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Embracing Social Media in the Workplace

Embracing Social Media in the Workplace
27 October 2021
 

No matter your thoughts on social media, it’s here to stay and very much a part of business life.

It’s often the bane of line and HR managers, trying to effectively oversee employee’s usage and handling any incidents of misuse.

Like most things, social media has its benefits and drawbacks. Used and managed intentionally, it has the power and potential to make employees advocates, champion company values & positively reflect company culture. Improperly managed without boundaries and policies, it can be incredibly damaging to the reputation and representation of brands and even entire industries.

Jen Eastwood, PR & Marketing Manager at Expeditious Services, explains how businesses can make social media work for them, rather than against them.

Jen has over 8-years’ experience in marketing, spanning several hospitality venues and with an agency before setting up her own digital marketing business. Jen first started working with Expeditious in 2019 as a freelance copywriter, going on to accept a full-time role in 2020. Jen oversees all copy, branding, and marketing across Expeditious and their sub-brands. Her responsibilities include writing all tenders, content marketing, copywriting, social media marketing, strategy, website management, PR, brand representation and development, corporate social responsibility, internal and external communications.

 

Image

Picture: a photograph of Jen Eastwood

 

What Can go Right With Social Media in the Workplace?

 

Increasing employee engagement and job fulfilment - Activating employees and raising them to be brand advocates can be hugely advantageous to a B2B organisation. Empowering employees to positively represent the company, share the culture and experience through their eyes is a powerful way to show the behind-the-scenes of a business. It delivers a level of trust, gives them a voice and ultimately shows they are a valued member of the company.

Improve social media engagement and brand awareness – Generally speaking, especially in the B2B and FM worlds, employees collectively have a greater following than the company they work for, their networks are more varied and often more poised to genuinely interact with another person, instead of a brand. Championing each employee as a brand advocate and representative of the company, can have a positive effect on the organisation’s own social media statistics. Employees who post their own business content, or who share the content of the business can generate up to 8x more engagement and reach audiences of around 10x bigger.

Bringing the team together – Engaging remote teams is an increasing challenge in a post COVID world, especially for international brands. Creating brand advocacy incentives and schemes is a highly effective way to create an element of inclusivity, bringing a common challenge to all employees no matter their role, and encouraging a bit of friendly competition. Video Games publisher, EA, have run their employee advocacy program since 2014, bringing together 20,000+ employees, across 30 offices and 6 locations to huge success. “EA insiders” (as they’re known) help to create content for fun contests, leader boards, leading to a positive influence on company culture.

Recruiting the best – Empowering employees to become digital brand advocates doesn’t just benefit company culture, reputation and in turn profits; it can support growing a thriving team of the right people. A brand positively portraying what it’s like to work for them is one way to encourage new recruits – but what if those same messages were being reinforced and championed by people already working there? Hearing about and seeing a more authentic company culture through the eyes of an employee can speed up a recruitment process, as well as the quality and number of applicants. Harnessing this employee power can consistently keep a company ahead of its rivals in recruiting the best talent possible in a competitive jobs market.

 

What Can go Wrong With Employees and Social Media in the Workplace?

 

Productivity - These days, much of the working population have a mobile phone. Throughout the day, it can be tempting to check it, or have a quick scroll through social media whilst on shift, and maybe even post something yourself. These temptations are all the more heightened if you’re working long shifts with little engagement, are a lone worker or you need to use your phone for your work. Whilst opening up social media when using a phone is modern-day human nature, it is an unproductive use of company time.

Industry reputation - Security officers on TikTok have their own niche corners of the internet. Often faced with long overnight shifts with little to do, many have taken to the online world as a form of entertainment. #BoredSecurityOfficer has 1.2million views, #SecurityLife 10.2million views, and #SecurityGuard has 504.8million views. Not only from a time-wasting sense is this not great, but what story is it painting of the security industry if officers are bored with the tedium of their work? Or being publicly seen to be getting paid for creating content, not working?

Company reputation – Other incidents to watch out for are frustrated employees taking to the internet to voice their grievances or mocking clients, risking their employer’s reputation. Incidents of employees complaining about their work, bosses, welfare, and customers are a common problem for businesses to deal with. Of course, social media usage at work is something to be managed, with a careful balance needed to encourage productivity and positive working culture without overstepping into invasion of employee privacy attempting to monitor breeches.

Extremist behaviour - Increasingly, employee social media expectations are expanding to include their overall behaviour out of work too. In the digital space, companies are being represented 24/7 and when employees become embroiled in extreme actions, so too do the companies they work for, it’s being seen as a direct reflection of their own recruitment process and company culture. This particularly relates to racist, homophobic, sexist, or other offensive content being aired on an online platform, where an employee can be easily linked to a company.

Recently, the fall-out of our place in the World Cup Final saw a rapid rise in racism-fuelled behaviour online. Many offenders were found and reported to their employers, as well as the police. A Commercial Building Manager at Savills was publicly linked to his own racist tweets after the sporting event, shortly leading to his suspension.

 

How to Work With Social Media, Instead of Fighting Against it

 

One common place where businesses go wrong with employee social media use is trying to fight it being in the workplace at all, instead of embracing its potential and entrusting employees to do the right thing.

From my personal previous experience in hospitality management and civil service roles, micro-managing line managers watching everything an employee does on social media, and clock-watching any time they’re not actively working never nurtures a positive working culture. Instead, we should be embracing it as an undisputed part of modern life and seeing the benefits it can bring. These are my top 5 suggestions for making employees actively and positively engaged in company social media.

 

  • Establishing strong social media policies. These should be clearly communicated from day 1 in a company, with regular reminders and transparent enforcement of breaches.
  • Enforcing accountability. Making employees responsible for the reputation and standards they are setting. Encouraging listing their employer on their social media accounts as a point of pride, but they are ultimately to be held accountable for any content published negatively impacting the employers.
  • Setting boundaries – Instead of no social media use at all, encourage use only within set parameters – e.g in certain zones of the workplace, or certain times of a workers’ day. Adopting a phone “swear jar” within a team could be fun way to make people more aware of social media usage whilst raising money for a charity (or end of the week beers).
  • Improving engaging work – Given the opportunity, especially in low engagement roles, people will pick up their phone out of boredom, seeking entertainment. Why not embrace that process and turn it into something useful? We encourage our officers to download a mindfulness app and a brain training app to help their mental wellbeing. We also deliver regular ‘tool-box talks’ during quieter times to top-up their skills.
  • Creating incentives– Employees could share positive reviews of colleagues, photos, team stories and experiences, or anything else to bring them together as a band of brand advocates. Of course, the potential of this differs depending on the type of business and role of the employee, with careful attention needing to be given to site-specific policies. Our manned guarding teams have Expeditious teddy bear mascots, with prompts to take them on adventures and send us pictures, with a monthly prize for the best submission. Similar incentives could be adopted with the most social media shares or comments received on work-related posts.

 

There’s no doubt social media is here to stay and the challenge it poses to businesses in managing employees when using it. Handled positively, with boundaries, guidance, and incentivised encouragement, could lead to hugely powerful results.

Picture: a photograph of a smart phone showing the icons of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter 

Article written by Jen Eastwood | Published 27 October 2021

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