Let Them Post: Why You Should Allow Your Employees to Use Social Media at Work

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You’ve jumped on the “Bring Your Own Device” bandwagon at the office – your employees are accessing company email on their personal devices, working remotely on their own laptops, taking company calls on their cell phones. It’s time to think about how social media fits into the picture. Are you also allowing your employees to “Bring Your Own Social” (BYOS)? Before you cry “Distraction! Information leaks! Inappropriate posts! Oh, the horror!” – remember this: your employees are smart. That’s why you hired them. Not to say that mistakes can’t happen. Gremln is here to help with ways your employees can BYOS to the business world while still being responsible to your brand.

Social Employees

Employees generally work for companies for a reason – they like what the company stands for, what they produce, and hopefully, their jobs! They are often your top brand ambassadors, ready to spout off ten reasons why the company they work for is the best in the business to anyone who will listen. But fear of accidental or uninformed public social media blunders might be keeping them from posting these feelings to social media. Missed opportunity. (And with data mined from a Forrester.com study showing 32% of online consumers trust a stranger over a brand, the influence individual employees could have compared to your “official” accounts is definitely worth considering.)

In an article on social media policies by Mashable, Eliot Johnson, senior manager of global social media at KPMG, said the following about the company’s employee social media use: “Social media is as much about the individual as it is about the brand. Empowering 145,000 partners and employees to use social media across our global network demonstrates our vision of enabling the business through our people. It is important that we recognize the business value of social media in order to connect with clients, employees and the media.”

The business world has plenty of examples of individual managers, CEOs, and employees who post a mix of insights to their personal lives as well as updates about their companies on the various social media networks. Take Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo – with an impressive 270,365 Twitter followers (as of this writing), she posts pictures of her baby, her love of sports, and Yahoo company news.

marissamayer

Jeff Barr, the Web Services Evangelist for Amazon Web Services (AWS), shares updates to the AWS blog in addition to family stories, tech news, and general musings with his 14,213 personal Twitter followers.

jeff barr

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has a massive social following in his own right (@Zappos has more than 2.6 million followers), but also encourages his entire staff to use social media at work. In an interview with CNN he said, “At Zappos we are all about blurring lines. Our goal is to hire employees whose personal values match our 10 core values, so every employee is automatically living the brand, at home, in the office and in social media. Rather than focus on work-life separation, we focus on work-life integration.”

On the flip side, there are plenty of news stories highlighting errant and inflammatory tweets sent from corporate accounts intended for personal accounts, or prominent employees tweeting privileged company information and getting in hot water with the FDIC, SEC, FDA, or FINRA. (We all remember when KitchenAid’s official account sent an offensive tweet about President Obama’s grandmother, and when Francesca’s Holdings CFO tweeted “Good Numbers = Happy Board” and found himself out of a job.)

Your company can get over social media trepidation by taking advantage of tools to help you benefit from social – all with the peace of mind that the content produced won’t damage the brand. Here are ten tips for getting your organization started with secure social media engagement:

  1. Encourage appropriate, useful, and fun ways to talk about the company on personal social media accounts. Don’t just limit it to your executive level employees – invite the whole team!
  2. Put together a Social Media Policy. Decide what is off-limits to anyone representing the brand and be clear so there is no confusion. Will you encourage employees to tweet during business hours? Do they have permission to use the company logo on their personal Twitter pages? What topics or keywords are off-limits? What are the ramifications for going against this policy?
  3. If your company has compliance regulations, make sure your employees are aware of them. Gremln offers tools specifically designed to help businesses meet social media compliance specifications and avoid PR blunders. For more info on Gremln’s guide to secure social media, check out our compliance toolkit.
  4. Empower your staff specialists and brand enthusiasts! Set up an internal system to empower your staff to respond to customer comments and complaints. Gremln allows you to assign customer posts to members of your team to ensure questions are answered by the right people in a controlled way.
  5. Trust. It’s amazing what trust can do to bolster employee/employer relations. Remember: you hired smart employees, so treat them like it! As long as you are clear about what the expectations are (don’t sully the reputation of the business, don’t tweet confidential information, etc.), showing your employees that you trust them enough to tell potentially tens of thousands of people at once what is so great about your company will make them feel valued.
  6. Offer Support. Provide a time during work hours for people to talk shop about best practices for social media, offer to be that ever-important second set of eyes, ask seasoned veterans to give casual “lunch hour” seminars to help their social novice coworkers get started. This will introduce best practices and confidence in your employees, not to mention build camaraderie amongst the staff.
  7. Be transparent. Encourage your employees to align themselves with the company by way of including the company name and his/her position within their social media account bios. A popular line that often accompanies one’s job description within their social bio is: “views and comments expressed here are my own.” That lets the reader know while this person does work for Company X, this is in fact her personal Twitter account. (Do remind employees that once they’ve announced themselves as a part of Company X, people will likely associate them as an extension of the brand, so do be careful with their posts.)
  8. Recognize that mistakes happen – you & your employees are only human. In order to safeguard your company against mistakes, you can put an approval process in place to review posts that contain red-flag words or phrases. Gremln lets you give your employees autonomy to post as they wish until a message contains content that your company considers possibly inappropriate. In those instances, the message is sent to one or more managers for approval before the message can go live. Gremln gives you peace of mind that posts coming from you and your employees will be compliant.
  9. Have a plan of attack for how to handle the situation if mistakes do happen. When social media errors are addressed in a calm, timely manner they’re much less likely to make headlines.
  10. Have fun!

Do you allow your employees to tweet on behalf of your company? What are some of your best practices? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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