Move away from a traditional employee advocacy framework and encourage people to build in public, sharing or streamlining their work process openly.
You’ve probably seen people sharing company swag or product updates on social media. Or maybe, you’ve seen friends or acquaintances promoting a company webinar, article, or podcast episode. That’s not unusual, as employee advocacy is part of the SaaS growth playbook. However, in most cases, it feels off.
Whether it’s an Instagram story or a Twitter thread, people can’t dissimulate enthusiasm when promoting the company they’re working at.
Obviously, there are some extraordinary exceptions when employees are eager to share the things they’ve learned and the projects they’re working on. But in most cases, employee advocacy became an external incentive-driven behavior employees display to:
That’s why most company-centered posts people publish on social media lack:
Moreover, the marketing department writes social media posts for employees at some companies. In other words, the employees aren’t even authoring their social media content, as companies would take over their professional online presence.
That’s happening because companies are interested in accessing their employees’ audiences, knowing that people will pay more attention to brand messages when shared by their friends, acquaintances, or colleagues.
However, the lack of authenticity these social media posts signal will impact the results a company is seeking to achieve. After all, people can sense when others simply copy and paste company messages without any personal input.
So what’s the alternative?
Encourage your employees to build in public while working on your company’s projects.
Building in public is big. The movement is still gaining momentum as more SaaS entrepreneurs regularly share things such as:
However, the build-in-public trend is still associated with executives. We mostly see founders, chief X officers, and VPs opening up about their process. Meanwhile, the employees are required to sign strict NDAs without being able to share what they’re working on. Instead, they’re allowed to fake enthusiasm on social media by posting things they didn’t write.
What if more companies would allow their employees to build in public and talk openly about the projects they’re working on? Don’t you think this approach will have a greater impact on your visibility as a company? Just think about it: by allowing your employees to build in public, you’ll get them to:
Compared to employee advocacy, allowing your employees to build in public will create a win-win situation.
📓 Employee advocacy: Promoting a company or brand by leveraging the employees’ audience and contacts.
📓 Build in public: Documenting and sharing the process of working on a project or building a SaaS company.
By allowing your employees to build in public, you’ll access several growth opportunities, such as:
>> Gumroad, a self-publishing digital marketplace platform
In November 2021, Sahil Lavingia, founder and CEO at Gumroad, announced on Twitter that everyone at Gumroad is allowed to share everything they’re working on—as they’re working on it.
Lavingia also mentioned a Gumroad developer livestreaming her work on Twitch under Purple Elf’s nickname.
According to Purple Elf, aka Maya, “I mostly do coding streams because my amazing workplace allows me to stream what I do. Programming has been my passion for over half my life, and I never get tired of it. Anything you want to talk about in that area, I’m your gal.”
At the moment, Maya has more than 2.4K followers, and she has a packed streaming agenda.
► Quick note: Building Swipe Files isn’t a SaaS example, but it’s worth mentioning. Check out the 5 steps to build a membership website in 2022 on Webflow to read and watch a series of videos on how SaaS marketer Corey Haines built the Swipe Files website. That’s an excellent build/work in public example.
💡 To consider: You can get your employees to share social media posts written by your marketing department. However, you can’t and shouldn’t make your employees build in public. After all, not all people feel comfortable sharing their process.
📒 Make “Building in public” a requirement when hiring new people. You can’t and shouldn’t make your existing employees build in public. However, you can search for people willing to accept the challenge.
📒 Highlight the benefits employees will get by building in public. These benefits can include growing a personal audience, gaining exposure as a professional, and more.
📒 Train and guide your employees, showing them how to build in public.
📒 Create a build-in-public framework or guidebook for your employees to make it easier.
📒 Pay extra to those employees who’re consistent about their build-in-public project.
💥 To remember: Be aware of the risks of encouraging your employees to build in public. Considering that building in public will also mean professional exposure for your employees, other companies may contact them with job proposals.
Also, it’s worth noting that building in public will be different from department to department. Your developers may be streaming their coding sessions on Twitch, while your marketing professionals may share growth practices on LinkedIn.
Finally, it’s crucial to make sure that people won’t disclose, by accident, sensitive information about your company. That’s why you’ll have to be clear about the things your employee can’t share when building in public.