In a recent post, I discussed the possibility that it could be a good idea to pay employees to use social media in order to boost a business’ online presence. Moving on from that, in this post, we’ll be looking at how social has shifted to accommodate this in recent years.
It wasn’t so long ago that we were constantly being warned on the dangers of posting personal updates on social media with regard to our careers. Yes, ill-advised posts can still get you fired, but companies are increasingly waking up to the fact that social and employees can be a good mix, especially with strong policies in place to dictate how the company is mentioned on personal accounts.
Businesses are looking for people with sound digital skills more and more, as the world becomes one big connected place. According to a recent Deloitte study, many businesses are now beginning to reap the benefits of being social, with 69% agreeing that it will become very important by 2015.
The research found that not only is the importance of social business growing, but it’s doing so across “all industry sectors”. Of those companies that still face barriers when it comes to social, this was found to be due to:
- Lack of strategy
- Competing priorities
- Lack of proven business case
Looking at the latter, I know from experience that many businesses, especially smaller ones, remain suspicious as to the ROI when it comes to social. However, ROI is now provable, it’s something that any decent company that deals in content strategy has a part of their sales arsenal. The reason that it’s historically been difficult to prove is that the usual advertising/marketing models can’t really be applied to social in the same way.
The Deloitte study also found that 45% of companies use social to “identify internal talent” and we know that it’s also used for finding new staff, especially LinkedIn. So why not take that one step further and utilise the skills that employees are already using through social and apply them to business?
One of the biggest things holding many back remains the fear that employees will damage the company’s reputation through the use of social. But this is something that can easily be taken care of at contractual level. What an employee is and isn’t allowed to say about the company online should be made clear from the outset and backed up legally.
In a Social Media Examiner article which predicts what will happen in social media in 2014, Neil Shaffer cites employee advocacy as one of the key trends for the year.
“Companies are always looking outside corporate walls for brand advocates in social media, but many of their most passionate advocates are also those who have deep ties to their company: their employees. Each individual employee has influence in his or her own unique social network, so the more employees who can help share the company’s social media messages, the broader the reach a company can achieve in social media,” he says.
Savvy companies should recognise this and move beyond LinkedIn when it comes to social connections with their employees. It’s not even something that has to interfere with someone’s personal accounts if they cultivate followers rather than friends on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Of course, public posts will have to be made with some kind of guidelines, or it could all go horribly wrong.
With LinkedIn, a key marketing strategy can be the use of employee accounts and if a staff member is really not keen to share their more personal accounts, then it shouldn’t be make or break when it comes to interview time. However, it’s also up to employees to present the digital skills they possess in the best possible light, so it’s likely that any sensible interview attendee will have had the sense to keep it clean when it comes to their digital identity.
This is where the entire question of employees and social gets a little sticky. Many of us now balance work and life in an entirely different way than the standard 9-5 that used to be the normal working model. But with social media, it can be a place where people blow off steam – sharing ranted updates or questionable memes with pals.
So where is the line drawn when it comes to social and work? How can employees ensure that their personal privacy is protected when it comes to using social for work too?
To begin with, using social media for work shouldn’t mean that you have to disclose passwords so that managers can snoop on an account. In fact, there’s legislation taking place around the world that protects workers from the boss even asking for passwords and usernames.
Employers don’t need passwords. At most they need to ‘friend’ a staff member, but even that’s not strictly necessary. Employees can follow the company pages/accounts and post regularly, ask questions, leave comments etc. without it getting personal and employers can follow staff and the posts that have been made available to them and even the public.
However, even if the boss were to request you on Facebook, for example, then there are ways to set up groups so that you post to different people, as there is with G+. If anything, setting up an account to do this is further proof of digital skill.
Valuing a New Skill Set
This takes us neatly back to the main thrust of the question: is social media an asset in an employee? For me it’s a resounding yes, in fact it’s a bit of a no-brainer. Digital skills are increasingly important to the way we work and therefore, should also be important to the employer. It’s not a given that everyone has them – they don’t, far from it in fact – so they should be highly prized in a staff member.
This is especially true of social media as it’s a phenomena that’s not going away. It will continue to evolve for sure, making it even more important to recognise people with the skills to use it, so businesses need to get on board with the idea that it can be a serious asset to the company itself and in any employee they come across that possess the skills to use it. Those that do, or are willing to learn, are likely to become increasingly sought after, so if you run a business, take a look around at your staff checking Facebook in their lunch break and ask yourself what they can bring to increase your online visibility and reputation.
It’s likely that they will do far more to enhance it than they ever could to damage it.