In the “good old days” you could control the messages generated by your company and about your company.
Your CEO might be quoted in the newspaper or interviewed on TV. You had a corporate brochure or maybe an annual report.
However word got out — it had the company’s seal of approval on it. Not today. Today, the kid who comes in for 10 hours a week to help with inventory or answer the phones is as likely to be a spokesperson as the well-versed CEO.
Actually, in fairness, that’s always been the case. Employees have always talked about their employer, the work they do, etc. But now, thanks to digital publishing, social media, and technology, instead of talking around their dinner table to three other people, a single Facebook post or blog entry could go viral and be exposed to millions in a matter of hours.
As I said in another one of my posts — this is not cause for breathing into a paper bag. It’s actually good news.
Here’s how to harness the buzz your employees can create for you:
Keep them plugged in
No one likes to be kept in the dark. Talk to your people. Don’t just tell them about the past — share your vision for the future. Show them prototypes or the new delivery model. Keep them informed.
Be clear about what is and is not for public consumption, but be willing to share all the news — not just the good news. Be honest. Be ready to answer some tough questions. Be real.
Don’t just talk. Ask their opinion. Seek their ideas. Ask them to help you monitor what customers are saying about your brand. Tap into their insights and instincts. They may be more plugged into the social media tools than you are. So ask them how to best connect with your customers.
Set clear expectations
Be very clear about how you would like them to use social media in terms of your organization. I’ve said this before, but soon every company will have a social media policy, just like we all adopted sexual harassment policies 20 years ago. (Here are some excellent social media policy examples.) Define your boundaries and the consequences for breaching them.
Celebrate them doing it well
If you have an employee who is really using their social media clout to serve a customer, sing your praises, answer consumer questions, recruit new team members — shout it out. Thank them publicly and use their behavior as a model to teach other employees.
This is one of those lemon or lemonade kinds of choices. Your employees aren’t going to disconnect any time soon. So why not recognize the opportunity of having every single employee out there talking about your organization and the work you do?
If that idea frightens you, you’d better ask yourself why. My guess is, it has little to do with the employees.