever something is shared — a perfect reminder for them to hit that share button!

 

Measurement and feedback — So those employees that have been enthusiastic enough to get involved and are sharing awesome content about your brand… they could do with some love in return! Ensure that you have the measurement mechanics in place so that you can see exactly how well your employee advocacy activity is doing, and be sure to make a big thing of those employees who are leading the way! Rewards help; gifts and prizes are always welcome, but never underestimate the power of simply being at the top of a leaderboard or getting recognition from a senior colleague or even CEO.”

 

These responses distill centuries of experience and wisdom into an enviable collection. In reviewing responses, I not only found myself nodding in recognition quite a bit, but also discovered several new gems. It was validating to note the similarity of many responses. This only confirms the old adage that great minds think alike. But how convenient to have so many great minds together to share their opinions.

Thanks to all who participated. For those reading, what would you add as your own response?