Social media is a powerful tool that can be used in a variety of ways—but when it comes to using it in business, that power can be as equally positive as it can be negative.
In the workplace, social media can be a force for good by helping employees share ideas, connect with one another, build credibility in their space and foster company culture. It inspires collaboration, relationship-building and overall engagement.
But, social media can also incite a decrease in productivity.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Employees Who Use Social Media For Work Are More Engaged – but Also More Likely to Leave Their Jobs,” Lorenzo Bizzi says the larger concern has to do with more than just productivity, but what results from the lack of it in the workplace—employee retention.
“76% of employees using social media at work, took an interest in other organizations they found on social. “
What this means is, making new work connections and staying informed of what other organizations are doing has the potential to lead to a higher-than-normal employee departure rate.
Social Media Can Lead to Turnover, But It Doesn’t Have To
Social media doesn’t have to be viewed negatively all because of one possible consequence. In fact, it should instead incite the opposite reaction—it should inspire employers to harness the positive aspects of social and encourage employees to use the tool to support both their own career growth as well as business objectives.
One way you can activate this growth in a more positive direction is by looking to employee advocacy. Give them the resources to leverage social channels to talk about your brand, your industry and position them as thought leaders using social media to support your organization.
By helping—instead of stifling—employee activity on social media, you’ll reduce the likelihood for turnover and increase positive word of mouth marketing that leads to stronger brand perception and inbound candidate interest.
It’s a simple concept: engaged employees are valuable employees—and they need you as much as you need them.
Lead With Engagement
Teams with high employee engagement rates are 21% more productive, according to a Gallup poll. The more your team’s engagement aligns with the corporate mission at-large, the more likely your employees are to stick around and take ownership over their roles.
Let’s be honest, your employees are going to use social media at work. And while you don’t have control over the role it plays in everyday life, you do have control over your organization’s stance on it. By acknowledging social media as a positive force, and positioning it as a way for employees to supercharge career growth while simultaneously helping the business achieve goals, you’re much more likely to yield the positive attributes over negative.
It all starts with clear communication.
Study after study reveals that lack of communication is the number one biggest complaint from employees. Engaging more employees in the organization’s mission forces greater (and broader) communication. In order to help share the message, employees have to be in the loop and understand the underlying goals.
Align Employee Values to Business Values
Professor of Organization Behavior at Boston University, William Kahn, is credited with being the first to use the term engagement in terms of employees. He said engaged employees display an emotional connection to the work. They have what he calls a “Psychological Meaningfulness,” which is an innate feeling that the work employees do is worthwhile and makes a difference. He also quantified the idea of “Psychological Safety,” a sense by employees that they were valued, accepted and respected.
These are the keys to employee engagement. You have to create this culture first before you can really ask your employees to be your social brand ambassadors. Without a shared sense of purpose and pride in their work, they are not likely to be great representatives.
These levels of engagement are most evident with Millennials—68% say they want to make a positive difference in the world, and 78% want to work for employers that share their values and have a positive impact on society.
The more they understand your values align with theirs, the more likely they are to stick around. Not to mention, when this collision of values happens, employees are even more willing and eager to share your brand message with their networks in an authentic and engaging way.
Amplify Reach & Influence Conversation
The average employee has around 842 social connections—connections that didn’t just appear overnight. A person’s network is a product of years of relationship building and peer engagement, and because each connection was acquired authentically (and free of ulterior motive), it’s much easier to engage them.
Said otherwise: The reach of your employees is more powerful than your brand’s.
Research shows that people are 16x more likely to read a post from a friend about a company than read a post from the company itself. What’s more—they’re more than twice as likely to trust the information from employees as from the company itself of company bosses.
This word of mouth marketing is a huge advantage, seeing as 92% of consumers worldwide report they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertisement, according to Nielsen. That’s reason enough to get your employees engaged and active on social media.
Looking to the aforementioned HBR article, the author suggests two ways to help neutralize negative effects of social media. One was to create social media groups where employees can collaborate productively (instead of complain), and the other suggested doubling down on employee advocacy, using it as the guiding light for brand engagement. Employees should be your primary mechanism for message delivery, and they should be driving the positive conversations on social.
By creating a high-trust culture, you’re investing in your employees and showing you trust them. This goes a long way in building a dynamic culture that creates brand ambassadors. Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate success. This allows team members to take a step back to recognize the fruits of their labor while tightening their bond as a group.
Tying It All Together
First, you need to establish your goals—what do you hope to get out of the program? Whether it’s growing organic reach, acquiring more leads, recruiting more employees or better engaging your workforce, you need to set your goals and develop a set of KPIs for tracking.
Next, you need to clearly communicate the plan, including the benefits and incentives for employees. If you can’t clearly convey this, it will be difficult to foster engagement around the program. Forcing participation doesn’t work—it has to build organically, from the ground up.
Training will be pivotal here. Employees need to understand how to participate, what tools are being provided and the goals you have together as an organization. If they aren’t social natives, adoption will be your biggest challenge. And even for those that are, having the right technology paired with a healthy content mix to power the program will be the differentiator between success and failure.
Finally, you need to monitor and maintain your program. Without checkpoints along the way, it’s easy for advocacy to fall to the wayside as just another thing to do. The stakes are too high and the rewards too great for this to happen. Communicate regularly, recognize often and grow your program with purpose.