Human resources departments are well aware of the potential danger social media holds for a company's reputation and have tried for years to regulate employees' use of the medium. Whether using online behavior as criteria for hiring or firing, explicit rules have been applied in terms of what you can and can't say. That is, if you want to keep your job.
Anyone who has actually read his or her employee handbook can probably confirm that HR has something to say about social. Often, instead of teaching employees how to use social media to benefit the business, HR departments may resort to strict rules that attempt to clamp down on employees' online activity. Some have gone so far as to ban employees from discussing work online altogether.
However, recent decisions by the National Labor Relations Board indicate that the needle is moving in favor of the employee when it comes to social media. In some cases, imposing broad handbook rules on employees can violate federal labor law by intimidating workers and discouraging them from talking about their working conditions.
As this legal trend continues, employers will be forced to take a hard look at their handbooks. Instead of being a point of frustration, companies need to realize the opportunity that this presents. There has never been a better time to leverage your employees as brand ambassadors on social media.
Your Employees Tell Your Story Best
No one knows your company's content area better than your employees. By providing training and useful tools, your employees can shine light into unique parts of your business with relatively little effort and expense for the company. Compelling stories are why we are drawn to brands - have your employees help you tell them.
Amp Up Your Authenticity
Encouraging employee's unique voices on social media adds personalization, relate-ability and authenticity to your brand. This is hugely important in attracting and retaining customers, as well as potential new hires. People want to work for and do business with companies that respect their employees as individuals.
Share Successes On and Offline
Employees already have a stake in your company. They know that their job and livelihood are tied to the success of the business and they want to see it do well. Channel their inherent investment and, after you have employees actively sharing and promoting your company on social media, share results with them regularly. Show them the positive impact they are making.
Fight the Battles You Can Win
At the end of the day, employees are going to use social media. And at some point, they're probably going to talk about work - whether the employee handbook permits it or not. Building ties with your employees online will increase the likelihood that the messages they share about your brand on social are positive.
What have your experiences been like straddling the worlds of HR and PR? We'd love to hear in the comments below.