So you’re thinking about implementing an employee advocacy program, but feeling a bit overwhelmed will all the information available? No worries, we all have been there. Even more so, you’re in a company of giants like Booking.com, whose employee advocacy journey can be of great inspiration and learning value.
We recently sat down with Najib Kuijstermans, the project manager at Booking.com, to hear about his insights regarding employee advocacy.
We chose Haiilo Share since it has all the right ingredients for Booking.com: an easy-to-use interface and mobile app with just a few clicks to share content. Gamification was also essential for us to engage our users. But above all, we appreciate Haiilo Share’s analytics suite, which enables us to be data-driven in our decision-making and test our messages.
Increasing Engagement with Partners through Employee Advocacy
Offering a global travel solution, Booking.com was looking for new ways to engage with their partner network and share a rich portfolio of helpful information and content.
Booking.com’s business model is dependent on the company’s accommodation-based partners around the world, including large global hotel chains, independent hotels, and even homeowners with properties for rental through the Booking.com OTA (online travel agency) portal.
Booking.com sought to provide these partners with educational content containing links to its partner hub website.
“The Booking.com partner hub website is full of answers, FAQs, and information that goes into blogs, including the services we at Booking.com offer them and how they can best engage with us,” says Najib Kuijstermans, Program Manager at Booking.com. “If we can get them this insight, it not only helps their business, but it also helps us at Booking.com.”
Top 5 Learnings on Implementing an Employee Advocacy Program
The Booking.com strategy before implementing the employee advocacy program
Before considering Haiilo’s employee advocacy solution, the company began A/B testing the use of social media towards its partner audience. They were aiming at reaching partners that weren’t reachable via email channels.
At that time, it seemed like a perfect solution to avoid spamming their partners with content and information that wasn’t relevant or beneficial to them. The positive experience with implementing social media brought Booking.com to a point where they started looking into employee advocacy in general. The latter one led them to Haiilo Share.
This early testing allowed Booking.com to discover that every single piece of content they shared was returning three times the amount of traffic.
“We knew that employee advocacy platforms existed, and there were choices out there, including Haiilo Share,” says Najib. “Considering our needs, following research and internal brainstorming, Haiilo Share and its good analytics suite came up as the platform of choice.”
In their first year of using the Haiilo Share platform, Booking.com already sees the cost-effectiveness of advertising with social media and the cost-per-click (CPC) expense. So far, they saw a 70% cost reduction than traditional CPC.
Empowering Booking.com employees to become thought leaders
Najib and the Booking.com team have been pleased with the beneficial aspects of an employee advocacy program in general. All the participants involved show an increase in employee engagement, and the feedback on their experiences so far has been positive.
“What’s been a really cool outcome about having an employee advocacy program, like Haiilo Share, is that it helps showcase employee involvement within the travel industry, specifically among our new employees,” says Najib.
We’re empowering our employees to generate a new kind of trust in their knowledge toward our partners, and these partners trust them even more in helping to make decisions that help drive their businesses forward.
Employee advocacy brings out the power of social media. Its impact is in offering new and valuable information to the employees’ networks. Employee advocacy programs’ success is based on the trust aspect. Within employee networks that take place on professional social media platforms like Linkedin, it’s vital that they involve human to human connection (employees are connected with other people -> trust factor), which provides accurate, insightful, and truthful information, and vice-versa.
“We’re happy to have an employee advocacy program like Haiilo Share to provide insight and information that we know is data-driven, which can help our partners as well,” says Najib.
Another aspect of the employee advocacy program that has become clear to Booking.com is the opportunities it provides the company’s employees to build their networks. After all, employee advocates are essentially becoming thought leaders in their space, so the more content they publish, the more they showcase their knowledge and the further they can expand their networks.
Employee advocacy program from the viewpoint of account managers
The vital partner-facing role that account managers play in Booking.com’s unique employee advocacy program setup means they’re prime targets for the program. According to Najib, their engagement has been “incredible.”
“Stepping into this space, we didn’t know how our employees and partners would react and how sharing would be in general. Thankfully, it has been a rewarding experience, and the account managers have been very engaged with sharing content.”
With just over 150 account managers across several regions and more than 30 countries, in the first three months of using the Haiilo Share platform, Booking.com saw 1 million in potential reach. And the feedback Najib is hearing is very positive. Booking.com partners view the brand as a more trusting source today than they had before kicking off the employee advocacy program.
“From our account managers’ perspective, they understand that the benefits of employee advocacy and sharing our content with partners are benefitting them as well,” says Najib. “This is also something that we showcase when we promote the program.”
Sharing of Booking.com’s content, including third-party, through the employee advocacy program
The primary source of Booking.com’s shared content is through the company’s blog content, which includes a wide variety of articles, stories, and relevant topical content. One of the success factors to the employee advocacy journey for Booking.com is due to this content and having an editorial team that has fully “bought in” to the program.
While having some initial hesitation in posting third-party content due to the concern around negative consequences, they decided to open proposed third-party content in addition to their internal content.
“We still ensure that our main internal content material is our main source of shared content. We want to drive people back to our partner hub, which contains a lot of information, specifically for our partners,” adds Najib.
“Third-party content is a good filler for those moments where relevant Booking.com internal content isn’t available or if the outside content complements internal content sources. Proposed and third-party content has definitely benefited us — in terms of employee engagement — because it allows employees to share not only what’s interesting to them but what they feel will be relevant content to our partners.”
Employee advocacy program and the use of gamification across different regions
At this stage of their employee advocacy program, Booking.com uses a basic gamification implementation to help retain the engagement while also testing and creating friendly competition among employees.
“We have a kudos system where we use the Haiilo Share leaderboards, looking specifically at user reach and user potential reach,” says Najib. “The gamification is an exciting aspect and what helps to keep our employees engaged, which is why we’re looking forward to expanding that and doing more there with Haiilo Share.”
Competition within regions and across the company is something the Booking.com team is also seeing more of, so there is a healthy appetite for friendly competition among colleagues.
Najib and others in the employee advocacy program are aware of the importance of keeping a balance to ensure employees are really motivated. It is important they are participating in the program because they want to share content with partners and not strictly because of the competitive nature that gamification brings.
“I think both aspects help to engage employees, so it’s equally an important piece to have a cool gamification strategy and aspect to the program that really gets everyone involved,” says Najib. “Employee advocacy for most employees is something that goes out of the scope of their day-to-day tasks and workflows, so it’s important that we keep it interesting.”
Best-performing content on the employee advocacy program for Booking.com
Shared content coming through an employee advocacy program means different things for different companies when considering what performs best and what they aim to get out of the program.
For Booking.com, it’s been clear that the proposed and third-party content has been nearly as engaging as their internal content.
“We believe the quality performance of our proposed content is due to the relevancy of the content we share, making it timely and something that really makes sense to our partners at that moment in time,” says Najib. “These third-party content items can be anything from holidays to shopping to something happening around the business around sustainability and supporting a press release or promotional push.
Najib has also noticed interviews with Booking’s own CEO and other CEOs in the industry are heavily engaging.
“Partners are interested in how the travel industry is performing, and our CEO and others are the thought leaders in this space, which is why they are popular when they are providing those insights.”
Don’t Rely on Preconceptions about Employee Advocacy Programs
Najib offered one final thought to others looking to start or improve their organization’s employee advocacy program.
“From the experience I’ve had with our employee advocacy program, it’s important to have an open mind about what works while experimenting and testing,” he says.
“Usually, there are preconceptions and notions about what works and what doesn’t work. It’s important not to stick to those but instead to understand them through experimentation. It’s through testing and analyzing data that you often find what’s the potential truth.”
Want to learn how other companies are using Haiilo Share for their employee advocacy strategies? Schedule a demo today!