I've been working with a client who is slowly engaging, from a corporate perspective, in social media. However, they happen to have a number of employees who are already individually engaged in social media. So the conversation has often turned to: what about our employees.
An informed and empowered employee base can be one of the most effective forces in social media. By sharing your corporate use of social media with your employees and subsequently encouraging employees to share relevant and appropriate information about your corporate activities, you can leverage this force.
Key steps to empowering employees for social media:
- Develop and share employee guidelines for social media usage.
- Plan for employee outreach in communications that have a social media component.
- Create a “social media channel” page for the Intranet.
- Make employees aware of your social media monitoring and train them accordingly.
1. Give them clear guidelines for social media usage.
Employees want to know what they can and can't do. Now generally, these guidelines don't have to be much different than your existing guidelines for employee communication to the media. But adding in a few social-media specific notes can go a long way,e.g. if an employee posts about your company, they must disclose their relationship; don't discuss certain topics (especially anything that could be construed as "forward looking"); etc.
Chris Bordreaux maintains a great database of social media governance policies and guidelines. I've found this to be an amazing resource and a good "reality check" for clients (and their legal teams) whose first impulse is to mandate every little aspect of social media, particularly on a per-channel basis. Personally, I'm a big fan of social media policies like Nordstrom's where it takes a plain-language philosophical approach, but with clear directives regarding customer information and what to do if you mess up.
2. Share your content or program on employee channels first with a message specifically written for them.
Your employees are on your team; treat them that way. There is nothing worse than finding out from your neighbour or your spouse or your hair stylist that your company launched a cool new social media program or campaign. Tell your employees what you're up to and they can help you get the word out.
For example, a few years ago, we did a social campaign with a Canadian corporation that netted 250K participants. Over 1/3 of those were driven through employee-initiated contacts. We gave employees a "sneak peek" of the campaign a few days early as well as a unique URL they could share with their family and friends - through this unique URL we were able to track the impact of employee contact - it was significant!
3. Create a place on the intranet where there are links to your social media channels and initiatives.
Just as it is important for organizations to have a public-facing social media hub so that official channels can be verified, your intranet should have something similar. The content on your intranet can be augmented with a bit of background on the campaign as well as with any unique links or messages that you would like your employees to use when sharing the content or campaign. It's also a great place to archive links to your campaigns.
4. Make employees aware of your social media monitoring activities.
One of the most frustrating things for employees who are active in the social media space is to see conversations happening about their employer and not knowing:
a) if they themselves should respond; or
b) if anyone in the organization is even seeing it;
c) how and to whom they could report it.
Let your employees know that you are monitoring social media and that you evaluate each situation for response. Give them an outlet for reporting conversations they are concerned about. A great example of this is included in Coca-Cola's social media guidelines for employees (the reference is actually in the print version rather than the online version).
And important component of making employees aware of your monitoring is making them aware that you are, in fact, monitoring their conversations as well. And perhaps how to change their privacy settings In working with clients to set up their monitoring programs, I can't begin to describe the shocking things people are writing about their feelings about their companies and their co-workers. We all like to occasionally complain about work, but if you're going to post about these things on social media channels, make sure your privacy controls are in place!
A radical and refreshing step a company could take in regards to their employees and social media would be to both coach them on how to use it as well as how to protect themselves. Coca-Cola refers to something like this in their guidelines - an employee Social Media Certification Program. (Personally, I would LOVE to see the curriculum from this program!) Programs like this can go a long way towards helping both organizations and their employees be better social media participants.
And even if you don't want to have a "certification program", engaging your social media champions (those who are already using social media tools on behalf of your organization) and inviting them to share their knowledge and experience with other employees is a solid step towards building a social-media-savvy organization.
I would love to hear your tips about how you work with and encourage your employees to engage in social media activities, either as official spokespeople or just simply an enthusiastic team member. Any sure-fire methods or pitfalls to avoid? Please leave a comment below!
Image Credit: David Armano