How To Calm Employees Into Social Media

by on 08/26/2010 • 20 Comments | Social Media

I’ve read hundreds of articles on how to corral your employees in social media. Posts on how to make sure they don’t reveal too much, waste too much time, or annoy people to the point that customers hate you. However, all that assumes that your employees and your team are comfortable stepping into social media and that they WANT to be there. It doesn’t account for the people who aren’t. The people who are fearful of the new tools, of casting bad light on the company they work for, or, even worse, accidentally getting themselves fired. While attending CapitolCamp here in Albany last week I was reminded that not every employee is socially-savvy and dreams of waking up to 15,000 Twitter followers. Some are still coming to the terms with the idea that our job means engaging with people in a brand new way. Some are absolutely terrified.

If you’re responsible for a team skeptical of social media, how do you calm their fears? How do you comfortably bring employees into the social media mix so that they see it as an opportunity instead of something that may get them fired?

Here’s a roadmap.

Remove the Barriers

If you want to create a habit of socialness and collaboration, you need to remove the barriers to that behavior. And there may be many of them. For example, a barrier to a staff member using Twitter may be their having to learn to use tools like Tweetdeck to monitor it. By removing that obstacle and showing them how interact with Twitter via saved RSS feeds, something they’re more confident with, you help them step over that barrier. Or maybe the barrier is that there’s not enough time in their day to learn social media and fulfill their other job responsibilities. By re-assigning tasks or allowing them to tweet after hours on business accounts, you can remove that barrier. Every team will find that they have different barriers inhibiting their success. The trick is to understand the behaviors that are preventing them from being successful and then re-train or accommodate them.

Focus on One Network

To get employees comfortable in taking the leap and creating a culture of being social, allow them to focus on just one network to start. Pick whatever network you think will allow you to best connect with your audience and start there. Do not have a social media novice immediately create a presence on every channel available. That’s how you’re going to intimidate and scare the bejesus out of them. By focusing on one tool you allow them to really master it and to push it to the limits. You give them an opportunity to become an expert at that one channel. The result of this is two-fold:

  • When you really learn a tool, you can learn to hack it to find your own success instead of copying everyone else.
  • You limit your newbie mistakes to one channel instead of repeating them all over the social Web, ensuring that ALL of your customers spot them.

Give your employees time to find their social media legs before you throw them to the wild. It’s much better that they establish themselves on a network then to create a bunch of presences you’ll have to rework once they know what they’re doing.

Give Them Guidelines For Interaction

While at CapitolCamp I spoke to a business owner who prided himself in letting employees figure out social media on their own. He didn’t create a rulebook because he didn’t want them to feel “restricted”. It’s possible I winced when he told me this. Realize that your employees are looking to you for how they should be engaging. They want clear and written guidelines so that they can refer to them in times of trouble and so that they have a blueprint for how interactions are supposed to go. When you plot out on a new adventure, you bring a map, a compass or some other tool to help you find your way. The same applies to social media. By giving them a social media rulebook to follow, you help them make the right decisions for your brand. Your rulebook serves as their life preserver in the waters of social media. Have that social media talk and then follow it up with a written plan of action.

Create an In-House Resource

One great way to help your employees feel comfortable using social channels is to create an internal resource or Wiki that they can refer to when they have a concern or that they can use to share experiences with other employees. Let this Wiki serve as the hub for the company’s social media policy and be turned into an outlet where employees can ask questions, find education links to outside resources or simply study up on internal guidelines. Giving your employees a place to go to talk about their frustrations and pick up new tricks helps them to feel like the master of their own destiny. In the spirit of removing barriers, make this resource accessible from their home computer so that they can study it in an environment where they feel more comfortable and where they’re not being rushed to get their other work done. People want to learn new skill sets and master new marketing techniques. You just have to give them the resources to do so.

Highlight Real-Life Examples

How do you cure a skeptic? You show them real-like examples of campaigns that worked, cultures you admire, or successes that will teach and inspire them. We all work better when we have model for what we’re doing. Let them see the rewards of social media to not only give them an example of how these tools can be used, but as proof that they work and can bring rewards. Pick cases where you can show ROI and that there’s a reason to all this madness. Concrete evidence gets people on board much faster than rainbows, puppies and cupcakes ever will.

Those are some ways we’ve helped nervous teams get on board with social media. What would you need to calm your fears? Or have you cured others?

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

20 thoughts on “How To Calm Employees Into Social Media

  1. When you plot out on a new adventure, you bring a map, a compass or some other tool to help you find your way. The same applies to social media.

    I could not agree more. We have all seen recent examples of people who have been fired for commentary on various social media sites. Some deserved it, of course, while others did not.

    Setting the parameters for your employees as they forge ahead into social media *on your behalf* is absolutely critical. How they represent your business *should* be important to you – and I’m certain that it is – so it’s best to help your employees see the way to marketing your business the way *you* want it to be done.

    • Thanks for the comment. I think employers forget that employees really do WANT to represent them well. They don’t want to be the case study for how to grow a social media fire or be the person who gets fired for loose lips. Many times they simply don’t know the rules or how they should be engaging as your representative. And it’s up to the company to tell them that.

  2. Its almost similar in a way to launching a new website, one that is built for engaging others like a blog or a forum.

    You don’t just tell employees, hey… I need you on that website doing stuff, we gotta grow it.

    What you have to do is build a core set of users and implement a rewards system so that they have incentive, doesn’t have to be a monetary reward, points systems are usually good enough.

    The employees need something tangible, something that is their own, perhaps their own facebook fan page for customers. That way its not just on the backs of 1 or 2 people at the organization.

    I am having this problem myself with clients, their blogs are getting comments and they don’t have a care in the world to respond to them. These are dealers who sell based on relationships and they don’t get why this is important.

    Doesn’t help when the second largest dealer groupn in the nation publically claims that social media is ineffective and forbids their employees from participating in any form of it.

    • Been there. It’s hard to make the case for comments when a client just doesn’t see the use or benefit to them. All you can do is keep making the case and perhaps shame them into it by showing them how great a job their competitors are doing and the conversations they’re having. :)

      • Great suggestion! I’m off to look at the competitors blogs. :)

        An analogy I to comments was, when someone calls your dealership on the phone do you ignore that? No. So why would you ignore the way your customers (potential new customers) prefer to communicate?

    • Hey Scott, I was actually working on being your competitor, but I had the same problem with my employer that you have with your clients, so the website was dropped (and I’ve moved on from that company).

      Having helped start the SEO team for Cobalt in the past as well as auto dealer marketing for this other unnamed employer, I can say with some experience that auto dealers are probably the most stubborn examples of this post. If you start talking trackable leads, however, they tend to perk up. For example, comment contests with coupons on specific landing pages (with social media sharing prominent, right under the savings).

      In that regard, I can relate – show me leads, show me proof – then I’m interested in whatever idea or project is on the table. If it’s just warm fuzzy keeping up with technology or extra customer experience, it just sounds like an unnecessary cost.

      • Hi Chris,

        Nice to meet you, I appreciate the feedback. Interesting that you were with Cobalt, would be even more interesting to hear what you’re up to these days. :)

        I see social media as being one of the fundamentals of running a successful company, and building a brand that gives a shit.

        • I almost forgot, I had a bit of a proud moment the other day, much like a parent who sees their child ride a bike by themselves for the first time.

          I was talking to a client, and he revealed something to me that is just now starting to sink in on what it actually meant, even if it were a tiny step it was a step.

          He said, “oh I almost forgot, I got a phone call from someone awhile back asking me about how they are supposed to pair their bluetooth phone with their vehicle. (this has been a fairly popular post on the blog) and I (my client) said hold on while I go out to a vehicle.”

          He actually walked her through step by step, doing each step while on the phone to be sure it worked and she was really happy. Before she hung up he asked, where are you calling from, she said Texas. He’s in Nevada and put 2 and 2 together that this was a call from the blog.

          Now, the reason this made me so happy was that he did exactly what he should have done. He helped her without any intention of gaining anything, and although she might not buy a new car tomorrow, should she ever need help again she knows who to call.

          And eventually, as easy as it is to conduct business virtually, a sale to someone in TX could be easier / faster than if they walked onto showroom. Why? Because they already have a relationship – and TRUST.

        • Scott,

          Ironically enough, I left Cobalt mostly because of lack of support in building a social media platform (which of course they plaster all over their homepage now, three years later). I’ve been in freelanceville since then, but looking for something full time and long term here in Houston. I was hoping it would be the auto marketing company here, but they just wanted a spammer (which I won’t do), so I’m back in job hunt mode.

          I’m looking to do some guest posts to promote my new blog, send me an email or DM on Twitter if you’re interested (my email is chris at http://chrismiller.in)

  3. Lisa – This is just what I needed to help my colleagues get off to the right start! Thanks for a great resource!

  4. Great timing on this article Lisa relative to current tasks at hand. I can vouch for the tendency to make assumptions that the general level of social media awareness is higher than it really is across an organization. There is a broad spectrum of familiarity, from the experts (loosely defined here) to the neophytes, to the I-don’t-know-much-so-default-to-totally-cautious-moders. The first group typically gets it (although may be too overeager at times), the second can be taught, the third is the toughest.

    As far as developing guidance and policy, for me comment moderation policy is the biggest lift. Who gets to speak on behalf of the company and when, what layers of approval are required (if any), and are the layers of approval dependent on the specific comment/topic? Finding the balance between being too layered in approvals to be responsive vs. being too open and risking negative consequence/interpretation.

    • That’s a good point about balancing being quick to respond and determining who will be responsible for responding and what they can actually say. A lot of time creating strict structures for who does what can actually put a bottleneck in the process as you wait for that person to get to it. That’s not really conducive to real-time customer service in social media.

  5. Nice post, Lisa. I particularly like the advice of helping them focus on one social outlet if they are new and not socially savvy. Diving into everything at once can be pretty overwhelming. With some social networks (particularly Twitter), it takes awhile before you understand what it’s about and can appreciate it – to really “get it”.

    I think it depends on the workplace environment, but participating in social networking with the employees, or encouraging them to interact amongst each other is important. It not only starts them about in the right direction with friends / followers, but can help build camaraderie.

    This UK survey should help convince every employee that they need a social networking policy: http://myjobgroup.co.uk/media-centre/press-releases/social-media-costing-uk-economy-up-to.shtml

    Oh, and if you’re dreaming of waking up to 15,000 followers, there are probably better things to think about before falling asleep! :)

    • That’s a good point about having employees chat with each other on social networks. As you mentioned, it builds camaraderie and it also helps them feel more comfortable saying something. In the early stages, those first few conversations can be really intimidating. Sending them out to colleagues to test the waters is an interesting approach. It may also be neat to let customers see employees talking and interacting with one another. It’s like giving them a peak behind the curtain. :)

  6. Great post Lisa. I agree with your point that a lot of people are still terrified of the thought of the new people to people environment that we are in now where people rather than products are our competitive advantage.

    Those of us consumed by social media still occasionally forget that there are people out there struggling to engage with it for all sorts of reasons. I think you’ve identified a model that managers/leaders will be able to use practically. Its also a good model for selling the idea to businesses too.

    Thanks

  7. Great post – a lot of good info in there. One question – how have you dealt with (or have you had to deal with) employees who don’t want to be involved in social media (on both a business and personal level) b/c of privacy issues? They’re fearful of putting their personal info out there on the Web. I always tell them that if someone REALLY wants to find out about them, there’s plenty of info out there without being on the social networks. However, that is not reassuring to some of them.

  8. Thanks for this post! I was literally just talking to my VP the other day about how we were going to reign in our employees and identify who would become part of the social media team. This can be really hard to do in the restaurant industry where there tends to be little trust running vertically.

    This post really helped me define what steps we should take going forward. The toughest part now will be figuring out who actually *wants* to get on our social media plan.

  9. Social media is definitely something every employee should get into. It helps spread the word about the company and creates the buzzzz. Companies find it difficult to grasp the revenue associated with being part of social media. However, its necessary to be apart of social media for marketing puposes.

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