The topic of advocacy has been on the rise. From companies looking for ways to harness the power of their employees’ social communities to more brands enlisting loyal customers to speak on a company’s behalf, organizations are beginning to understand the reach and value advocates have.

Here at Sprout, advocacy has been top-of-mind. We recently launched Bambu, an advocacy platform that makes it easy for companies to curate content for employees or brand ambassadors to share with their social networks. On Monday, January 25 we’re celebrating Community Manager Appreciation Day with a virtual panel. Plus, we just hosted a robust #SproutChat on the topic. If you’re thinking of starting an advocacy platform, consider these key points for success.

Dedicate Time & Enlist a Decision Maker

Establishing an advocacy program and getting it up and running is the hardest part. For an employee advocacy program, enlisting the power of a decision maker to motivate colleagues is key. If you’re building advocacy externally, start with a small, dedicated group and plan to scale from there. A nebulous concept can only go so far. Take the time to plan carefully in order to achieve a high-level of buy-in.

Establish a Sustainable Plan for Long Term Success

Throughout the planning process, you’ll want to think holistically and long term. Consider sustainable practices you know your team can realistically commit to. Establish a process that can turn into a standard by investing in a dedicated tool for distributing messaging. Offering incentives or rewards is also an option, as long as they’re not the sole motivation for action.

Define the Relationship

People hate to be deceived. On social media, the lines between paid, incentivized and organic promotion can be blurred. This is why it’s vital to clearly define the relationship and benefits of all parties involved. Disclosure and legal limitations are important to pay attention to, especially for large and global brands. Every social media manager should check out the principals that Socialmedia.org outlined on disclosure best practices. This presentation on Social Media Disclosure and Ethics for Big Brands by Andy Sernovitz is another informative resource.

Check out the following companies with great advocacy programs. Analyze what makes each successful and determine a way to emulate these initiatives within your own organization.

Join us on Twitter at 2 p.m. CT every Wednesday for #SproutChat. Next week, we’ll discuss native targeting organic posts across social channels. In the meantime, benefit and learn from bright folks within the industry in our #SproutChat Facebook group.