How GE Overcame Barriers to Social Sharing and Created an Army of Employee Advocates

March 15, 2017

This guest post was contributed by Steven Pepe, Global Leader of Commercial Marketing, GE.

Nothing beats the power of GE salespeople for delivering brand messages. They know our customers the best, are the most connected, and have the most external networks. Even if we buy TV ads during Sunday night football, it still wouldn’t be as authentic as our own sales force sharing news about our innovative products and technologies. We’ve found that when we arm sales people with content, they share it with partners, customers, and prospective talent – and that engagement is often more effective than a communications campaign. The challenge is guiding them to become advocates for our business, and giving them the right tools. It’s a combination of boosting their confidence about sharing news with their social connections, while making it easy and fun to do so day in and day out.

Creating a culture of social selling

Many employees are hesitant to engage in social sharing – they don’t want to send out content that hasn’t been approved at a higher level, or they’re not sure what kind of content can help them engage more deeply with customers and other audiences. We had some ad hoc programs in place to try and encourage salespeople to share -- for example some business units would send them a few stories about GE, and suggest the content be shared. Or marketers might write social posts and ask the sales teams to share them with their connections. Some business units didn’t encourage social sharing at all. We realized we had to move to a more focused approach to be successful.

For us, the problem was one of engaging our employees and understanding analytics. We couldn’t tell if the ad hoc employee advocacy methods were actually encouraging employees to share, or making any difference in terms of engagements, sales conversions, or reach of messages. We wanted to be able to break down these metrics by business units, so we could better understand the content types that specific audiences found valuable.

Starting out small with the social stars

We chose LinkedIn Elevate as our employee advocacy platform. With this in place, we could start breaking down the barriers between sales people and content sharing, and also get a better look at how employee advocacy could have a positive effect on GE. We started small with a pilot group of 500 sales people – those who were already enthusiastic social sharers. This was intentional -- we wanted their enthusiasm for employee advocacy to spread organically to their colleagues.

To help salespeople become savvy social sharers, we asked curators to strive for a 75% / 25% ratio of broad thought leadership content to company-specific content. The mix of industry thought-leadership, combined with GE’s own content, helped ensure that employees wouldn’t be viewed as mere cheerleaders for the brand, and that the content would be engaging to them and their networks.

A formal platform also helped employees become confident advocates by making it clear that it was okay to share content. Anything employees access via Elevate has been vetted and approved by communications leaders. Employees can drill down into subject they know their connections care about, like technology breakthroughs, corporate news, or the GE culture.

Greater sharing has positive impact on engagement

Freed from their hesitation to share content, sales people are now sharing four times as much as they used to. Their increase in sharing has influenced 2x more views of our Company Page and our job postings on LinkedIn. Employee shares are also receiving an almost 2% engagement rate!

We can get granular when examining the downstream effect of engagement as well. It’s very effective to be able to get specific analytics on one part of the business, like GE Power, and the traffic that employee advocacy drives back to the website from specific topics and even specific curators.

The value we’re seeing from employee advocacy proves one of our beliefs about employees’ central role in strengthening brand messages: Put good stories in their hands, and those stories will find their way to the right audiences.

Learn more about how LinkedIn Elevate can help your employees become more social.