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Before they head online, send your employees back to school

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Brands & Campaigns

You can’t tell your employees how to use social media — you need to teach them instead, Tanya Hilleary and Mahdi Gharavi of MetroStar Systems argued today during a presentation at Social Media for Defense and Government. Getting your employees involved in your social-media strategy can pay huge dividends, but it can also present enormous pitfalls. The key to making a social-media strategy work, they argued, is education that builds a deep, personal understanding.

Hilleary and Gharavi said there are three primary ways an organization can approach social networks:

  • It can create a social-media policy. A policy spells out what employees must and must not do. It needs to be enforceable.
  • It can establish a set of guidelines. This establishes what you’d like your employees to do. It’s more of a handbook for best practices than a rule book. It leaves employees to decide how they’ll approach social networks.
  • It can instill social-media principles in their employees. This means getting your employees to internalize a set of values that will guide their actions. It’s something they can take with them.

No matter what course your organization chooses, training is key, they noted. Employees need to know what their role is and what’s expected of them. Employers can make that process easier by focusing their efforts on workers who are excited by social media and have a natural aptitude for it. Make those employees aware of your goals, the tools you’re using, and the official company line on social-media issues. It’s not enough just to rattle off those bullet points, however — it’s vital to build authentic understanding of what your organization is trying to do.

Hilleary and Gharavi said an organization needs to make sure its employees understand the risks that social media can present. Encourage employees to set limits about what they’re willing to disclose online, both in terms of their work and their personal lives. If your organization is particularly sensitive, you may want to start with an internal social-media initiative. Using an internal wiki or a network such as Yammer can help workers get used to social-media best practices. Remember that the culture you want starts at home, Hilleary said.