Kristin Thomas is the program manager for investment management company Vanguard’s employee advocacy efforts on social media, which, within a regulated industry, isn’t always the easiest task. Thomas, who is speaking at The Social Shake-Up May 6-8 in Atlanta, shares her story about launching employee advocacy at Vanguard below.
Picture this. It’s my first day at Vanguard and I am sitting in corporate orientation with many other new crew members (that’s what we call our employees). Far down on the agenda for the day, I read, “Social media policy discussion.” Considering that the basic goal of my job is to get more of the crew to use social media professionally, I was anxiously awaiting this discussion. What I learned was that Vanguard was very cautious in their previous guidance for social media use. I found this challenge extremely exciting. My new role wouldn't solely revolve around what to post on social media, but much more.
So, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? The policy. The policy comes first or else you can’t have chickens or eggs. As anyone working for a large corporation knows, policy work can take time. While I collaborated with our legal, compliance, social media, HR and other teams on new social media guidance for our crew, I embraced a “Just do it” attitude.
One of the first things I did was develop an internal weekly email newsletter called “The Social Round Up” sharing crew member stories and advice for building social profiles. It was a grassroots effort that has grown organically over the last year from 75 to 2,200 crew subscribers. This newsletter helped our team trickle out content and advice while we were developing our new social media guidance framework.
Many companies don't have a dedicated career blog, but it’s been an important part of our approach over the past eighteen months. Vanguard's career blog, featuring stories written by crew members, is promoted through the newsletter, other internal communications and our corporate LinkedIn channel.
We started with a targeted approach. We knew that if we could get our crew involved on social, we could expand our reach by more than twentyfold. We decided to focus our initial efforts on LinkedIn. By starting with a single platform, we mitigated risk, which made our Legal and Compliance teams more comfortable. We are in a highly regulated industry, and this approach enabled us to proceed with caution.
As we were testing the waters, we focused on slowly building participation on the professional networking site before venturing into other channels. What makes LinkedIn different from other platforms is that candidates have the opportunity to engage with our content, our crew’s profiles, our videos, our blog stories and our crew’s authentic posts about their #LifeatVanguard.
This large window into what it’s like at Vanguard allows both passive and active candidates on LinkedIn to decide whether they want to apply for a job after they’ve learned more about us in an authentic way. LinkedIn provides an experience that most job boards or company career sites can’t match.
We launched the program, not once, but many times. When we created the Social Round Up email newsletter, we also launched #LifeatVanguard as our crew hashtag. The hashtag ignited a grassroots effort, as we only explicitly shared its launch with a group of advocates and specific influential crew members. Since its launch we’ve seen a very significant jump in job applications through LinkedIn, creating an engaged candidate pool with further visibility into Vanguard’s culture and career offerings.
We also provide crew with social media training and resources though an internal Sharepoint website. We were building these resources at the same time that we were updating the guidance policy in preparation for our broader official announcement.
Once the guidance framework was finally ready, we ran an article called “Crew Get Social With #LifeatVanguard” on our company intranet, announcing our official launch. By that time, we had already laid the groundwork with content, resources, crew advocates, leadership support and proof of concept.
When crew began to engage, they found that leaders and other crew members were already out there sharing, which made new crew members feel more confident when posting for the first time. Our policy is still very cautious—as it should be in our industry—but the ways in which our crew can participate is now clear.
We’ve also been working very closely with our executive communications team to ensure our senior leaders have a bigger presence on LinkedIn than ever before. (This includes Vanguard CEO and chairman Tim Buckley.)
2020, here we come. The next step is exploring ways to bring #LifeatVanguard to new channels (Facebook and Instagram) and win new ambassadors. Now that the foundation is built, and we have an active base of employee advocates on LinkedIn, we’re focusing on high-priority recruitment targets and finding crew who we can engage in those fields as social media talent ambassadors. The coming year will bring a much-needed social sharing platform and other tools that will help us manage content, engage crew and measure our success.
The big lesson: Don’t wait. We made sure to introduce new elements, little by little, taking a careful approach to our employee advocacy rollout. This enabled us to change existing social habits and re-educate our 17,000 crew members at Vanguard. I’d suggest that you start working today on laying the foundation for future employee advocacy.
Get started in small ways, such as one-on-one meetings with leaders, presenting to teams, attending internal events, partnering with internal communications colleagues or a starting a small newsletter. We get a lot of love for the program internally and externally, but I’ll share one of my favorite recent compliments from an external partner: “I love what you have done for a highly regulated organization...somehow you've made social media not just possible, but wonderful!”
My advice, whatever you do: Make it count!
You can connect with Kristin Thomas on LinkedIn.