If you’ve decided to invite your employees to take part in your business’s social media strategy, congratulations! You’ve made a smart decision. Your employees can be huge assets in expanding your customer base, growing your brand reach, and shaping your reputation and image.

Before you take the plunge, though, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into – and how to avoid common mistakes that can quickly balloon into costly setbacks to your company’s social media strategy. Here are five things you need to know:

  1. Develop a strategy: There’s no doubt your business will craft detailed policies that guide how your employees use and interact with your corporate social media accounts, but you also need to develop a true, all-encompassing corporate social media strategy. Here are the key questions to answer: What is your business trying to achieve with this major shift in how you utilize your employees? What are the benchmarks of success with your social media plan, and the timeline for achieving these benchmarks? How will you evaluate whether your plan is working? How will your company decide if and when to alter your plan, and who will make that decision? Like any new corporate initiative, a social media strategy requires proactive thought and deliberation to succeed.
  2. Explain how employees can advance your strategic goals: If you tell your employees that the goal of your employee advocacy initiative is simply to bring more awareness to your company or to build your brand’s image, then you haven’t fully fleshed out your employee advocacy policy. You want to be able to explain to your employees exactly what kind of messages you want them to share and how their efforts will fit into overall strategic goals. For example, you never want to tell your employees something vague like: “We encourage you to share this company post to your Facebook and to write a positive message to go with it.” Instead, you should tell your employees: “The company is posting about ____ today because we want our prospective customers to learn about ____, which has the potential to drive sales because of _____. Please share this post on Facebook and Twitter with a personal message that reads something like ____.” A great way to roll out and maintain your social plan is to utilize EveryoneSocial’s social media sharing platform. It makes it easy for social media managers to curate both third-party content and corporate content for employee advocacy efforts. Sharing is literally as easy as pushing a button.
  3. Know your employees’ legal rights: Most employees will not willingly tarnish their company’s reputation, but let’s say they post a strong personal opinion at odds with the company’s stance, or inadvertently divulge intellectual property, or engage with a journalist without realizing they’re de-facto speaking on behalf of the company. You must know the legal limits for how you can discipline employees who create these kinds of headaches for your company on social media. In general, personal social media usage is considered free speech, up to the point that an employee is being “disloyal” and can be shown to be deliberately driving away customers. This is a high burden of proof for the employer and can quickly become legally messy. Rather than let a situation escalate to this level, you should set clear expectations now for things like preventing the release of privileged information, stating strong personal opinions, and interacting with reporters and bloggers on social media.
  4. Keep track of who and what devices have access: There is nothing worse than having your corporate social media account hacked. As a general rule, you should update the list of employees who are authorized to log into your corporate social media accounts about once a week; you also should frequently change passwords. While you should aim to have lots of employees who can write content for your corporate social media accounts, you should only have a few with the ability to post to them.
  5. Consider dedicated company social media devices: Employees who are authorized to post to corporate social media accounts inevitably also have personal accounts, and sometimes these employees get confused about which is which, leading to embarrassing mistakes. Thus, having a physically distinct device for your corporate accounts may be one of the best social media investments you can make. An added advantage of having a separate corporate device is that you can more clearly restrict who has login access.

Your employees want to do right by you on social media – that’s why you hired them and that’s why your corporate social media strategy can and will succeed. Just remember that before you unleash them on social media, you must develop an integrated strategy that considers the employees’ contributions in light of strategic goals, and you must understand your employees’ free-speech rights. Finally, you must take precautions to ensure your social media accounts stay secure.