Glenn is the founder and CEO of GaggleAMPa platform for employee advocacy and engagement.
This is according to data from 2016 77% of US employees use social media at work, but 45% of companies have no social media policies. Overlooking employee presence on social media can cause confusion and missteps. You also miss an opportunity to create benefits for both the employee and the company.
For the individual, creating a strong brand on social media can grow their network and increase their engagement, which means likes, shares, views and comments. This “industry influencer” status stays with them even if they move to a new company. For businesses, I’ve found that helping employees build their brand can improve employee advocacy, the systematic approach to empowering employees to defend your brand. People don’t want to come into contact with an anonymous organization. They want to interact with people. Social engagement helps your staff build one-to-one relationships in a way your brand never could.
Let’s take a closer look at the win-win scenario that builds your employees’ personal brands, and how focusing on the positive – ‘do’s and don’ts’ – can lead to better outcomes for everyone involved.
When I meet someone new, the first thing I look at is their LinkedIn profile. This profile is more than a digital CV. It’s a way to build credibility and build trust with potential customers and partners. So consider providing guidance during employee onboarding to help your team make a strong “digital first impression.” While social accounts are owned and owned solely by employees, training goes a long way in helping people create professional profiles.
In addition, provide guidelines and guardrails for sharing content and engaging the marketplace. Instead of asking how you can get employees to promote your company, consider how you can align the company’s social media efforts with the interests of employees. You can’t pump out “buy my widget” content over and over and expect people to want to share it. Instead, create and curate content that benefits the company, the employee, and the public. Think of the public-employee-company trifecta as a three-legged crutch. Ignore one element and you fall over.
Another best practice is to tailor your content approach based on the role of the employee and desired audience. Your workforce is not a monolith. Different roles, regions and focus create a rich tapestry of people connected to a variety of audiences. The key is to tailor the content to the potential audience each employee will reach.
Let’s pretend your company just launched a new widget. Your product team may want to celebrate its new data handling process. Your sales team may want to share how the widget increases ROI for customers. And the customer success team may want to talk about how this new product will improve the existing customer experience. Sometimes a one-size-fits-all message may be appropriate. However, I suspect this will be the exception rather than the rule once you see the impact of targeted messaging.
Worry less about driving off the road.
One of the reasons companies choose not to employ employees in social media strategies is because they are concerned about risk. They fear that employees will go rogue and say something that will make the company look bad. But I’ve noticed that the chance of this is smaller than you might think. Has an employee ever said something inflammatory or controversial? Certainly. It happens. But most employees are not about to drive themselves off a cliff. And if so, fine, as long as they don’t drive a car plastered with your company’s logo. (In other words, participation in an employee advocacy program may be optional.)
The reality is that a company can only regulate content on platforms it owns. Unless you run Meta, Twitter, LinkedIn, or TikTok, you don’t own the channels your employees spend time on. In addition to the right to free speech, employees’ decision to share glimpses into their personal lives creates connection points for prospects and customers and makes the brand more human.
Instead of worrying about listing everything an employee shouldn’t do, spend more time and energy creating a map for the majority of your workforce that will stick to the roads. Many people want to build their brand on social media and advance business goals, but they don’t know how. Provide suggested content and messages for those teammates who prefer to know exactly how to proceed. Provide guidelines and guardrails for those employees ready to get off the training wheels, such as a map of topics the company wants to own.
Celebrate the wins and focus on culture.
Another way to foster social media engagement, which builds employees’ personal brands and drives engagement that benefits the company, is to recognize successes. Recognition goes a long way and doesn’t have to cost a lot. Research by Deloitte shows that companies with recognition programs have a 14% higher level of employee engagement and productivity than companies that do not. Try to create friendly competitions using a leaderboard and rewarding milestones. Prizes could be company swag or lunch with the CEO (and yes, fellow CEOs, it’s crucial to find ways to have lunch with your employees).
Publicly acknowledging employees by sharing success stories with the team can drive more success, make people feel good, and have a much more positive impact than tapping people’s fingers. If you feel like you’re constantly banging your wrists, you may have a toxic culture on your hands. Warning: If your culture is toxic, you’re probably not ready to create an employee advocacy program or support employee personal brand building.
On the other hand, celebrating employee wins and trusting and empowering them to build their brands by sharing company content and their own perspectives contributes to a positive company culture. And when the culture is strong, employee advocacy programs can take off and employee affinity for the brand can increase.