Why stifling employees’ social media use hurts your brand

Your employees know your organization and its attributes better than anyone. Don’t muffle them out of fear of online gaffes or poaching by competitors.

Only 41 percent of HR and marketing executives have a strategy for employee advocacy.

One major factor, according to the 2014 Altimeter Group survey that produced that finding, is that most employees don’t have a clear understanding of what they can or should share on behalf of the brand. Consequently, most stay quiet.

This is a huge loss. Social media is one of the most influential channels for brand managers to communicate and engage with customers. Though most leading organizations have a brand presence on social media, they can easily augment their impact by empowering employees to be their amplifier—simply by being socially vocal.

Take Adobe as an example: On LinkedIn alone, the combined connections of Adobe employees are seven times greater than the number of followers on our brand pages, and 91 percent of the engagements our employees have about Adobe on LinkedIn are with individuals who aren’t engaging with our LinkedIn brand pages.

Not only is our employee reach larger than that of our brand, but the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer also found that trust in the average employee is nearly double the trust in content shared by a brand manager or chief executive.

Organizations can easily improve reach, engagement and trust by empowering their employees to become more active on social media. For activate employees to do so, communicators have to instill confidence through social media training and help employees find compelling content.

Put up guide rails

The most important part of activating your workforce is social media training. The focus for this training is not to teach employees the nuances of sharing content on LinkedIn versus Twitter versus Facebook. Instead, the goal is to educate them on the company’s objectives on social media, equip them with judgment so they can easily discern what content to share, and help them recognize the need for and limits of a disclaimer.

About a year ago, Adobe launched Social Shift, a voluntary training program that we have used to train more than 30 percent of our 10,000 employees. A big part of that training is focused on judgment-assessing sample social media conversations and empowering them to understand best approaches to any given situation.

We already see that about 20 percent of Creative Cloud subscriptions and Digital Marketing Cloud leads are influenced by content shared on social media. Increasing the number of employees sharing content can only help the business.

Serve up insightful content to employees

Once we trained our employees, they were clamoring for content. Burying it in emails isn’t the most efficient approach, but employees need help finding insightful content about the company, strategic partners or the industry.

LinkedIn recently released a product specifically for this purpose—LinkedIn Elevate—which helps brands to curate insightful content that employees can share on their own social channels.

Download this free white paper to see how your organization can better measure its internal communication strategies.

Adobe was part of a pilot program for LinkedIn Elevate; several product engineers, HR professionals and sales technicians participated. The simple interface and access to compelling content spiked employee sharing on social networks, increasing views of job openings by 80 percent and driving an average of three to four trial software downloads per participating employee.

One significant perk for employees is building their own personal brand. For example, a product manager in our Australia office promoted a partnership with Fast Company, which shared his tweet, resulting in a slew of new followers and industry influence.

Some organizations have resisted encouraging their employees to be more socially active and build personal brands because they fear their top talent will be poached. However, in our experience, we’ve found the approach benefits everyone: Employees find an increased sense of pride carving their niche as an expert and acting on behalf of the brand. Meanwhile, we see the results through improved sales, talent acquisition and customer service.

Organizations that limit social media to their marketing departments are missing out-and their voices will fade as other companies amplify their voices through an empowered workforce.

Cory Edwards is head of Adobe’s Social Business Center of Excellence. Reach him at Adobe’s Digital Marketing blog and @coryedwards. A version of this article originally appeared on Re/code.


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