The question here might not be quite the right one. Can employers might be a better question. Forcing people to do anything normally backfires as people are at their best when they’re happy and in control of their own lives. If you’ve got people who want to build a personal brand or simply want to be on social media talking about their day job, then absolutely, as employers can really benefit from leveraging that.
What if they say something stupid?
We’re all human, we all say something stupid at times. But, yes, what if they say something really stupid?
It is true this is a risk, but a manageable one. There are a few ways to manage this risk. Firstly, a social media policy. Not a draconian policy, you don’t want to be telling people what they can and can’t say, but you do need to be clear, if they are linking themselves to the business online and they say something that could harm the reputation of the company, they could be dismissed. This is also a good time to remind them to secure their accounts and suggest a response if they are contacted by a disgruntled customer (or ex-employee).
In addition to the social media policy, being clear about your business values and recruiting for those values will really help you. Often when people say something that harms a brand, it’s because they don’t value the same things. What one person thinks is stupid, another may not.
A step further would be to have ethics policies, clear diversity and inclusion policies - all supported by relevant training and consistency within the business. All businesses are different, what harms one may even help another. Having your people on the same page will help much more than just your social media presence.
The reality is, your people are already on social media of some form somewhere. There is already the risk they say something stupid. You could manage this by banning them from any mention of their employer or title, but this is a large part of their lives. They may spend more time with colleagues and friends. These people should be your biggest fans. Let them talk about you, make them want to talk about you.
What if our people get poached?
You buy your employees time, you don’t own them. They could be approached by another employer or they could look for another role at any time. It is true, if your employee has a personal brand, they are more likely to be spotted by a potential employer. There is no way to stop that specifically.
People move on when there is a better opportunity for them or when they just have to get out. Social media or not, that is always the case. There will always be times where what you can offer as a business and what you need as a business doesn’t match what a particular employee wants. In which case, it might cause short term disruption, but it’s better for both parties if they move on. You can reduce this happening by meeting your employees needs and being a great employer that people want to stay with.
On protecting the business, ensure you have contractual agreements about not poaching clients. Build relationships with customers and potential customers as a business, work to secure those relationships when someone leaves by smoothing the transition for the client.
What if your sales increase?
Your people, out there, getting your brand known is lead generation. They may or may not be doing it deliberately. Your sales team are clearly likely to want to use social media channels for leads. Your experts might be more interested in learning, reading blogs, watching videos, but they may also enter debate and connect with other experts. They don’t need to be trying to sell. If they’re out there, they’re learning (great for your business) and if they comment and generate interest in themselves, they’ll be attracting people to their profile which will mention your brand.
You may have people who more directly share your stuff, getting people to follow your company pages is hard. People follow people. Let’s take a local restaurant for example, your employees will be local, part of the community of your target market. Your people liking and sharing your posts will make a huge difference to your reach.
Exactly how social media helps your business will depend on your people, your target audience and of course your own business social media strategy. But, there are many examples of employees bringing in leads and customers without even trying. Not to mention the community of engaged people you’ll have in your business.
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