How to Use Social Media to Engage With Employees

I recently moderated a panel for the Conference Board called “Social Media: Creating New Ways to Work Together.” One panelist was Adam Hirsch, the SVP of Emerging Media and Technology at Edelman Digital. He’s the former COO, current advisor to Mashable and former Chief Digital Officer of DoSomething.org. You can follow him on Twitter @adamhirsch. I asked Adam if he would answer some questions that reflected what he spoke about on the panel, specifically about how social media can be used to engage employees.

How can managers best use social media to connect to employees? 

There are many great ways managers can use social media to connect and even monitor their employees. I’m always a fan of setting up a private Facebook group for any team (especially ones that have virtual employees) to collaborate and discuss in a familiar environment. Managers can also create groups (on Facebook) and lists (on Twitter) for their team to highlight them and their achievements. However, for monitoring, it’s always great to also use those groups and lists to follow along with what your employees and teams are talking about on social. If you don’t have a social media policy, you should have one and if you do, make sure to monitor and enforce those policies as well. There are some enterprise technologies to monitor your employees on social and even gauge how much reach they are adding to your messaging.

What tools (free and paid) are managers currently using to collaborate with employees?

There’s everything under the sun from enterprise friendly applications from Microsoft (Yammer, Sharepoint) to Salesforce (including Chatter). Oracle, IBM and Jive all have platforms as well. While there are some free options, like using Skype to setup “Group communications” so there’s always a log of a conversation and an easy way to communicate with a group, there are some affordable options as well including Google App’s Google Sites and even some standard IM applications (like Skype) or knowledge management platforms out there. My one word of caution is thoroughly vet and test the tools first. Make sure they are easy to use, simple to understand and great for engagement.

What are some best practices for engaging and what should managers watch out for?

I’m a big believer in product affecting culture. Best practices should always be finding the best tool for engaging that’s simple and easy to use for the majority of your employees… they should want to be a part of the platform and conversation, not be forced and demanded to be there. Incentives always work better than enforcement, but a little bit of governance should go a long way. Even with governance and training, managers should watch out for a drop in engagement and satisfaction… always learn what’s working and what’s not an adapt from there. Monitoring behavior on your internal or external platforms, along with a policy, are always the best ways to avoid or deal with any major issues in a swift manner.

What would you say to a manager who refuses to use these new tools?

Try and understand the reason why they would refuse. If it’s because of “time” then maybe we’re not using the right platform. If it’s because of “complexity,” then maybe that person needs to be eased into the tool… just like Twitter was once scary and odd to many of us.  But, after we jumped in, we started to understand the benefits of the platform. If the reason they refuse is because there is no need for them to be on there, then that can be fine. Not everyone needs to be involved on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. Always realize that a very small (under 10%) will be your “creators/starters” of knowledge and communication and information. It is okay for the other 90% to be “lurkers” or engage by viewing content but not responding on an often basis.

What do you think the future of social media collaboration is?

Along with the growth of future technologies leading towards understanding of big data and singularity, I think Social Media Collaboration will become an integral part of our lives, seamless across our desktop, web browser and mobile devices/tablets. I also believe that like social media, our systems and collaboration tools will become much more relevant and contextual for each user. In medium to larger organizations, there is already a lot of conversations and knowledge and collaboration happening, but for a system to know what’s relevant for you and what’s important, we hope that as a result we become more efficient and increase our education and ability to do our job.





Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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