Should employees be “required” to promote their company or organization through social media?
What Gets Shared?
To answer this question, I first thought about content that I promote through my social media accounts. Do I share every post on each of my clients’ streams? No. I purposefully only share information that resonates with me because that feels honest and authentic. I don’t want to share content just for the sake of promoting my clients. If I did, people would see my posts and think, “Oh, she’s just saying that because she works with them.” Instead, I share the content that makes me think, “This is cool/valuable/important and people need to see it!” If sharing that content also helps my clients’ businesses, that’s even better. Why should employees be any different? I recently attended a conference where one of the speakers put it like this, “If you would click past it, then why are you shoving it in someone else’s face?” Blunt, but true!
Do You Like Brussels Sprouts?
Think of it this way: Do you really want to make your employees eat brussels sprouts? (I love them; but if you’re like my husband, you can’t stand them.) Perhaps when you were young, you were forced to eat something that you didn’t want to eat. What happened? You probably spit it out and vowed to never again eat that awful green/orange/yellow stuff. You don’t want social media to feel like a chore for your employees or turn into an unpleasant experience. In a worst case scenario, forced participation could breed resentment, distrust of the messages you ask them to send, or even generate snarky or sarcastic comments with negative impact. Imagine the expressions on the faces of employees making social posts that they don’t feel good about. *rolling eyes*
Let’s Be Real
Authenticity is the crux of social media and brands that are authentic are trustworthy. Give your employees the social media training and tools they need so that IF they choose to participate, they can. But don’t require it. Employees should be brand advocates because they want to be, not because they have to. Focus on building a brand and message that is inspiring and aspirational for your employees…their reactions may tell you a lot about how your audience will respond. Let’s hope that your employees are going to want to share content about the company because they’re proud of the work they do and support company goals and initiatives. That way, their communication feels authentic and purposeful instead of shallow and forced, which leads me to the next point, below.
Your Best Brand Advocates
Employees can be the best way to amplify your company or organization’s messages on social media and they can be your best brand advocates, if they want. By definition, an advocate is someone who publicly supports or recommends a certain cause, or in this case, a certain brand. If you have a clearly defined mission and values, and a well developed brand culture, then it will be easier for your employees to embrace any marketing efforts, including those on social media. Who better to help further your goals than someone with deep familiarity with your products or services, speaking from their own experience in whatever context is appropriate to your audience? When employee advocacy happens naturally, it’s a beautiful thing.
Help and Lead by Example
With tools, training (including guidelines) and ongoing support, employees can learn to appreciate and even enjoy participating in social conversations. Also, there are benefits to them, such as building their own personal brand in their industry. Keep in mind, too, that if “cool/valuable/important content” (see above) is being created, curated and shared on company social accounts, that gives them something to talk about. Finally, employees tend to be more engaged when senior leadership is active in social media, so lead by example! (In a best-case scenario, this includes executive management and the C-Suite.)
Culturally, some industries and geographies emphasize more personal and professional separation, so be sensitive to culture norms and don’t judge if an employee prefers to keep strict boundaries between their personal social activity and their professional profile. Also, some employees may prefer not to use social media, at all.
Just remember this quote from Jay Baer, “Social media advocacy rarely succeeds at bayonet point.”