With more employees using social media in the workplace, companies are struggling to create viable social media policies and strategies that enable staff members to use their favorite communication channels while still protecting the company’s reputation.
One big problem is that social media usage in the workplace does not always result in social engagement. Clearly, social media is a powerful tool to share information and build personal networks. But in many cases, people use social media to sling around new content or retweet the latest breaking news without any context or business relevance. Too often, the loudest mouth gets the most attention, even when what gets said is not very meaningful to drive progress for the organization.
In that sense, social media is both a blessing and a curse. Of course social media adoption is inevitable, so companies need to strike the proper balance in how they create a workplace culture for proper social media usage. Outright bans or prohibitions don’t work because employees are already on social platforms in their personal lives. More importantly, customers are choosing social channels to tell the world about their consumer experiences and to contact companies directly to address their problems.
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1. Brand ambassadors and employee advocacy.
More companies are working to humanize their brands by training new employee advocates. These brand ambassadors are savvy social media users who help reinforce the company message and sometimes even engage in social selling. These employees are often not part of a contact center team -- they are excellent communicators throughout the company who leverage their own social networks to advocate for company interests.
Some 31 percent of high-growth companies have formal employee advocacy programs in place, more than double the average of all other firms, according to a study by the Hinge Research Institute and Social Media Today. The study found that nearly two-thirds of advocates in a formal program credited their advocacy with attracting new business, and nearly 45 percent said the advocacy has generated new revenue streams.
Managers should know that such programs require time and energy to build, including investments in training and software. Nearly 60 percent of workers in formal employee advocacy programs spend at least five hours per week using social media for business purposes. As a result, almost 86 percent said their social media work has had a positive impact on their careers by differentiating them from their peers.
Based on the daily use of social media, customers now expect closer emotional ties and a sense of immediacy from the companies they do business with. Otherwise, they will buy elsewhere. This “social” relationship starts at the company website with user communities, where companies have the most control over messaging. The next level involves interactions on major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. Finally, there are the endless blogs, consumer forums and ranking sites where companies have the least amount of control.
However, companies should not tune out these public forums, which can be valuable places to correct public misconceptions and distortions. Companies should adopt a proactive social stance that engages in discussions across all channels, according to a recent white paper by Conversocial for Facebook Marketing Partners, ”Preparing the Enterprise for a New Social Customer Service Model: Adapting to the Culture of Social Media”.
Related: How to Win on Company Culture
“Prior to social media, the interaction between companies and customers was transactional and all parties measured their success by the number and swiftness of those transactions. That was largely a culture of commerce,” stated the authors. “Now, social media is creating a new culture for society, one predicated on connections and sharing. And, as customers embrace the culture of social media, they are demanding that companies do likewise.”
2. Millennial expectations and collaborative culture.
Growing numbers of the Millennial generation are joining the workforce and having a profound effect on business culture. Raised on social media and smartphones, Millennial employees are bringing their commitment to openness, sharing and transparency into the workplace.
Most companies have already hung out their social media shingles on Facebook and Twitter to promote their brands externally. But the real innovators are also deploying internal knowledge management systems that feel recognizable to Millennials who are eager to share content.
Management should nurture this desire for collaboration. The push for collaboration can involve new ways to communicate and share ideas, including the use of cloud-based software tools and crowd-solving apps. In this way, offsite employees can engage with onsite teams, giving rise to new synergies.
Many companies are also redesigning their physical office spaces to be more open and conducive to personal interactions. Gray fabric cubicles are being replaced by bright, open floor plans. Cross-pollinating ideas from across an organization can often lead to better hybrid solutions that no single individual or department could create in a silo.
3. Customer care and employee engagement.
The use of social media and collaboration tools cannot succeed unless a company’s overall culture embraces the effort. Employees need to feel that their voices matter, and they need to know that the organization values their contributions and ideas. At the same time, a conversation with one customer today can quickly turn into a conversation with all customers -- who then share their thoughts with the rest of the world through social media posts.
This dynamic radically reorients the relationship between businesses and their customers, giving customers a powerful new level of control in how brands are perceived and represented. In this changing business climate, companies that build effective social media programs can enjoy a clear competitive advantage, both in terms of internal employee engagement and external customer satisfaction.