If you think your employees don’t care about their personal brand, you’re wrong. And if you think they’re not accessing Facebook during the workday because your company has it blocked from the network, you’re wrong again. Forget about fears over lack of productivity. Helping your employees build their personal social brand is an act of kindness and a smart approach to retention and recruitment not typically taken by HR or marketing. Most importantly, if you help them build their personal social brand and teach them the best ways to be good social advocates of themselves, the law of reciprocity, both to them and your brand, will kick in more times than not.

employer-access-social-networksCompany leaders are asking the wrong question when it comes to word of mouth and social: “How do I get my employees to share my information?” The question they should be asking is “how can I help share my employee’s information?” Everyone wants to help, but will only be inspired to when they feel their company  shares a vested interest in them. This is when they will ‘want’ to be reciprocal. There are a lot of social “gurus” (yes, I use the G word in jest) who say they want to build tribes of social employees. And I agree! But this only works if the investment of their time is driven by discovering the tons of authentic information within your own walls.

Don’t you dare blast an email. We typically see this when there is a big release, some big news to share, or a promotional marketing effort. This can work, but it’s short term and holds much smaller potential. I’d encourage you to spend time building your social workforce long before these things occur. Educate them on the nuances of the networks and help them to see the vision of how each one can help their personal social brand. It’s a human approach to a human network.

Here are 5 ways you can immediately get started on building your social workforce:

1) All Networks on Deck: Train your employees on every social network, regardless of whether your company is using them or not. Not only will you help them better understand the power of social, they will also be able to assess the benefits of each one against their own personal and business goals. Start with the high level, then get in the trenches. Imagine every employee understanding things like “share of voice” and the value of “sentiment.”

2) Start Online, Go Offline: Not everyone is a superstar at networking. Teaching them the benefits of the core human need for connecting with others via social networks will build their confidence and set the foundation for lasting success as they test and grow their social marketing alongside yours. Forging connections online is in many ways a safer and more comfortable way to warm up offline networking and more quickly develop deeper relationships face-to-face.

3) Create a Sandbox Community: Private social groups, such as secret Facebook or Google groups, can be a great training ground since they aren’t public. We have this at our company – called the “Nerd Alert – and it gives us a private place to post links to new innovations, technology, and even random funny things throughout our workday that only our employees can see and comment on. Anything goes, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. Try it, it will most certainly make you feel more connected with your peers.

4) Reward with Listening: Just as you would listen and respond to your customers, build a feedback and response plan for your own social employees so they too are getting the same love, attention and respect you give to your clients. Don’t ever underestimate the power of the two-way conversation.

5) Use the Experiences of Others: Paying attention to what other organizations have gone through in social will help you avoid missteps and shape a solid governance model. When you can see how the repercussions of posting the wrong responses on Facebook, such as the recent case of the Applebee’s hostess who posted a picture of a customer receipt who had stiffed her tip and ended up getting her fired, fueling thousands of angry responses and the ultimate deletion of the Applebee’s Facebook page. This PR nightmare happened fast, and could have been easily avoided with the right education and training.

6) Respect Boundaries: Just because someone doesn’t want to be on Facebook doesn’t mean they can’t be a social employee. Some may feel more comfortable on LinkedIn. Some may prefer to not be socially connected to their boss. Teaching the respect of boundaries online is just as important as anything thing else you teach.

 

KEY TAKEAWAY: Building a social workforce can be the most powerful thing you can do for your company. But it takes mutual respect, clear guidelines and the courage to empower a two-way conversation with actions to back it up. A company is the sum of its employees, and if they’re social, so will be your brand.

I would love to hear your thoughts, questions or anything I missed below!

Photo credit: Social Posse