A Harris Poll study reported that 52 percent of employers restrict their employees from posting on the company’s behalf on social media, while 29 percent “have adopted stricter policies in this regard". Can Employee Advocacy thrive in companies with restrictive social media policies?
It is not unheard of that employers pass on applicants because of what they have posted on social media. Likewise, every now and then employees find themselves without a job soon after they post something they just thought was funny. In fact, in 2016, a Harris Poll survey for CareerBuilder found that 17 percent of companies “have fired an employee for something they posted on social media”.
You probably have heard of the publicist who got fired after joking on Twitter about getting AIDS on a flight to Africa. Or the Yelp employee who lost her job two hours after posting a publicly open letter to the company’s CEO about the low pay.
These are no-win scenarios. The company is showed in a bad light or forced to take drastic action against the erring employee. The employee loses their job and possibly even gets attacked online.
So how can a social media policy support Employee Advocacy in a way that benefits and protects all the parties involved?
Social Media and Employee Advocacy
Numerous studies prove the effectiveness of Employee Advocacy for overall business growth, particularly in the areas of brand building, lead generation, and talent acquisition.
- In a Hinge Research Institute/Social Media Today survey, 96 percent of respondents reaped benefits from employee engagement on social media, the top two being visibility and brand recognition.
- According to an SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) report, 84 percent of HR professionals use social media for talent acquisition and 9 percent plan to use it, while 82 percent are on social media to recruit passive candidates.
- A Social@Ogilvy global study found that 57 percent of socially engaged organizations are more likely to see an increase in sales leads, whereas 58 percent are more likely to attract top talent.
Having your employees advocate for your brand on social media is, as the above statistics show, a game-changer, but the fear of being reprimanded for what they post online - or worse, losing their jobs - may discourage them from participating in any Employee Advocacy initiative.
The whole point of a social media policy is to educate employees on what they can and cannot post on social media, and what is expected of them when posting about the company as part of their jobs or as a private individual.
Employee Advocacy: Best Practices on Social Media
A previous blog post, "A Practical Guide to Implementing a Social Media Policy That Works," has outlined the best practices for a successful social media policy implementation, and here we present a few more.
#1 Policy Coverage
Be specific about who the policy is for and which accounts it covers. For example, the policy may only apply to certain individuals, such as those who work with sensitive information. The policy may be limited to just the company’s corporate accounts. It may also include employees’ personal accounts, depending on your unique situation.
Define what constitutes social media. In addition to social networks and blogs, does it include, for example, online videos?
#2 Behavioral expectations
You don’t want anyone sharing confidential information. Offensive behavior or posts about illegal substance use (or anything illegal, for that matter) must stay off social media. Your social media policy must explicitly address all that.
Employees don’t appreciate being ordered around, particularly if it concerns their own social networks. Guidelines are useful, but you should allow your employees room to be themselves when engaging with their own networks. As long as they stay off taboo topics and keep confidential information confidential, give them the freedom to be themselves while talking with their peers.
How to Encourage Employees to Advocate for Your Brand on Social Media
Crafting a well-thought-out social media policy is just the first step. To ensure your employees participate in your company’s Employee advocacy initiative, consider the following:
- Lead by example. Your employees are likely to follow the lead of an executive who shares curated content with their networks.
- Outline the benefits of becoming a social media thought leader. Your employees are busy people. For them to make time to advocate for your company, explain the benefits of the initiative, including what thought leadership could do for their careers.
- Share tips and tricks to help them succeed. Regularly share social media best practices. Not all your employees know the best days and times to post on a specific network, how to optimize titles and social media profiles, or which types of content to share for specific situations.
- Allow them to be social at work. Giving your employees the go signal to use social media at work (within reason) encourages them to share and post more.
A Focus on “Employee” in Social Media Employee Advocacy Initiatives
A social media policy, in a nutshell, is a code of conduct your employees must adhere to when advocating for your brand online. Its main purpose is to keep your brand and employees out of trouble, and educating them on your social media policy should strike a balance between brand reputation and employee empowerment.
When all is said and done, what you want is a policy that encourages your employees to authentically talk about your brand with their networks while keeping things professional.