How to get your staff to embrace social media

Employees may be all over Facebook and Twitter on their personal time, but that doesn’t mean they want to tweet for their company.

I recently worked with a group of CEOs. One of the leaders said to me, “How do I get my employees to use social media? None of them want to do it.”

Getting employees to use social media can be like pulling teeth. Most employees, if not all, use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in their personal lives, but don’t want to use them on behalf of their companies.

Executives are frustrated.

The issue, though, stems from the difference in how people are invited to social networks. The following happens when employees join social networks for personal reasons:

  • A friend, family member or acquaintance says, “Hey, you should join XZY social network.” The employee probably feels some sort of inclination to do so.
  • The employee wants to do something specific, like share family vacation photos or stay in touch with friends around the globe.
  • On their personal networks, people have control over who sees what. This means bosses can’t see what their employees post unless an employee invites them.
  • Employees add the applications to personal smartphones and tablets so they don’t cross into business.

In contrast, when we ask our teams to be socially active online, the lines are different.

  • They are asked to obey authority, which takes away the feeling of being part of a friends and family network.
  • It’s rare that most employees in a company are paid to gather information from colleagues, peers and customers. While using social media professionally makes sense for marketing, sales, HR and customer service, being social online means companies need to break down the silos and encourage everyone to work together.
  • Participation feels like there is no return on time spent. You want a return on the time and money spent—so do employees.
  • Employees feel like they are giving up control on who sees what. You now have access to their accounts, and that makes some uncomfortable.

Because of this strong divide between personal and business social media use, most leaders are frustrated they can’t get their teams to use the tools at work.

That’s OK. There are some people who are passionate about using the tools, no matter what kind of control they have to give up.

Here are some things you can do to gain buy-in, even if it’s just a handful of people.

1. Define the vision. Why do you want employees to participate in social media? To get more qualified leads or build brand awareness? Clearly communicate the vision and keep everyone updated on how close you are to achieving it.

2. Find your most introverted person and ask him if he would like to manage one of the accounts. Despite popular belief, introverts aren’t shy, and they do have social skills. Large social settings may stress them out, but if you give them an opportunity to use social media to break the ice—they won’t have to interact face-to-face—you’ll see them excel in group settings such as trade shows, client dinners, and presentations.

3. Make participation part of the bonus pool. And, just like anything else, set the strategy, outline the goals, and define what it takes to participate in the bonus program. This will become part of their jobs, so make it fun and measurable.

You’re going to have some ups and downs, especially while you figure out what to measure. But, if you approach social media from an exclusive, team-oriented perspective instead of a mandate, you’ll have success.

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article ran on Spin Sucks.

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