When it comes to social media, your employees are just like any other consumer: They talk to friends, share opinions and discuss their interests and hobbies. Perhaps most important, they also post about their experiences with the brands they buy from.
Many companies have already made the connection between employee social media activity and brand advocacy and realized its marketing potential. Who better to promote the brand to the larger social sphere than the people who work with it on a daily basis? These employers then encourage their staff to post on behalf of the company from their personal accounts, which sounds like a good idea in theory, but is difficult for many companies to execute well.
"If companies are focused on turning employees into billboards, [employees don't] understand what's in it for them," said Jason Seiden, CEO of employer branding tool Brand Amper. "Companies don't explain why it's good for employees to promote the company."
While the advantages of positive brand messages on social media is obvious for an employer, employees themselves can benefit on a personal and a professional level from attaching themselves to their company in their social profiles and posts. For example, a CNN anchor looking to speak with a source will likely get the interview simply by introducing him- or herself by title because the brand is well-known and respected, Seidan said. [For a side-by-side comparison of the best social media marketing services, visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews]
"Let the company's brand do its work for you," he told Business News Daily. "You don't even have to brag [when making a professional request]. You look good by association."
This is the case Seiden advised employers to make to their staff about being engaged with the company on social media, but he also noted that you have to let employees decide for themselves whether they want to be involved.
"Organizations should make [social media engagement] opt-in," Seiden said. "Leave it in the employee's hands to decide."
If your employees do choose to opt-in to social brand promotion, Seiden offered a few best practices for getting authentic engagement from them.
Create guidelines, not prescriptive policies. When crafting an employee social media policy, many employers take a "what not to do" approach and instruct employees to avoid certain practices in discussing the company in their social posts. Instead, Seiden recommended giving general guidelines and showing employees examples of successful profiles to model theirs after.
Allow for flexibility and freedom of expression. A big mistake companies make when trying to engage their employees in social brand conversations is dictating cut-and-paste bios or phrases that staff members should use in their posts and profiles. Seiden noted that employees need to be allowed to speak in their own voice if you want genuine, positive engagement. Refer to your guidelines and help employees craft their own personal brand messages, rather than telling them what to say.
Be mindful of employees' feelings toward mixing personal and professional. Some employees have no problem blurring the line between personal and professional on social media, but others may feel uncomfortable crossing that line between work and play in a public forum.
"The line has been perforated," Seiden said. "There's a desire to keep these worlds separate, [but] you can't. It may be technically easy [to post about your company], but there's an emotional challenge that goes along with it. Make sure you have an appreciation for that when coming up with guidelines."
Originally published on Business News Daily.