social media has become a necessity for businesses wanting to grow their brands and connect with customers. Moreover, employees can be some of a brand's best ambassadors, even surpassing the influence of customers.

Social media provides an important channel for employees to advocate their company, organization, or non-profit, and can unite those employees as a loyal and vigorous force in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, a continual pain point for companies is growing and encouraging social activity among their employees. Even businesses that have built a strong social presence struggle to generate any kind of regular social engagement among their workforce.

Moreover, 21.6% of respondents say they do not post their company's news on their personal social media accounts because they don't know whether their employer wants them to share updates, according to a recent report.

Another 15.6% reported that they are afraid "they'll share the wrong thing."

There are two real issues at play here:

  1. Companies do not know how to harness the power of their employees as brand ambassadors.
  2. Employees overestimate the difficulty of social media, overrate the time required to engage, and are afraid of making mistakes.

All those concerns stem from a lack of established corporate boundaries and guidelines essential to social media education and employee engagement.

The good news for employers and employees is that those issues can (and should) be addressed through adequate and strategic social media training. Much like the military judiciously prepares their soldiers before sending them in to combat, companies should be training and explaining the rules of social engagement to their employees before sending them to the frontlines.

Employees are your best brand ambassadors

With the business world moving towards digital and social initiatives, every member of your company has the opportunity to be a positive voice in support of your brand. But again, employees need proper preparation before they enter that battlefield.

When looking for an appropriate training option, be mindful that the information needed by your sales team will be different than the needs of your customer services representatives. Also, whether your employees have been on social media for one year or 10 years provide training that can address the wide range of employee experience and comfort levels.

For example, at Warner Communications, our #StrategicSocial Bootcamps cover two major areas:

  1. How employees delivering content on behalf of their company should proceed
  2. How employees can actively support their company on their personal social media accounts

In both of those areas, the key is to start with building a strong foundation by helping employees understand the social platform's history, vocabulary, and character limits.

Next, move into company-specific instructions and often offer a tangible take-home guidebook or policy.

Just like the military's army manual, or a brand standards guide, the same instruction needs to be provided for a successful social media effort.

Having something in writing ensures employees throughout the company are on the same page in terms of what can and cannot be shared about clients, accounts, projects, etc. It also offers employees a reference for questions after the training has concluded.

CEOs need training, too

A total of 61% of Fortune 500 CEOs do not have any form of a social presence, according to a report. Yet one of the best ways to jump start employee engagement is to have it appropriately modeled by senior leadership.

Special training should be dedicated to your C-suite; the content it shares and connections it makes will likely be viewed by a large number of people. The development of a C-level social media's profile ultimately offers your business an important, authoritative voice in the social media realm.

Take a page from the crisis playbook

The time to develop a crisis plan is not in the middle of a crisis—especially when in handling social media. As a part of your training and policy, be sure to consider what should be done in challenging situations.

If an employee shares a post about your company and receives a hateful or threatening comment in return, what should the employee do? If your service representative responds to an angry customer on Twitter, what can be done to mollify the situation and avoid a heated Twitter war? Or even more simply, what is your company's rule regarding a post shared with grammatical or spelling errors?

All those items should be considered and explicitly stated in order to empower employees to become confident social brand ambassadors.

How do you know you are winning the battle?

There are a few key indicators to know whether the social media training resonated well. At the end of the training, offer a call-to-action. Ask employees to join a new social media platform or send out a message mentioning the company's handle. Then, be on the lookout in the days and weeks following the training. If the training resonated, you will start to see employees engaging and sharing content as brand ambassadors.

When your employees are engaged and actively plugged into social media, your company will begin reaching customers and new contacts through their networks. As employees share the latest happenings and express pride in their workplace, these posts will resonate with friends, family, and other social connections.

* * *

Social media has been around for more than 10 years. It's time companies start making better use of their strongest brand ambassadors—their employees.

By offering company-specific social media training and taking the time to answer questions and encourage their success, you can help elevate your employees' involvement and establish an army of ambassadors armed and ready to achieve success.

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Why You Need to Prep Employees Before They Go to the Social Media Frontlines

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image of Carin Warner

Carin Warner is founder and president of Warner Communications, a world-class boutique agency focused on strategic integrated marketing communications for a wide range of industries, including consumer, B2Bl, professional services, technology, energy, academic and industrial organizations.

LinkedIn: Carin Warner