#SilverLinings: How the new Twitter Rules will force you to rethink your Employee Advocacy Program

Just because we can all agree that the wild west needed to end at some point, doesn’t mean we can’t miss it a bit.

As many of you already know by now, Twitter has changed its policies to counter, as Yoel Roth, API Policy and Product Trust at Twitter, wrote on the Developer’s Blog, any “attempt to artificially amplify or inflate the prominence of certain Tweets.” These new rules stem from the now well-publicized social media shenanigans from the U.S. 2016 elections. I encourage you to read that blog to get context and details around these changes, which go into effect March 23, 2018.

However, boiling this down for Internal Communicators, this is definitely a bump in the employee advocacy road — especially for those who use third party vendor software that help you provide tweets that employees can push out on their social media network with one or two clicks. Actually, any internal communications or social marketing group that delivers ready-to-send tweets for employees can to use (even if they have to cut and paste those tweets) will have to stop doing that on March 23 or put your employees at risk of losing their Twitter accounts.

While I find it hard to argue with the thinking behind implementing these new Twitter rules, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bummer for those of us trying to implement Advocacy programs. Converting even your most engaged employees into advocates is no different from any other change program. To paraphrase from the Heath brothers’ great book Switch, it is sometimes not enough to win head and heart; you need to make the pathway clear and easy. Providing ready-made tweets and posts that are editable, goes a long way towards making it easy to become advocates. After March 23, you are basically saying to employees, “here is a link and a hastag, write your own tweet.” While that doesn’t seem like much, those of us who work with busy employees know that it can make a HUGE difference in adoption.

In preparing for a Post-March 23 world, I have to admit, I felt a bit negative about the prospects of our Employee Advocacy program. But after conferring with more intelligent and less emotional communications professionals (like Mercer’s global head of Social Media, the great Danielle Guzman) and our third-party software vendor, Dynamic Signal, I feel much more hopeful for the future; in fact, we may be on an even better pathway than before the rule. It is true that the idea of hundreds of employees lazily sending out the exact same tweet, while reaching a larger social audience, did seem a bit lame.

Three Pathways Forward

  1. Champion Retweets: Instead of providing editable posts through your Employee Advocacy system, you can simply point employees to retweet posts from the company’s handle or from leadership. In my mind, this is just as attractive in terms of ease. Further, you can appoint certain SME’s and people already engaged on twitter, as “champions” on certain topics, having them create the original tweets that get retweeted. This will help grow those “champions” as influencers, and will still allow individuals to build their personal brand and drive messaging for the company.
  2. The Harpoon instead of the Net. Launching software that allows you to provide employees one-click tweets and posts is akin to dragging the net on the bottom of the ocean floor. You don’t know what you will pick up, but you’ll pick up a lot of it. One-click editable posts make it so easy that you are bound to get some good percentage of your employees to sign on and start posting. But how engaged will they be? Their lack of effort means they can always take or leave the advocacy. The new Twitter policy forces us to spend more time trying to harpoon the bigger fish, by convincing them to put some “skin in the game” in writing their own tweets. There won’t be as many of these advocates, but their greater activity will mean they are more engaged and see a benefit that makes them want to put in the effort. You can entice them further by offering them social media training, and perhaps even give them some “swag” to make them feel like they are part of an exclusive group. So while losing the greater numbers is not what I would have freely chosen, the alternative is a smaller group of pro-active participants that will give you a richer employee advocacy program.
  3. LinkedIn, anyone? Finally, this is a policy that affects ONLY Twitter for now. You can still provide posts for LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and other platforms. And frankly, most of your employees may feel better about posting company and industry-related messaging and information to their LinkedIn network.

So while you may have an initial shock and sense of dismay over the new Twitter rules, a silver lining or two can be found if you change your perspective. #GoodbyeWildWest

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