Changing the business model for advocay programmes

It may be confirming the obvious (although not for many companies who just deploy technology and hope for the best) but advocacy programs have significant impact on engagement rates. 

One of the three key findings in the 2014 CR State of Community Management research was that community advocacy and leadership programs are a key element of the most successful communities – they correlate with engagement, ability to measure value and executive participation. These programs require an investment in community management resources and processes to scale from informal programs to structured programs to multi-tiered leadership initiatives. 

​Only 33% of communities without any leadership opportunities are able to measure value – that rate more than doubles to 71% for those with formal advocacy programs. 

One of the key themes (or attitudes as I would like to call it) of a recent business change project team,  involved in putting a large world famous brand into the Cloud (Office 365), was to look at changing the normal business model and, in essence, changing the way we worked. 

An excellent example of this was the way we recruited the advocates (called Heroes) for the programme who would spread the message, coach their colleagues and be general role models in changing the way people worked through using collaborative tools.

The normal approach would have been to reach out to leadership with a request for nominees. If we were lucky we would get the ‘normal suspects’ who would be involved in every other programme and dutifully attend induction and go through the standard actions. This was not a model for us to follow!

Instead we began to practice what we preached and started to use the power of Yammer. With an agreed set of principles and objectives (but no core job description) we by-passed the traditional middle management (general road blockers with this sort of activity) and reached out to active users on Yammer (going where the energy was) to become advocates. These people were already changing the way they worked by using Yammer and we deliberately avoided the traditional ‘floor walkers’ that IT departments would generally use for the role.  It didn’t matter if you were of a management grade or role within a department – we wanted people that had a desire for change rather than a knowledge or technology.

The strategy was to go for numbers. Not dissuade people with a rigid job description or time commitment but giving them a set of principles and objectives and asking them to ‘do what they can, when they can’. The assumption was to have such a large volume of advocates that it didn’t matter if we have gaps in coverage or people away during certain activities – we had the numbers to cover.

We provided a core toolkit and built a coaching programme for them and there were some prescriptive elements around Outlook coaching, but in essence we began using the power of social networking to spread the message and the coaching. Heroes were asked to deal with any permission issues from their management. 

Microsoft challenged us to get 350 advocates for the beginning of the roll-out programme. Within 6 weeks we had over 500 and when I left the project we had over 1200 Heroes (from an initial roll-out audience of 48,000).

Some of the initial success stories include:

Over 400 Heroes attended physical and online Yammer coaching sessions in November with the challenge to recruit colleagues and join a group or discussion in Yammer. From the 8 weeks leading up to Christmas over 1000 new people were joining Yammer each week (with engagement levels at over 50%). 

Volunteers for use cases, testing, focus groups for SharePoint, OneDrive etc were recruited within minutes rather than days or weeks in normal programmes. 

There was some resistance to the ‘social approach’ we took and in some areas we needed to be more prescriptive (interestingly many of these were IT related departments) but the approach got us 90% plus of the advocates we needed. 
As the whole campaign was based on behavioural change and new ways of working (not the tools or IT deployment) the intention was not to stand the Heroes down once the roll-out was complete but to use them as a legacy for collaboration (and others projects) within the company.



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