Do you trust your employees enough to let them promote your business on social media? They could be sharing your blogs on Twitter and LinkedIn, giving insights into interesting (non-confidential) parts of their job, and interacting with prospective clients – in short, building up relationships and drumming up work.
For many businesses this is a horrifying prospect. The risks are real – if you give employees permission to talk in your name, there is a chance that at some stage, someone will say something harmful publicly. Social media may be better off siphoned off to the communications department, where it can be handled safely.
It is also seen as the enemy of productivity. It is still not uncommon for businesses to forbid their employees to go on social media in the office altogether!
But as being on social media becomes the norm, the benefits nowadays increasingly outweigh the risks.
Let’s face it: Many members of your team are doubtless talking about work on social media even without your permission. By bringing them under your umbrella, you gain more control and input over what they’re saying.
In fact, companies that do not actively encourage their employees to become their ambassadors online are missing out on a valuable business advantage!
It will expand your reach. Unless you are a massive multinational, building up your social media following is going to be a long-haul project. One of the greatest challenges is to get your material widely noticed. If your employees post your blog posts on LinkedIn, and retweet your tweets, it can give you a real boost, spreading the reach of your content significantly, and easily.They are your natural ambassadors!
Create deeper relationships with prospective clients. It’s highly likely that your employees are already connected online to people you (=they) do business with, or to people in the right kind of niche, particularly on LinkedIn. If not, they soon can be.By encouraging your employees to start talking about their work, you gain another way to nurture relationships with this valuable group.
Gain credibility. Whose word do you think the public takes more seriously when it comes to vouching for your business – your faceless communication department’s, your remote chief executive’s, or your workers’? The most credible, authentic voice is clearly that of your employees, who can give an insider’s view, humanise your company, and make it far more accessible.
Build team morale. If you allow them to speak for your business, your employees, meanwhile, will understand that they are valued, trusted members of your team, raising morale and making them more likely to engage with their work.
There are two exceptions. The first is in regulated industries, such as pharma, where what can be said publicly is much more tightly controlled; the second is in unhappy companies.
Having your employees engage with potential customers in a public forum only really works if there is, generally, a positive atmosphere. If you have just fired a load of people, cut salaries or installed a draconian manager, this probably isn’t the strategy for you.
How, then, can you recruit your employees as your social media ambassadors, in the most effective and responsible way? Here are seven tips.
- Think carefully about who you enrol in your ambassador project. Some companies encourage all their workers to be on social media. Others are more selective.Try not to pick only those who are confident on social media, but those who will do a good job reaching out to people and evangelising for your company.Consider a pilot project, which you can later roll out to more employees if successful!
- Whichever employees you pick, make sure they receive adequate social media training. They need to understand social media etiquette, how to respond to queries and provocations, and most importantly what they are and what they are not allowed to say in your name.
- Have a written social media policy for every employee on social media, which they can refer to again and again. This should outline the company style – for example, how you refer to certain products; and again, set out very clearly any rules about what they are allowed to post.It is crucial that this document is kept short, simple and accessible, and is not a full booklet which employees will never read or internalise. Consider a one-page summary with the most important points highlighted!
- Make sure they know your business well enough to talk about it publicly! You may have to brief them on upcoming projects or other aspects of your business they might get asked about.
- Set your employees up with business-specific accounts so that they do not have to mix their personal and work online personas. Keeping a separation is good for both of you, allowing your workers to maintain their privacy and dramatically lowering the chances of inappropriate material showing up on your work-related feed.
- Make it easy for them by providing them with material they can share online, such as your blog posts. Give them notice of any upcoming events they might want to promote and if any issues arise they might be asked about – such as plummeting stock, change of CEO etc. – make sure they are briefed.
- Encourage and celebrate their efforts. Your employees will already be listed together on your LinkedIn company page; make sure there’s a list of your employees on Twitter as well.
Interact with them on social media, taking the opportunity to create an online community for your employees. It will only reflect well on you!
Last but not least, reward them for being good sports. Acknowledge employees who have done a particularly good job engaging online and offer incentives to others to contribute to your blog or to join the programme, rather than penalising those who stay out.
Do you encourage your employees to go online? Let us know in the comments how this works in your company!
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