Social media platforms, when leveraged well, are effective tools for businesses. Your employees, however, may be using social media much differently than you are, and it's probably impacting your business.

While team members must have autonomy in their lives and social media accounts, their actions do reflect upon your business. They can help or hurt you, especially when they are a driving force behind your business's platforms.

Two of the biggest ways employees can hurt your brand are their social media presence and the way they manage yours.

Let's talk about your employees' online presence first. Like it or not, they represent your business. If they act negatively in a social space, your business can take the hit.

Consider the recent Roseanne Barr debacle. Even before she sent out those racist tweets, Barr wasn't the most sensitive person on Twitter. In the past, she'd posted some offensive things, but mostly she tried to project a persona that was edgy, funny, and fearless.

Her show's reboot of Roseanne on ABC received positive reviews and was high in the ratings. Though her personal Twitter presence didn't really jive with ABC's inclusive, family-friendly online persona, the network could afford to look the other way. That all changed in a heartbeat, or a tweet as the case may be.

Despite the money and success, ABC canned the show. It would be costlier for the network to lose its more wholesome brand identity than stick with a racist, even a super successful one.

Most businesses don't have the reach of ABC, and their employees likely don't have the millions of followers that Roseanne does, but it's a prime example of how an employee's "brand" can affect a business.

No one wants another thing to do on the social media checklist. That's why you probably delegate that work to employees in the first place. However, not knowing what your employees' digital personas are like can harm your own. Make a point to stay informed on how your team communicates on social sites. The easiest way is to friend them on the platforms where they spend their time. It could save you trouble down the road.

Now let's tackle the other way that employees may be harming your brand, which involves how they manage your company's online presence.

Social media and brand identity aren't periphery marketing subjects for small businesses. They should be two of your main focuses. They drive traffic to your site and help create the brand identity you are working to foster. If those in charge of your social media presence aren't engaged, they may be doing your business more harm than good.

Here are some examples of this:

The team member fails to evolve with your changing brand.

No business is stagnant. As yours evolves, your target audience and demographics may change. When they do, your presence needs to change with it. Updated logos, a mobile-ready website, and a real voice on the other end of a social media platform are crucial ways you, and your employees, should be changing. If your employees aren't up to date with the changes, or committed to satisfying customers during these changes, it could hurt your business.

The employee is appealing to the wrong crowd.

If the employee running your social media campaign is a 25-year old man who is hip to the latest social media memes, but your target demographic is housewives in their 40s, it may not be the right fit. It's not that he can't do it -- it's that he must be able to create and deliver a persona for the target demographic.

He has to think outside himself. If it rings untrue with your customers, you'll be spinning your social media wheels at best. At worst, it could be costing you loyal customers. Make sure whoever is behind the keyboard understands what you are as a business and the brand you are working to project.

The worker fails to customize customers' experiences.

To keep customers focused and interested, businesses must tailor their digital presence to their customers -- just as they would in a brick and mortar store. Technology offers many ways to customize the buyer journey, from beacon technology to simply informing people that customization is an option. That's where your employees come in. When they interact with customers, they should know that their job is to meet the customers' expectations. They must offer and make it easy to swap sizes, order from specific brands, and feel like someone is trying to make them happy.

It doesn't matter whether you sell vintage furniture or software-as-a-service. Your employees are a part of your brand. Your first step is to choose them wisely and your second is to stay updated on what they are doing, both for your company's professional persona and their personal one.

Published on: Jun 14, 2018