Tonight I tuned into #swchat on Twitter where the topic of employees, brands and social media was the discussion point. The debate opened with the question: Are employees on social media ambassadors for their brand even if their role is not a customer facing one? It was a timely debate given the article I read this morning called Why Twitter Disclaimers Like ‘Views Are My Own’ Won’t Save Your Job. It also nicely follows a theme already bubbling in my mind about doing a Digital Learning Week for our company following the case study from the FT heard at various conferences this year.
So what followed in the debate? The 9-5 working day has gone and people are online all the time. Our digital profiles are all over the web and there is always a way to find out who someone works for – suggesting the link to the company is always there. My question is should the employees be ambassadors and engage with customers and what happens when the brand or the company don’t want employees to take that role. Do you educate and train but discourage participation or encourage discussions with customers?
The social era is one that requires a change in lifestyle and working relationships. Training and educating your teams gives them the chance to have a voice but it shouldn’t be expected; many employees are happy to do their job and stay away from the hype. So is a social media policy the answer and does this extend to the line between personal and professional?
The conversation continued to flow and the question about whether companies should encourage or prevent their employees from being brand ambassadors was raised. I think the overall answer was yes but the issue of common sense on social media came to the front. What is common sense and has it gone from the Gen Z population? It also depends on the company you work for. If you’re trying to create a social business inside this needs to bleed outside and this really leads us back to the issue of trust. Surely when you employe someone you are trusting them to be an ambassador of your brand. Giving your employees the brand to promote will give you an army of people marketing your product or service and this will beat any competitor with a marketing department any day!
Handing over your brand is not an easy task and with the lack of control that social brings it is easy to understand why companies fear the channel. Control is the default setting for so many companies and moving away from this to motivate teams with autonomy and giving them some of that control is always going to be hard. This brings us back to the question of that social media policy as well.
So is it possible to separate work and personal social media presence or are you always an ambassador for your brand? Personally I tweet as me and talk about the industry and what I’m doing. I don’t talk about what the business is doing unless it is a new opening or something that our customers might be interested in. I’m aware that I can be linked to the company, but as an employee that loves my job and believes in the integrity of the brand this isn’t difficult. So if you’re not an ambassador of the brand when you’re down the pub then don’t associate yourself with it online.
The last question asked what top tips can be shared to help employees on social media become better ambassadors for their brand?
The general consensus was that everyone should have a social media policy, educate employees in the tools and decide whether to encourage participation. It all comes down to you and what your common sense and the culture in your organisation. A great debate and one that will continue in my brain for a while and no doubt in the industry for many more years to come!