This week we are very proud to bring you a guest blog from Leeds based SEO and web development expert Jonny Ross, of Jonny Ross Consultancy. He looks at how an Employees Media Policy can help to build brand loyalty.
8 Tips on Building Brand Loyalty with Your Employee Media Policy
In October 2012, Facebook hit the 1 billion user mark. Google+ isn’t too far behind, with 400 million users, and Twitter is at 140 million (usage statistics for the other main social media platforms here).
With so many people actively engaging with others online, it is inevitable that people will discuss their work. This should be the perfect opportunity for companies to promote themselves online. But due to a number of high profile cases where a brand reputation has been negatively affected by things that employees have posted online, many companies are now seeking to put together prescriptive employee social media policies to protect their brand reputation online.
But restricting and policing all social media activity is virtually impossible. Whether or not employees are “allowed” to use social media or to discuss their work online, it is almost inevitable that they will. And restricting usage can have a negative effect, with employees feeling disgruntled and complaining about work, instead of sharing how much they enjoy it and are respected by their employer.
Social media is one of the most effective publicity tools. The most savvy organsiations are instead realising that by empowering their employees to use social media effectively and responsibly, they are vastly increasing the output of positive brand-reinforcing and profile-raising activity in the public domain.
Tiffany Black of Inc. gives a good broad overview of everything that your social; media policy could contain here. But while she suggests that you may need numerous sections and policies for different platforms, I advocate for a much less prescriptive approach. An onerous and lengthy employee social media policy will more than likely not be read by employees, and the more prescriptive it is, the harder it is to police. As Beth Kanter points out, “Trust is Cheaper Than Control,” but empowering staff rather than restricting them can also increase employee engagement and promotes a participatory and creative environment, where employees feel trusted and valued.
The 8 Tips
(1) The first step in writing an effective employee social media policy is to find out the current usage patterns and existing knowledge among your staff. Are people on Facebook but nothing else? Who has a LinkedIn profile? Who is an active tweeter?
(2) Match the platforms your staff are already using with the target platforms that your clients and customers use, and begin with those platforms as a starting point.
(3) Having identified the active social media users in your company, you can use their knowledge, experience and influence to help you roll out the new policy and assist with staff training where necessary. This will help with employee buy-in and give training and mentoring opportunities.
(4) Your policy should be written to a level of detail required by the majority of your staff, based on their existing knowledge. Don’t patronise, but don’t assume knowledge either.
(5) Include step-by-step instructions on setting up profiles correctly and using them to engage with potential clients and customers.
(6) Give guidance on how to present information about the company, and example text for any disclaimers.
(7) A simple “DOs and DON’Ts” list will help staff to quickly ensure they haven’t made any obvious errors, such as leaving the “seeking job opportunities” box up on their LinkedIn profile.
(8) You may wish to include guidance for staff on whether the personal use of social media channels during work time is permitted, restricted, or allowed during lunchtimes and breaks only.
Remember, the world of social media is organic and ever changing, so overly bureaucratic social media policies will be unsuccessful. This is a view advocated by Helen Standing, Director of Engage Comms, who recently spoke on the subject at the Yorkshire Mafia Festival of Business 2012.
You should instead foster a culture of creativity, sharing, innovation and idea generation, and train your employees to be confident and adept social media users. This will not only lead to happy employees, it will translate into a positive image of your brand when they engage with others online.
If you empower rather than restrict your staff with your social media policy, you will soon become known as a forward-thinking company, with knowledgeable and happy staff who are only too willing to act as positive brand ambassadors for you online.
Jonny Ross is the Director of Jonny Ross Consultancy, a website development and SEO agency that specialises in digital and social media services and training.