Your employees’ 9 levels of social media engagement

How to identify how far a staffer has progressed and provide the most effective training to bolster their engagement.

Throughout my career I’ve been fascinated by how people engage with each other in business.

I’m always up for trying those personality studies and tests to try and figure out my business profile and where I best fit into an organization.

I trained thousands of employees at SAP to build their personal brand online as part of a huge global effort to shift the organization to become a social business.

I noticed that employees broadly fall into different categories of social media maturity, largely driven by the extent to which they network and how digitally active they are with their brand.

What follows is a reflection of seven years’ experience in an area that I feel passionate about—employee social advocacy.

I’ve broadly mapped employees to a model that looks at the extent to which they network against their level of social activity. When mapping employees to such a model it’s easier to target the right developmental steps to help them advance—if they so wish.

Generally speaking, the higher you are in the model the more connections you are likely to have and the more actively you network. Employees that sit further to the right of the model tend to be more socially active—e.g., blogging, tweeting, engaging with influencers.

Employees are unlikely to sit clearly in one box or another. They may demonstrate behaviors from multiple boxes. Most will recognize where they sit from the definitions below.

Although it’s a fairly basic set of axes, it does determine a natural path of progression for an employee. By deconstructing what it takes for a person to become an influencer online, I have been able to create a social media training experience that maps to the natural journey.

This is great for the employer, as the most appropriate training can be targeted to the correct group of individuals. It’s also great for the employee, because they’re not overwhelmed by “Twitter 101” training when they haven’t even got a LinkedIn profile.

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Let’s examine each of the social employee types:


Inactives don’t have much of an online presence. LinkedIn is normally activated only when they’re looking for a new job-it’s considered nothing more than a digital version of their CV. Traits include an incomplete LinkedIn profile, perhaps no photo and a very low number of connections. However, members of this group may be very active on social networks that would be considered more personal-e.g., Facebook and Instagram.


They are typically more active on LinkedIn and maybe personal social media networks. They will often accept invitations online and may even send invitations to others. In my experience, many B2B sales teams fit in this category-historically good networkers offline but with limited experience online.


These folks have a large network on LinkedIn and always know someone who knows someone else who can help. They actively connect people, because they know sharing is caring. They don’t have an agenda, and they expect nothing in return. They do it because it’s in their nature.


Though members of this group have relatively small networks, they dabble in social media networking. They test the water by engaging with others online-“liking” and commenting on content. They bear watching; they are naturally curious but probably don’t yet have certain key basics in place.


Folks in this category are showing more social media potential. Perhaps they’ve been dabbling for some time by engaging with other people’s content and are now starting to share other people’s content to their network. Many organizations that implement employee advocacy tools serve this space perfectly. Employees are provided “corporate approved” content to share, but without contextual training it can look like your employees have become another broadcasting channel.


As sharers increase their networks, you tend to see a behavioral change. They broadcast less and appreciate feedback more. Typically, folks in this space have a large network, have been through the engaging/sharing stage and are formulating opinions and seek to listen to others.


Those in this group tend to be highly active on social media. Anyone this far along on the model will be creating content and formulating opinions. However, they may have a relatively small network. Millennials typically fit this profile, joining the workforce with strong social media acumen but with a limited professional network. Watch this group carefully. Opinionated enthusiasts that aren’t engaged at work can cause issues, whereas those who are engaged are potentially strong advocates.

Thought leaders

These are subject experts within an organization, and they have garnered enormous credibility with customers. They don’t actively network—often they don’t have time—but they might blog or tweet when they can. Enabled and engaged, this group can set your organization apart from the competition by creating content that will attract digital audiences.


This group includes highly active networkers and content creators. Social media has become part of their daily routine. They are considered influencers in their field, formulating opinions and writing content that sets them apart from their peers. Those in this category (along with thought leaders) will attract customers to your brand online. Make sure they are engaged in the company: Give them influential opportunity, seek their feedback, and promote their content.

So there you have it-my nine categories of employee social maturity. Once you’ve mapped your employees to this model, it’s easy to pinpoint the appropriate training to deliver.

A version of this article originally appeared on Business2Community.

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