Social Work: Why You Should Empower Employees to Use Social Media
Here’s why your employees should use social media.
“Come here Mr. Watson, I want to see you.” Those were the words yelled by Alexander Graham Bell over the world’s first telephone connection. Bell had no way of knowing that a little more than fifty years later there would be more than 30 million telephones in use. To be sure, the telephone served as one of the greatest tools of business communication for over a century, but we are now in the midst of a new kind of technological revolution – one that puts social media directly in the spotlight.
The proliferation of social media has spilled into every facet of our daily lives, and the business implications are complex and far-reaching. Even though 74% of online adults are reported to use social media, a study commissioned by Robert Half Technology found that about half of companies block employees from using social media websites at work. Interestingly, 92% of companies indicated social media as a priority in a 2014 study by Social Media Examiner. With most companies managing all social media at the corporate level for functions like marketing and communications, businesses are missing an opportunity to empower employees to be strong brand advocates while making them more productive, more satisfied, and more connected. That’s why businesses should consider extending social media participation beyond their marketing departments.
Social media transforms communication into content, and vice versa. While email still remains a primary vehicle for the transmission of ideas and information for many workplaces, its very nature inhibits collaboration – it’s ideally used as a tool for private two-way communication. On the other hand, social tools capture ideas and conversations of employees and create a public database of employee-generated content. Openly sharing this content, which was previously hidden behind the privacy of email, fosters inclusion and creates a culture of connectedness.
Responding to a fundamental shift in buyer behavior, sales and marketing professionals are increasingly turning to social media to drive growth. No longer are buyers responding to interruption-based sales tactics; instead, they’re listening to online conversations, engaging with peers, and performing their own research to find solutions to their problems. Companies have taken note and in doing so have transformed the way buyers and sellers now connect. Underscoring the importance for companies to adapt to this new way of connecting to potential customers is HubSpot’s finding that 73% of sales professionals using social media outperformed their colleagues who were not on social media networking sites.
While social media has transformed marketing and sales functions, it’s rewritten the rules for human resource functions. Hiring managers now have public access to a wealth of professional and personal information about potential job candidates, making recruitment efforts more comprehensive than ever. Likewise, candidates are increasingly placing more value on soft compensation like social policies and work flexibility when considering employment offers. The parameters of work and personal life are becoming more and more blurred, and employees are finding companies that embrace their use of digital technology most attractive. Companies with rigid tech policies stand to lose out on top talent.
Social media is proving equally as powerful as a tool for employee retention. Employers that choose to ban social media risk alienating Millennials, a group for which oscillating between real life and the digital world comes naturally. Staying connected is so important to this group that a 2011 study by McCann Worldgroup found that 53% would give up their sense of smell rather than their phone or laptop. Considering the increasing number of businesses actively seeking to attract and retain employees from this generation, finding a way to incorporate and leverage social media would likely prove a much better strategy than blocking access altogether.
Businesses that permit – and even encourage – employee use of social media are able to innovate quicker by monitoring and engaging in the online conversations of customers and potential buyers. With over 58% of the entire U.S. adult population on social media, you can be sure there are conversations happening about brands whether or not they choose to participate in social media. Beyond just monitoring what’s being said about a company or brand, active participation in social media allows for nimble adjustments to marketing messages and potential new product development.
Of course, in order to derive value from employee participation on networks of social media, employers must thoughtfully consider the implications of providing access and set clear expectations for employees about its use (or misuse). Rather than arbitrarily opening access to social media, Cheryl Connor, business communications expert and author of Beyond PR: Communicate like a Champ in the Digital Age, recommends managers take a more thoughtful, structured approach. She suggests managers talk through the concept of open access to social media with employees. Knowing how employees feel about social media makes it easier to accommodate their needs. It’s true that unregulated workplace access to social media won’t work for every business or every employee, but companies that manage to find a way to integrate social media into functions where it makes sense will create value and drive profitable action.