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With the right tools, leadership and support, employees can be one of the best sources of digital engagement. People want to engage with other people online – while company profiles provide a trustworthy aspect; community engagement is still more effective when it’s P2P (person to person).

Who better to lead the charge than employees? They have inside knowledge of the business, and most are already familiar with latest social networks. In addition, it can also help them build their own online authority, as well as that of the business.

Here are four ways in which every business – regardless of size – can encourage their employees to partake in digital conversations:

1. Embrace a Social Culture

While this step sounds simple it’s usually the most difficult hurdle many organizations face. Embracing social media doesn’t mean your business creates a corporate account on various social networks and allows employees to manage those pages. Social culture requires employee freedom to engage in digital conversations outside of company pages – to create a digital personality of their own while tapping into the organizational presence.

How many of us have worked (or currently work) for organizations which block any social media access at work? How much trust does that show towards employees?

Instead of blocking employee social media access, companies need to provide clear guidelines, and encourage employees to participate in online conversations.

There needs to be a clear, effective balance between wasting time online and contributing to the overall brand image.

2. Update Outdated Policies

>> “Access Restricted – please contact your network administrator” <<

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Hands up if you’ve come across this as an employee, or if as a business owner you’ve limited access to Facebook, or any other social media networks. I bet the amount of hands was much higher than expected.

While I fully understand employers’ need to limit employee “slacking”, or to avoid a PR crisis by having employees engage with inappropriate content/comments, the benefits still outweigh the negatives.

The best way to limit or eliminate any of these worries is by providing clear-cut guidelines – here are a few things to keep in mind when coming up with your own social parameters:

  • Keep the wording simple, don’t use “corporate speak”
  • Provide social media training for all employees
  • Provide links and locations for all your corporate social media pages
  • Have an emergency contact who can handle crisis events or answer questions
  • List resources (internal or external) for the type of content that’s encouraged
  • Create training material and manuals that employees can access at any time
  • Use examples of how to engage online users & provide awesome customer service support

Having guiding principles, examples and resources can give your business the confidence to remove any online access restrictions. This puts trust in your employees and gives your organization plenty of resources to manage any unexpected scenarios that may come up.

Remember, social media is about interactions – not everything will be sunshine and lollipops. Having the right guidelines ensures everyone is equipped with the right skills to deal with both positive and negative digital scenarios.

3. Provide Necessary Tools

From monitoring the right conversations, to providing timely response, responding to customers, etc. – investing in tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer can be a huge time saver.

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Both solutions allow for teams to be setup (depending on the subscription level your organization is willing to pay for) under one umbrella account. Social media marketing tools also allow for feeds of particular accounts, hashtags and other community-oriented monitoring to make participation less of a hassle.

Social media is a time investment, regardless of the tools used, however certain apps can help manage time and effort to improve efficiency.

Allow for both natural interactions and social tools to help manage time spent on social media.

4. Lead by Example

There’s no better way to give confidence and provide a social foundation than for the leadership team of the organization to have an engaging presence online.

Leadership provides the direction in all areas, why not social? Organizations (and leaders) need to dismiss the idea that social media is more suited to Millenials or younger generations entering the workforce.

Don’t believe me? Check out these findings from DDI’s High Resolution Leadership study on the effects of CEOs who use social media compared to those that do not:

  • 89% percent better at empowering others
  • 36% better at cultivating networks
  • 46% more influential
  • 15% better at making decisions

Leaders who provide the foundation and guidance for employees to participate in branded conversation significantly improve digital brand authority.

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