Every day, your position as CEO forces you to confront difficult questions with complicated consequences. One of these questions is whether or not to permit social media use in the office, and if so, what policies to put in place to limit the potential for legal or PR consequences.
A lot of CEOs answer this question in the negative. While every company is different, the evidence indicates that this may be a serious mistake.
This isn’t 2007 anymore.
Social media is no longer a novelty or a passing fad. It’s how we communicate with each other, and the way you choose to handle peer to peer social networking in your offices will have a major impact on everything from sales to employee satisfaction and turnover. With that being said, here are four reasons why CEOs need to re-evaluate their corporate social media policies to empower employees—and a look at the positive consequences which can result if they do.
Liberal Social Media Policies Promote Employee Advocacy
The single most effective way people can be introduced to your business is through conversations with their peers. Happily, your employees are ordinary people with extensive networks and a great deal of influence.
When empowered to do so, employees can become powerful advocates for your company, both in person and via social media, performing a type of marketing that no advertising campaign could replicate.
As Mia Mäkipää notes on Smarp’s employee advocacy blog:
“Being active on social media gives your employees the chance to grow their personal brand and increase their networks, as well as stay up to date with current trends in their industry … having your employees act as your advocates in social media increases your website traffic, builds up your brand authority and recognition and helps you attract new customers and new talent to your organization.”
Employee Advocacy and Social Selling Are Key Marketing Channels
There’s a reason why you’ve been hearing so much about employee advocacy programs recently.
According to a 2017 survey performed by The Institute for Public Relations in conjunction with Jem consulting, “There has been more than 25 percent growth in employee advocacy program adoption and more than 30 percent growth in social selling in the past year.”
Businesses are increasingly using empowered employees to not only perform normal tasks, but also to help move product.
The report continues:
“…82 percent of respondents…stated that they have an employee advocacy program in place; 77 percent have a social selling program in place. This represents significant growth over 2016 when only slightly more than half of the companies surveyed had an employee advocacy program and only 46 percent had social selling programs.”
In a nutshell, if you aren’t already giving employees opportunities to start conversations online, you’re missing a trick—because your competitors almost certainly are.
Social Media Can Improve Employee Satisfaction and Engagement
Platforms like Facebook Workplace, Slack and Skype combine social media connectivity with business sensibilities and have been proven in many cases to actually improve workplace productivity and employee satisfaction.
This is amply illustrated by the following case study from Steven Baer, recently published in Forbes:
“Volkswagen Ireland, a 125-employee division of the international automaker, actively uses Facebook Workplace. Prior to using Workplace, it reported little collaboration between employees despite everyone working in the same building. Their leadership decided to adopt Workplace and demonstrate … how joining the digital conversation is critical to building the Volkswagen Group of the future.”
Continues Baer’s report, “Today, over 95 percent of their office uses Workplace to communicate and collaborate. Their efficiency is up and emails are down. Other brands, including Starbucks, Columbia Sportswear and Hello Fresh, all report daily use by over 80 percent of employees who have been invited to the platform.”
The Risks of Social Media Use Are Smaller Than You Think
The old myth that social media is a serious threat to office productivity has now largely been put to rest. While on-the-job social media use may not be appropriate in some service sector jobs, for corporate workers it’s simply a fact of life.
A recent report from the Harvard Business Review found that workplace social media usage is not the threat to productivity it has sometimes been painted to be.
“Employers typically worry that social media is a productivity killer; more than half of U.S. employers reportedly block access to social media at work. In my research with 277 employees of a healthcare organization I found these concerns to be misguided,” writes Lorenzo Bizzi in the report.
Beyond productivity, CEOs also sometimes worry about the PR consequences of allowing employees to post freely about work-related topics. Misinformation, premature announcement leaks and contentious gossip are all potential concerns.
However, in my experience, people generally behave the way you expect them to.
If you treat employees like children, who need to be restricted from social media for their own good, they will likely behave that way. If you trust and empower them to be reliable, articulate advocates for your company, they will do just that.
Social media is not a threat to your company.
When properly handled, it can actually generate a great deal of value for your company and employees. Take the leap of faith that it requires to empower employees to be responsible social media advocates.
You won’t regret it.
Related: Stop Apologizing — 8 Social Media Rules CEOs Should Know