Employee ambassador programs and the intranet

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Harvard Business School conducted and ROI-engagement study that revealed for every 1% increase in employee engagement, the return on investment (ROI) for a social intranet increased 1000%. Wow.

I’m not sure that this is the case at every organization, it sounds a little high, but the point is clear — small increases in employee engagement increase the value and ROI of the intranet, and increases corporate profitability.

Social media is all the rage, and decried by some as nothing but a waste of time… but not necessarily for organizations looking to build brand, and even sales. In fact, some are using employees as social media ambassadors to promote and reinforce the brand and products using social media, inside and outside. And these employee ambassadors are incredibly powerful and can be massively more effective than the organization itself in reaching customers via social media.

In fact, Facebook is miserably ineffective when used by companies who use it as a marketing tool. A study from Napkin Labs found that only 6% of Facebook users ever engage with a brand page by participating in polls, commenting, liking, and the like. Of the fans of pages who did engage, that engagement was characterized on average by one hit every two months (approximately). However, when employees use Facebook on behalf of an organization, customer or public engagement soars. According to a study conducted by Facebook data scientists, when a user posts a status update, it is seen by one out of three of friends. Over the course of the month, based on 220,000 posts, users reached an average of 61% of their friends.

“This speaks volumes about the importance of employee ambassador programs,” writes Shel Holtz, communications and social media guru, and Principal of Holtz Communication + Technology.
“Do the math: Let’s say you have an ambassador group of 500 employees who share one post each in a month. It’s not the same post, since ambassadors share only what they believe will interest their communities (or what genuinely interests them). If those 500 employees have an average of 250 friends (a completely arbitrary number), that’s 44,500 friends who will have seen those posts—and that doesn’t account for how many shared it with their friends or otherwise engaged with it.

Cue the light bulb; corporations drool over the prospect of turning employees into active ambassadors that use social media externally, and internally on the corporate intranet, to promote the brand, and its products.

‘Employees are the public facing image of the organization,’ says Holtz, speaking at the 2013 Intranet Global Forum in NYC. Espousing the benefits of employee ambassadors, Holtz cites a number of key benefits of recruiting official or unofficial ambassadors who are automatically in a position to promote the brand by:

  • Spreading the word
  • Solving customer problems
  • Answering general questions
  • Promoting products and services
    • Creating general enthusiasm
    • Sharing coupons
  • Sharing customer service activities
    • …and answering questions


Specifically, the intranet is a primary communications vehicle in recruiting ambassadors and promoting employee ambassador messages, recognition and rewards.

GE’s employee social network on Yammer


The most important, critical ingredients to a successful employee ambassador program include:

      • Policy – rules or guidelines for communicating and using social media
      • Executive support – address leaders’ issues, tie program to company goals
      • Insight – listening to employees needs
      • Ongoing communications – continue to solicit feedback and listen to employees
      • Research – formally document both user and business requirements using formal research
      • Training – SMEs, leaders, social media practicioners, all employees; ongoing training


Among the must haves: policy. If not a formal rule book, or commandments, guidelines and general rules that relate to Code of Conduct. Or as Holtz puts it, “more guardrails, fewer rules. Encouraging, not discouraging.” As far as social media policy, Holtz says the best example is IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines, which are available for viewing on the IBM website.


Register for Employee Engagement and the Intranet


Employee ambassadors are becoming a must-have

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