Reigning over your social media policy with an iron fist is dismissing the driving philosophy of social media. Wikipedia, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram are all moves toward a democratization of information and entertainment. You can watch a Taylor Swift video with 30 million views and the thumbnail right next to it is some weirdo in Wisconsin covering the same song in his parent’s basement…also with 30 million views! The Internet is not simply a collection of all its users’ contributions, it is only that. So when you decide to bring something as broad and well established as social media into your office, allow your employees to use it as it’s meant to be used.
You may have concerns about productivity and Twitter existing side by side or you may see the open forum as a tool for employees to misrepresent the brand. While those concerns are valid, they are also easily alleviated through a simple education program on the (very few) things employees shouldn’t do. Most of your employees practice common sense at the office anyway. I mean, you did hire them for a reason in the first place. You should have as much trust in your judgment as you do in theirs when loosening your social media policy.
Your employees love their jobs. A social media program that invites their participation gives that passion a voice. Why would you tell your biggest fans you don’t trust them when you could be telling them to shout it from the rooftops? It’s a self-perpetuating culture. Employees who love their jobs want to talk about it. Employees who are then empowered to talk about it love their jobs even more. Further, these happy employees align themselves with the goals of the brand inside and outside of work. After all, it was their voice in the first place. You just helped them cultivate it, like any other good vocal coach.
Social media is a great way to build community at work. The simplest networks among employees get them sharing information and collaborating on projects. A certain intimacy takes shape when coworkers become friends. Suddenly your company spread over three time zones feels like a start-up in a garage. The social media nomenclature alone is a bonding tool. Think about writing someone an email from your Outlook account using your company email address with your manager CC’d to it. Now consider a shout-out on twitter to @coolMike for his creative insights on your last presentation. There is good reason for a certain formality at work. But the social media platform is not the place to enforce it. Allow the natural camaraderie and relationships to grow as your brand’s culture blossoms on social media.
Potential customers, consumers, and clients are far more receptive to endorsements from healthy, breathing human beings they know and like, over the faceless logo on your letterhead. And this is exactly what a strong social media program offers: trust. When comedian Louis CK shifted his image from the grips of networks and promotion companies to his own personal brand on social media, his credibility skyrocketed even though his act stayed the same. Now that wasn’t in any way a lie. He did cut out some entertainment industry redundancies, but if you think he doesn’t have a team (brand) still working with him, you’re wrong. But the relationship between his consumers and him is now direct and largely honest. That is the sort of bond you can build as well. An authentic social media presence, felt by your customers through your employees’ unique faces and personalities is the foundation of countless organic and lucrative connections.
Here’s a fun fact: 50 percent of your employees are already talking about you on social media anyway. And most of that is positive. Trendsetters for cultivating brand identity like Zappos and Starbucks have understood this for some time. Translating your employees organic desires to talk about their job into it actually being their job to talk about it is genius. Brand ambassadors should be empowered, not limited, through a social media policy that reflects the real world of social media.
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