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Engage employees on social media to increase engagement, happiness and company visibility! (Photo by NEC Corporation of America, via Flickr with Creative Commons license)

Frustrated employers dealing with distracted, on-the-clock Facebookers and tweeters used to wonder how to disengage employees from social media.
But now, the latest wisdom in HR and marketing is to engage employees on social media. Companies now are finding success in harnessing the power of employee social media use to increase engagement, happiness and company visibility.
Social media is woven into every aspect of our lives now, even while we’re working — so instead of fighting it, engage with it!
“You don’t need to ask IT whether your coworkers are on social media during the workday. It’s like asking if they are breathing,” writes David Hassell in a Buffer Social blog post on data-driven social media marketing.
“And that can be a great thing,” he adds. Studies show that “employees can post, tweet and pin and still perform at peak levels — maybe even more productively than their less plugged-in counterparts.” When you engage employees on social media, you’re opening up possibilities for a more focused and enthusiastic workforce.
Read on to learn the surprising cost of banning social media at work and how companies leading the way are building engaged workplace communities.

The Surprising Cost of Banning Social Media at Work

Forbes contributor and Future Workplace‘s Jeanne Meister discusses the link between productivity and social media in her article, “Want to Be a More Productive Employee? Get on Social Networks.”
A social media ban in the workplace can actually be a time drain, she says. This is especially true in sales and other industries that depend on “interaction workers.” When social media is banned in the workplace, these employees are forced to find business information and make contacts “in roundabout ways” that waste time, according to Meister.
“We now operate in a social economy, where our knowledge is our currency. So improving your speed in answering work-related questions will have a huge impact on your productivity and effectiveness as an employee,” Meister writes. Research by the McKinsey Global Institute finds that fully implemented social technology and media use in the workplace could raise productivity by 20 to 25 percent in certain industries.
Workplace-integrated social media is also the future. The vast majority of respondents in a Future Workplace survey predicted that by 2020, “social media literacy will be required of all employees.” Sixty percent of Millennials and almost 80 percent of Generation 2020 (the youngest sample, now in high school and college) said that by the year 2020, “social media literacy will be required of all employees.”
Even now, socially engaged companies perform better and have more engaged employees. At 52 percent vs. 41 percent, “employees are far more engaged and optimistic at top socially engaged companies,” according to the Forbes article “Your Company Is Socially Engaged, But Do Your Employees Even Know?”
Social media has long since stopped just being a fun tool for keeping up with friends. It’s also an important professional communication tool, particularly between companies and their employees.
Nearly 60 percent of employees in a LinkedIn study say they use social media to build relationships within their company, and 20 percent say they are “more likely to feel inspired based on how companies use social media to engage with them.”

How to Engage with Employees on Social Media

To engage with employees on social media, focus on encouragement and starting a conversation.
“With just a bit of guidance, brands can expand their social media reach as well as their employees’ happiness by involving them in social media strategy,” writes Buffer Social’s David Hassell.
Buffer Social has found several successful strategies for engaging its employees in the company-brand social media and in encouraging employees to use their personal social media accounts to engage with (and promote) the company.
Make social media an all-hands-on-deck activity. Employees from all departments at Buffer Social are invited to help develop the company’s social media accounts and welcome to give their suggestions for content to tell the company’s story. Buffer Social keeps an easily accessible online folder where employees can file their suggestions.
…But don’t mandate social media involvement. Quotas and mandates for social media involvement will likely overwhelm or irritate employees and ultimately stifle participation. Instead, Buffer Social simply encourages it. If and when employees are inspired, they’re welcome to share pics or stories from a team outing or brag about the company’s latest accomplishment, for example.
“We didn’t want to transform something fun into just another task on their to-do lists by instituting policy,” Hassell writes, “so we decided to let employees know that the practice was appreciated and to encourage them to keep comments and posts truthful and positive.”
Empower employees to be themselves online. “Make sure they are empowered to maintain their individual, unique voices,” Hassell writes. As long as they’re meeting broad guidelines, let employee personalities shine through! This isn’t the time to enforce corporate lingo.
Most importantly, employee social media engagement strategy must grow organically out of the company culture.
“Strong culture translates through social channels and raises brand perception across the board,” Hassell writes. “Employees might share images of the company picnic, the latest happy hour, and other fun outings just like they do in their personal lives.”
Lastly, let employees know the impact of their social media engagement. Use Google Analytics or another tool to share social media stats with employees. Do it frequently, via a weekly email blast or internal communications network. Let them know how many people saw their photo or story, or how their involvement in social media strategy is correlating to an uptick in customer satisfaction.
They’ll be happy to know that their participation is making a difference — and motivated to engage even more.

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