In this guest post, Hootsuite APAC GM Heather Cook discusses how having employees who are empowered to talk about your business on social media is critical to building its external reputation…
Today, social media is often the first place people go to get a good look at your business. Your business’s purpose, values and personality should come from your social media profiles. However, it’s also what others are saying about your business that can make a real impact on whether your business grows followers, customers and advocates.
Engaging some of your best advocates to communicate your brand attributes means looking no further than your employees. Employees are most familiar with your brand, and have a vested interest in your business’ success – they’re also more likely to be trusted by consumers.
As Edelman’s Trust Barometer unveiled, 72 per cent of the general public trust social media content shared by friends and family over traditional brand messages, highlighting how important employee advocacy is to build trust and credibility in your business.
Your business’ social media channels can provide great insights that align with your key messaging, however employees’ personal channels provide the opportunity to add another layer to this, amplifying content with an individual and authentic insider’s view of your business. Having employees empowered to talk about your business on social media is, therefore, critically important to building its external reputation.
So why aren’t more employees doing it? It’s simple: fear.
Ensuring you have an easy to understand social media policy in place will help encourage, guide and safeguard your employees when it comes to how they interact on social media and other online forums. Not only this, a good social media policy is a great risk mitigation tool to help protect your brand’s reputation, while encouraging employees to share your company’s message in a socially compliant way.
Developing a social media policy is akin to walking a tightrope – you need to find the right balance. Too lax a policy can lead to anarchic social posting; but being too rigid can cause employees to be too scared (or disengaged) to share their thoughts about work on their social channels.
Rules, but not for the sake of it
A good first step is ensuring your employees know why a social media policy is important.
Rules without context can feel restrictive. Growing up there was nothing worse than being told “just because” when you asked your parents why you couldn’t do something. The same approach applies here.
Any social media policy should be prefaced with rationale to help employees understand the reasoning behind your policies, and how they align with the vision and values of your organisation.
A velvet hammer, not an iron fist
So your employees know why your policy exists, but what should your policy actually look like?
In my opinion, the key way to activating your workforce to be your biggest online advocates is by ensuring that they don’t feel as though they’re being ruled over with an iron fist. Focus your policy on celebrating what your employees can do on social. What content are they encouraged to share on social? How does your organisation promote and reward this positive sharing culture?
The most successful business-to-business (B2B) marketers set aside budgets for content such as videos, blog posts, podcasts, whitepapers, articles and infographics. By helping employees know what they can share, it will increase your authenticity and decrease marketing costs.
It’s important to lead from the top and engage all levels of your organisation to show what can be achieved on social. It’s also important to spell out what’s not acceptable and the reasoning why.
Make your social media policy more than just a legal document. Make it fun. No one’s going to read a 200-page document written in legalese. Think of interesting, new ways to bring your business’ social media policy to life.
Organisations must invest time in training their employees on how to make the most of social for themselves, and their business. Ensuring employees are provided with enough engaging content to choose from, that feels relevant to them, can help reduce fear and security concerns over posting.
For social media to be effective in business it needs to permeate every business function.
If we can demonstrate the value that social can offer to sales teams for lead generation; HR for hiring purposes; and customer service in improving experiences, then they’ll be more keen on engaging across all departments within a business.
So what should balanced social media policy guidelines look like?
Here are some of our top tips for creating a social policy to empower your employees:
- Make it easily accessible, not in legalese, and more engaging than a lengthy document.
- Don’t get too caught up in the details. You don’t need to provide specifics for each channel – provide guidelines that are as universal as possible, and ensure they are regularly reviewed. Social media moves fast, and you don’t want to be left behind.
- Guidelines should be guard rails not train tracks. They should enable employees to advocate, not be overbearing and restrictive.
- Regular training sessions should be in place, and all guidelines should be made clear from the beginning, incorporated into the onboarding process.
- Be transparent around the consequences of social media policy breaches, letting employees know that mistakes happen; but if they do, there are procedures in place, and you are on hand to help
Once you have your policies in place, it’s about giving your team the tools and support to engage meaningfully with your brand content through their own networks.
One way you can do this is by providing them with approved posts and examples of how they can confidently share this content with their followers. We are seeing this work particularly well with corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that resonate with employees across a business.
Wear it Purple Day was a great example of how employee advocacy can help drive the diversity and inclusion message, which is critical to the culture and talent attraction of many modern companies. Social media feeds were full of employees proudly sharing how their organisation supported the LGBTIQA+ community. The content was especially powerful when shared by colleagues and friends from within the LGBTIQA+ community.
It’s important that employees across all business functions embrace social as an important part of doing business. It’s not just up to HR and marketing teams. In a world where trust in business is at an all time low, it takes a village to build a brand. That village is your employees.