This article is based on the many conversations I’ve had with the social media and HR professionals that I’ve met over the last 12 months while preparing the 25 case studies featured in my new book, showcasing the best business use of social media in recruitment and beyond.
These are the seven most frequently referenced themes by the businesses that have been the most successful at engaging with employees in social media channels.
First of all there is no point embarking on this social media journey before you have sold the end goal of this initiative to the business. This will also force you to fine-tune the rationales for doing this as you learn to fend off objections. Some will argue that you should just get on with it and ask for forgiveness later but with something so potentially public and potent as social media you can’t afford to not cover your back.
A business colleague working in a senior position at a high-street bank told me that he couldn’t define a strategy without first securing senior buy-in, apart from banking being a very regulated industry the businesses needed time to get used to the concept of becoming more social from a cultural point of view.
Once we have secured buy-in from the business we need to take this message to the wider organisation. You have to recognise that all employees are at different stages of their own social media journey so you have a responsibility to personalise the message so as to not put anyone off.
A popular strategy which I strongly disagree with is to identify the employees that are the most active on social media, so called super users or top influencers, and focus your efforts on only getting them to engage with your corporate account. As tempting as it might be to go for the low hanging fruit, a far better long-term approach is to cast a wider net.
The best way to pursue an inclusive social strategy is to offer training for those interested, from beginners to advanced. Employees may not know if their employer is comfortable with them using social media and/or they may not feel that comfortable using social media period. Offer classes to share best practices and how-tos when it comes to social media usage. Let them know ways to get started i.e. how to follow you and the company on social media.
Training is only the first step on the journey for your employees and it means nothing if you don’t have an activation programme to keep them encouraged to stay engaged and active long after the training has ended. Share sample media messages from time to time that give employees insights on the types of messages that are great to share.
Another straightforward tactic is to join groups; become a member and participate in groups of interest to you and to employees. Encourage employees to become a part of the groups you find interesting. And if you can't find a suitable group, make your own - it's a great way to nurture your brand and show employees you're serious.
Following on from activating your community you should encourage them to become more independent. Like a supportive parent; be there, be engaged but give them space. Follow them back when they retweet something about the company, favourite one of their tweets when they share your company’s job listings or other great company news. ‘Like’ or ‘share’ their updates. Retweet interesting updates they post that complement company culture and values. Don’t be afraid to have public conversation, this is where the mutual value is created.
It’s important to not be corporate on social channels; everyone expects that this is the human side of any business. Social media is about being authentic and real so use a human and conversational style in your communication. Translate the corporate message, make it personal when possible. If you’re trying to reach a certain group of employees or a particular employee speak about what matters to them and don’t forget who can see what you share.
Be interesting and don’t be afraid to ask; post interesting news on your social channels and encourage employees to share with their networks. Don’t just post and leave – people use social media to gain more insights into a topic that’s important to them. Don’t create a dead-end conversation. Be responsive: If you receive feedback, don’t let it go without a response. Show you care and you find their feedback important. Better yet, show how you are acting on that feedback they provided.
Last but not least, we must get away from the notion that social media is defined and confined to specific channels like Facebook and Twitter. Social media is a new communication paradigm and the more creative we can be the more buzz we can create around our businesses.
A professional services company deployed a social media driven collaboration platform which allowed consultants from all over the world to respond to various client briefs. During the first pilot over 10,500 of the company's 15,000 employees participated across all regions, lines of service and grades, generating over 500 ideas and writing 1,805 comments and casting 4,206 votes on the best proposals.
By showing the business that social media is not a gimmick but a business tool, you will win every day.