Even five short years ago, the use and perception of social media was a different beast, especially in the office. The number of social networks was far less, mostly dominated by Facebook, and often seen as nothing but wasting time on the internet. It now seems quaint that many management teams and CEO's even went through the effort of blocking social sites from their internal networks to ensure no rebellious, bored employee tried to sneak onto Facebook while on the clock.
As smart marketers figured out, the amplification of products and services via social media could greatly increase both engagement and the bottom line, and they jumped on board with full force. But unfortunately, social media is often perceived as something the marketing team handles off in a corner. That's essential activity, but it's not enough.
Today, unless your entire team is active on social media, you are at a disadvantage. That's right, I said your entire team. No, I don't want my employees posting pictures of their vacation on Facebook and cooing over friend's new babies. But I do want them representing our company and their own professional credentials, and thus broadcasting smart, interesting thoughts so the world can learn about us and engage in a casual, no-pressure way. Facebook is a poor example as it's mostly for personal use. Yet utilizing Twitter, Instagram, Quora, or Pinterest (to name a few) to represent our company and mission is hugely important. I'd even say it's critical.
Everyone on your team is a company evangelist. They represent your company at all times, whether or not they consciously embrace that role. Your employees interact with customers, vendors, partners, future recruits, and investors and they need to be approachable and have interesting thoughts to share. Social is where conversations about your industry and company happen and it's important to have all eyes and ears on these communications. This will raise the reputation of your company and approachability by an immeasurable amount. I'm a CEO who has an active blog, Instagram feed, and Twitter handle. I invite anyone who is interested to read my posts and interact with me. This has allowed me to network, forge new partnerships, recruit and be seen as a thought leader. Can you imagine how different a picture I would paint to the world if I stayed behind closed doors?
Social Media is a fantastic recruiting tool: In fact, it's one of the best tools I've used. Our corporate social handles and those of my team show a prospective candidate what it's like to work here. Think of all those posts like dropping tasty bread crumbs. Interested talent can learn about us whether or not we have a job posted. If there is a certain career path they're interested in, they can reach out to either our corporate handle or a current employee via social media and even ask someone for coffee to talk further. This is a completely acceptable form of networking and many have done so successfully. Social media opens up a huge world of opportunities that never existed in the past. I even screen job candidates to ensure they are active on social, and require our employees to have one social media handle on their business cards. It shows me they understand its value and are open to engaging with like-minded people.
Social media can help your employees to be innovative and creative: Some team members might not think that staying on top of industry trends and the latest innovations is important for their particular position. But this is crucial for anyone who is adding value to a company. By following thoughts leaders they care about, they can learn new ideas, become more innovative and even engage directly with these leaders. This will always help them in their career and as a CEO, you should be confident enough in your team to be promoting this. I once worked for a CEO who wanted me to stay under the radar, both when it came to social media, and face-to-face networking. I suspected he was insecure about my being recruited to a competitor, but his trying to keep me hidden was short-sighted.
So how do you get started with your team's expansion on social media?
1) Be a role model. The biggest objection will be about the time required to maintain a social media presence and no one can argue that their time is more valuable than yours.
2) Explain the importance of this to the company, and to their individual careers as progressive professionals, as I did above.
3) Train and support. Allocate time and resources to tackle the challenge of showing the newbies how to navigate one or two social media platforms (you should not expect more than this from any individual). This will be a barrier as it's normal for many to be overwhelmed. I myself needed a recent refresher tutorial on Instagram (and it has unleashed a whole new media monster--covering the back story of my business travels and events has proven to be both cathartic and oddly popular with people on that platform). Your marketing team should be able to help get people going (and if they can't I would question their competency). Several members of my team volunteered to run a few sessions on how to get started and then held q and a's for those who had questions.
Now, my company is sharing company news, pieces of press, fun parties and outings but most importantly their viewpoint on the world and our industry. The days of operating as a nameless, faceless business or hiding behind a hard-to-find private email address are over. A modern vibrant workforce and future customer base expects to get to know a company, down to each and every individual.