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How do I use social media to engage with my employees?

How do I use social media to engage with my employees?
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Honestly, how many members of your staff could say they felt both vital to your organisation as well as possess a strong sense of belonging to it?

Long live the new brand model whose uncompromising message is to engage or die. That is: engage with your customers by all means but – first and most importantly - engage with your employees.

As the iGeneration joins us at work, they join Generation Y and, to a lesser extent, Generation X in already having embraced new ways to communicate. Through their social media experience, they bring with them to work more expectation of feeling strongly connected and like an essential cog in your machine, however small to begin with.

More and more companies who have already instituted social media systems report hikes in revenue while many of those still without report declines.

So, as we emerge from recession, perhaps now is a great time to create your brand's social media strategy. You will quickly find it is a vital way to build engagement with those who matter most and, through them, to communicate your brand in its most positive light.

Of course, as with the introduction of any new medium (think internet, email and mobile phone), it brings with it a whole new can of worms to unravel and pick through.

So, the success of any social media strategy requires a thought-through, brand-led policy.

Here's our guide to the key points to consider for success.

1. Open or closed
Decide if your social media policy is going to be on a closed system for staff only, such as intranet. Remember though, that this might be seen by anyone outside of baby boomers as rather infra dig, not to say anti-social... So perhaps it's time to take the leap of faith now and embrace true social media such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blog or instant messaging.

2. Adopt a can-do attitude
There's no surer or faster way to turn your staff off the idea of communicating through social media than giving them a list of what would be considered wrong, forbidden or a sacking offense. Try instead to couch your policy in positive terms – what you would like to see from your responsible adult staff.

3. Train, train, train
Back up this positivity with training on the medium's proper effective useTrain in use of it. Some companies, for instance, train new recruits on their brand's preferred use of Twitter, then encourage all employees to use their Twitter accounts to interact with both current and potential customers.

4. Build trust by trusting
Never forget that your readers will not just be your employees but also may include clients, potential new clients, as well as past and future employees. Make it clear that when your staff are engaging in social media, they must think like the brand spokespeople they actually are. Let them know you expect and know they will be responsible in what and how they write, exercising their wealth of good judgment and common sense. Transparency doesn't give employees free rein to share just anything. Meyer says that every state has a law governing trade secrets. That clearly also means no s haring of confidential or proprietary company information. Obvious perhaps, but always worth spelling out!

5. Create a community
Make it clear you understand that this is now your organisation's virtual water cooler, your virtual wait for the kettle to boil, where news, view and comment are naturally exchanged. So use it yourself and encourage your staff to make it a place where your users are comfortable to connect, share, support, congratulate, give and receive help.

6. Communication is productive too
Probably 90% of what any of us do at work is communicate. However, it's only fair to caveat that with the thought that your shiny new social media won't be the love of your life for long is it detracts from the execution of your company's core competencies. So, decide upfront if you want staff to use social media at work, bearing in mind, it might be seen to defeat the purpose if they don't! In which case, emphasise how much you trust your people to find a positive balance between social media and other work. (Monitor this, especially at first, to make sure a positive balance is struck.)