The Biggest Missed Opportunity in Social Media

by · August 16, 201328 comments

When’s the last time someone from your IT department participated in a Twitter chat on industry developments while at work? Or has anyone from your accounts payable team liked your brand’s Facebook page? Or when was the last time someone from your sales team answered a question on Quora?

Unfortunately, none of these scenarios are happening very often at most organizations. And it represents a huge missed opportunity in social media.

Understanding the problem

Businesses everywhere are making the same social media mistake: they are failing to leverage their employee base to amplify their social media efforts.

Have businesses entirely missed the boat on this? Yes! They have this incredible resource at their fingertips, but fail to capitalize on it. Somehow, they are oblivious to the fact that every employee has the potential to be a brand ambassador, and that each one represents an extended network.

What makes the situation even more amazing is the fact that many brands drop serious money on social media advertising to fuel their success, yet they don’t capitalize on the employees who are easily within their reach.

Why is this happening?

Why Is This HappeningMany organizations rush into social media without even a basic strategy in place, so it’s hardly surprising that they are overlooking the opportunity to involve their own employees in their social media efforts. But what’s behind their blindness?

Part of the problem is that in most organizations, social media is an isolated endeavor — usually associated with the marketing department. This type of structure is inherently limiting. It reinforces the notion that social media is a promotional activity and “someone else’s job.”

The key to change

The Key to ChangeWith a little investment, corporations can easily make employees the cornerstone of their social media efforts. But to do so, they should embrace social media at the corporate level. Ideally, they should make it part of their culture.

Fostering a social media friendly workplace will encourage employees to participate in the conversation happening online in their professional capacity. Doing so will not only extend the brand’s reach, but also contribute to the development of employees.

But keep in mind that some key people in your organization may not be as knowledgeable — or enthusiastic — about social media as others. To avoid alienating them, consider a reverse mentoring program that pairs-up veteran executives with junior employees with social media skills. They both will get a lot from the experience.

5 Tips to get started

Below are a few tips to help your organization tap into its employees to boost its social media efforts:

1. Assess employee social media knowledge

Assess Employee KnowledgeTo best leverage your employees to amplify your corporate social efforts, you first need to find out what they know about social media. Conducting a social media knowledge survey can be a good place to start.

Your survey should begin with baseline multiple-choice questions about various social platforms, such as “How many characters can a tweet contain?” or “What’s the best way to use LinkedIn?” or “What is a subreddit?” Then progress to more advanced inquiries.

Ask subjective questions as well, such as “How often do you use Tumblr?” or “Have you liked the brand’s page on Facebook?” And include open-ended questions too. For example, if your employees aren’t following you on Twitter, you might gain some insights from a “Why or why not?” follow up question.

Ensure that employees can respond to the survey anonymously, and strive for 100% participation – no executive exemptions! Remember, it is critical to gain an understanding of the knowledge base across ALL levels of the organization.

2. Teach them a thing or two about social

Teach Them a Thing or TwoThe findings from your social media knowledge survey should tell you a lot about the state of social media at your organization. It will also help you identify knowledge gaps so you can develop various training programs.

As you put together some options, work with an industry expert and strive to develop a curriculum that meets the different needs of your audiences. For instance, be mindful that not all employees encounter social media as part of their daily work.  In fact, not all employees are even expected to be able to use the Internet proficiently. But taking some time to teach employees these skills will help them and your organization too.

In addition, expect some resistance. Believe it or not, some employees might be fearful and/or suspect of social media. Remember, this is a common reaction to the unknown. Be encouraging and try to reduce their fear. Helping employees demonstrate their knowledge and expertise usually helps them overcome their apprehension.

3. Cultivate a social media friendly workplace

Cultivate a Social Media Friendly WorkplaceEmbracing social media at the corporate level can really kick-up employee participation. But the shift won’t happen overnight – it’ll take some cultivation. Encouraging departments to take some time out each week for some social media fun in a group setting can be helpful.

For example, some colleagues and I started up a Twitter chat called #SEOpub that happens every Wednesday from 3:00 to 4:00pm ET. Those of us at the office participating in the chat often grab a conference room – and maybe some milkshakes too — and put on some music while we discuss SEO with people all over the world via Twitter.

The chat itself is industry-focused, which allows us to engage in the discipline outside of the limited view of client work.  However, I’ve noticed an interesting side effect:  many of the employees who participate in the chat, but who were not previously active on Twitter, have started using the social network far more often, and not just for the weekly chat.  It seems a little positive peer pressure and camaraderie could be a great way to involve those in your organization who might ask, “Why do I need to tweet?

4. Communicate

CommunicateGetting employees in your organization to embrace social media takes more than training. To be successful, you’ll need to communicate regularly and with various means.

For instance, do your employees know about the company Twitter handle? Well, did you ever tell them about it?  Simply add a “Follow us on Twitter” to your CEO’s regular company-wide emails.

Or maybe put social media in the spotlight at your next company meeting by including shout-outs to folks for their recent social efforts.

You can even use social media to communicate…get this….socially! Tweeting a “Nice job on that TPS report” or other encouragements as public recognition for a job well done is a great motivator. Just don’t assign work tasks via Tumblr asks.

5. Set ground rules

Set Ground RulesSometimes employees are simply afraid to blur the lines of personal and professional on social media, so they avoid it. For instance, if an employee doesn’t know whether their online actions are “okay” from a corporate perspective, they may be reluctant to share a company blog posts or include their job title on their profile. But having a social media policy can help mitigate this fear and encourage employee participation.

A good social media policy clearly outlines the organization’s rules and expectations, along with consequences for employees. It is also shared with staff on a regular basis. That way, employees know what behavior they’re expected to have online, and the risks if they don’t abide by the policy.

Try to create a social media policy that is unambiguous and encourages personal expression. But remember, the more legal mumbo jumbo in it, the more your employees will avoid revealing their professional identity online.  At the same time, the “don’ts” should be clearly listed out, no matter how obvious they may seem.  Talk to your legal team, but try to give your employees as much freedom as you can.  After all, you don’t want them to just shut down online — that won’t do anything for you.

Don’t be oblivious

More and more organizations are spending lots of time and resources on social media every day. Yet they seem oblivious to the key element that can impact their success the most: their employee base! The organizations that figure out how to use this important resource will surely gain a competitive advantage. Is your organization tapping into its employees to boost its social efforts? If so, how? If not, why?

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About Clayburn Griffin

Clayburn Griffin

Clayburn is an Organic Search Director at Catalyst. He is an Internet marketing guy with an entrepreneurial mind who enjoys coming up with ways to use technology effectively for business. His background in the crossroads of social media and SEO has helped him to provide comprehensive digital strategies to Catalyst’s clients.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • anon

    better graphics go along way.

    • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

      You don’t like keys?

  • Plomero

    Many thanks, the tips are excellent. Plomero

  • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

    Great post and couldn’t agree more. The crisis comms folks would echo this because in a crisis, who better can a company count on? Perhaps one day, social media will be a prerequisite for employment, like employers expect people “to know’ Microsoft Office on day #1.

    • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

      This is a good point. If not Social Media, general Internet usage would become a ubiquitous skill expected from any employee, whatever their job.

      • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

        Right. A few years from now, social media will be part of everyone’s job, rather than relegated to a few nobs in corp comm. That’s a fact. Cormp comm needs to figure out how to lead, rather than try to manage. It cannot be managed.

    • http://www.contently-managed.com/blog Craig McGill

      Frank, you must know different crisis comms people from me because in a crisis most of them would prefer fewer people trying to spread the message in case they put out the wrong signals. There’s a reason some situations are better handled by trained professionals.

      • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

        Exactly Craig, it’s the difference between the crisis folks stuck in 1990 and the crisis folks that have followed the shift online. If there’s a crisis today, you need every advocate you can get. This stuff isn’t smoke and mirrors and it’s not rocket science. Empower employees to be honest and transparent, and you’ll be #winning.

  • Wepaar

    Thank you for your opinions Social media and this quite true. What you have said here is true..!

  • http://www.contently-managed.com/blog Craig McGill

    It’s a good read but there’s one thing missed out: not everyone wants to be super-engaged with their own firm or on behalf of their own company. They just want to do their job and go home or they are too busy with their current responsibilities to go and add ‘brand ambassador’ to their list of duties.

    • http://www.AmazingAngelaD.com/ Angela M. Davis

      Yes, that’s true – and you probably don’t want those people to try to become brand ambassadors, either, really, because they won’t put effort into it and won’t be as effective as people that want to do it. Some people just have different skill sets and priorities and that’s fine.

      However, teaching your employees about how it can help build their own personal brand as an industry expert / influencer and the long-term benefits they will gain from that might help incentivize more employees to engage with the brand every once in a while even if they don’t want to spend a lot of time on it. Employers can also try incentivizing engagement with the brand with things like a monthly random drawing for a small prize for the people that did something to promote the brand online, etc.

    • http://blog.clayburngriffin.com/ Clayburn Griffin

      That’s perfectly fine. You won’t be able to get everyone on board, but you might find that people you thought wouldn’t help out will help with the right encouragement. The point is that employers too often do nothing to facilitate social media engagement. So, it’s no surprise their employees aren’t doing anything for them.

  • Dynamic Signal

    Excellent piece. Thanks for sharing! This echoes many of the reasons why we created VoiceStorm and are engaging with a ton of great companies who are headed in this direction socially.

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  • http://blog.paulnshapiro.com/ Paul Shapiro

    In terms of content sharing amongs employees, there are some great platforms that would help like GaggleAMP or even Triberr.

  • ajay

    Nice we have to decrease the gap and enhance the performance of employee
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  • CMOinGermany

    Real-time marketing is no longer real-time scary. Thank you for the wonderful advice, Tracey.

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