Transform Your Team into a Social Media Powerhouse

Social media can add significant value to your business' brand, but it can also deal devastating blows. In 0.6 seconds, Google returns 23,300,000 hits for "social media disaster." That's 23 MILLION missed opportunities to leverage employees to promote an organization.From interns to executives, it has never been more important to train employees how to use social media. We equip team members with the tools to promote our brands in the boardroom, on the phone, in-person and through their work. The next step is to empower them to be advocates for businesses on social. Clear guidelines, continuing education and constant encouragement set employees up for success when it comes to adding value to your brand - online and off. Here are a few ways to harness your employees' social networks and transform them into a social media powerhouse.

Build Your Case Clearly explain why you want employees to participate in online conversations about your brand and industry. Get them to buy-in by demonstrating how positive social media engagement can impact the organization and its employees.

Ensure employees that you aren't trying to control their online activities - and mean it. Empower them to become independent, authentic voices of your organization, not corporate communication robots. Encourage team members to use social to build their personal brand and support your organization.

Give Them a Guide Social for business is likely unchartered territory for many employees. Create an easy-to-use guide that is designed to help them to meet expectations. Include common questions and answers that addresses employee concerns in the simplest of terms.

You can't control what employees say on social media, but you can - and should - put reasonable measures in place to protect your brand. Include a straightforward statement outlining topics that are off limits and make sure employees understand that social is part of the public domain.

A good rule of thumb: Don't put anything online that you wouldn't put on a billboard.

Train Every Employee Developing skills at all levels of the ladder is critical. Even if your employees are already avid social users, there are inherent differences when using social media for business versus personal interests. Every team member should be trained on how to correctly use social to benefit your organization.

Start with the basics of social media training. Explain what social media channels your business focuses on, what content is best for each and highlight any nuances. (I'm looking at you, 140-character tweet and link-less Instagram post.) Show employees how to connect with the organization from their personal accounts with hashtags, handles, groups, etc.

Any employee who has access to your brand accounts needs extra training on how to properly post to brand channels from mobile devices.

Every platform's UI is different, which creates a minefield of potential problems.

Think Sustainably Develop a continuing education program and recruit "expert" team members to lead Q&A sessions or workshops on a specific topic, tool or channel that they know well (even if they aren't on your social team). Face time with leadership is a great value-add for younger employees that helps them feel engaged and invested. You'll build confidence among your power users while simultaneously educating employees who need a little nudge.

Establish a mentoring program (or expand your current program) to pair senior leaders with social media butterflies. Mentoring relationships are often top-down, but social provides an opportunity to reverse the flow of expertise. This develops skills on both sides of the equation and fosters online participation from thought leaders at the highest level of your organization.