In the past few years, companies have been trying to manage employees who are building their own personal brands online through social media. They are exploring ways to best leverage their employees to recruit, sell more and generate more brand awareness. Employees are cultivating their brands both at home and in the office, through their computers and mobile phones. The line between their personal and professional lives is becoming blurred with the end of the 9 to 5 workday. A recent study by Silk Road shows that 75 percent of employees now access social media from a mobile device at work and 49 percent are looking to connect with co-workers through social media.
Still, some companies are lashing out at employees because they believe that they own their social media accounts. Noah Kravitz is in a legal dispute with his former employer, PhoneDog, because he actively used his Twitter account to support the company and they want to take it from him. Dr. Linda Eagle was the President of Edcomm, established an account on LinkedIn, had a fellow employee manage her account and then lost her account when he left the company. Both of these are examples of how not to handle employee social media use. An employee's social accounts are personal, important career assets and are under their name. Employers who don't respect an employee's social accounts will lose out on attracting the best talent and will end up getting bad press like both of these companies.
1. Recruiting. Companies spend thousands of dollars using traditional recruiting platforms in order to find talent. Instead of pouring that much money into job boards, why not leverage an employee's following to secure likeminded professionals at no additional cost? Many companies, especially the larger ones, have referral programs that give incentives to employees who find talent when it should be part of the ecosystem in the first place. If there's a new marketing job available, for instance, the marketing team should promote it on their social media accounts.
2. Marketing and PR. Just like recruiting, companies are dumping thousands of dollars into all types of advertising, from online to TV, and hiring major PR firms. Why not use your employees as your microphone as well? You should start encouraging your employees to share your major company announcements and cross-promote corporate blog content. It wouldn't cost you more and help you get the word out. Smart companies, who have social media guidelines in place, can activate their employees to stand up for the brand online. For instance, if a competitor is making false statement, your employees can back you up and protect your brand.
3. Sales. Your employees can be part of your sales funnel. Employees at several companies are already making money for their companies. A study conducted by eMarketer shows that 63 percent have sold products through their blogs. IBM, for instance, has over 40,000 bloggers who write posts that appear on their website and generate awareness and sales. I've even seen employees create videos on YouTube to send to prospective clients in order to win business. At a time when companies have to do more with less, it only makes sense to have your employees help you sell through their already established channels.
Are you utilizing your employees' social media accounts? Why or why not?