Believe it or not, a number of businesses have consciously chosen not to let their employees participate on corporate social media. They make excuses: “Our customers don’t expect to see our employees on social media” or “We need control over what employees are doing, especially on company time.” This thinking is flawed. Discouraging employees from participating on social media will never keep them off entirely; instead, it will increase the risk they’ll embarrass or misrepresent your business when they do speak up.

Conversely, businesses that encourage social media participation by their employees are reaping huge benefits. Employee advocates on social media can assist in lead development. They can direct traffic to a company website. And they can build personal, loyal audiences that come to know and respect your company through interactions with one of your employees.

Still, the notion of creating an employee policy that encourages employee participation (instead of discouraging it!) is a daunting step. Here is my advice for getting over your fears about employee participation in your company’s social media initiatives:

  1. Acknowledge that your customers are already following your employees on social media: You may like to think that your customers and your employees live in two different worlds, but the reality is that they’re all interconnected on social media – some by only one or two degrees of separation. If your customers aren’t already following one or more of your employees on social media, chances are they will stumble across at least one of your employees at some point, especially the employees who use their personal social media to say something related to your company or its products or services.
  2. Stop pretending that you can get rid of all employee chatter on social media: A blanket ban on employees discussing their jobs on personal social media simply doesn’t work. People share so much about their lives on social media that no matter how hard you try or how much you penalize your employees, you’ll never be able to eliminate all job-related posts. So, rather than standing idly by while your employees post whatever they want about your company, you should give them guidelines for how to post strategically in ways that will advance your company’s social media objectives and foster their own professional growth.
  3. Remember that you control who you hire: This may seem like a “duh” moment, but it’s so important to take a step back and realize you hired each one of your employees because you trusted them to get the job done. So trust them just a bit more, and let them advocate for your company on social media. If an employee disappoints you, you don’t have social media problem; you have a personnel problem.
  4. Don’t shortchange employee training: When you embark on any new company initiative, you provide your employees with ample training to jumpstart their paths to success. The same is true with employee social media advocacy; in addition to imparting practical know-how, you must make sure your employees understand the expectations and opportunities of becoming social media advocates. And you must make them feel supported and completely comfortable in this endeavor.
  5. Seek out help from social media professionals: Your business doesn’t have to navigate employee advocacy alone. The exploding field of social media advocacy is filled with experienced professionals who make their livelihoods helping others learn the craft. Hiring a part-time consultant to periodically evaluate your strategy is an important step to ensuring you and your employees are staying on track. EveryoneSocial can also help you with your employee advocacy efforts. Our social media sharing platform makes it easy for your employees to share relevant industry content and appropriate corporate content via social media.

The phenomenon of employee advocacy on social media is gaining popularity across a number of the world’s most successful organizations, including IBM, Adobe, Microsoft and Dell. By acknowledging the realities of how social media works, and by allocating proper resources and time to social media advocacy, you can join some of the world’s top organizations as a company that not only values the time its employees spend on social media, but also works to optimize it.