Should Social Media Participation be an Employee Requirement?

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This dynamic question was posed on LinkedIn, and to my surprise it didn’t receive much traction. My major theory as to why? Too many companies are looking at the potential of social media for short term advertising and marketing campaigns. (I have a secondary theory regarding the fact that this was a discussion vs. a question and that people are less likely to participate in discussions because they are not published on your LinkedIn profile – for now at least – and therefore there is less social currency associated with, “check out how smart I am and look at what I answered” attached directly to my profile – but I digress…)

“Let’s go to Facebook and fish where the fish are.” It makes sense, do it. The fact of the matter is that not enough companies are carving out the long-term strategic capabilities of what it means to be social. Social is here and it is changing daily. People are people and will continue to be people. Whether or not Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. will suffer the fate of Bebo in the upcoming months or years doesn’t matter. It’s incredibly irrelevant to the long-term because the medium doesn’t matter. Social has taught us that people are ongoing and so is conversation. With technologies in place this will only continue. For marketing and advertising purposes, this is great, assuming that you do it correctly or constantly improve and refine your message.

Reverting back to the question, the following is the two cents I shared on LinkedIn where I was incredibly disappointed by the lack of engagement from those that profess to be in the social “know” and are self-proclaimed “experts” and “guru’s”. Again, to my dismay, no one seemed interested in discussing the potential of “social” for long-term employee engagement strategies to build competitive advantages. I hope that it is not a tell-tale sign that we are more concerned with our current customers than our future employees and future sustainability as an organization.

“It is imperative that all companies start engaging their own employees in social media/ social tools within their organization. But, “requiring” participation doesn’t work either. If something is required, the quality and quantity of content will be subpar no matter what. Transparency is what consumers are looking for right now, and will most probably be able to identify the companies in which the employees are made to participate in some capacity. The key is for companies to effectively motivate, engage and create brand enthusiasts and advocates of their employees so that they want to participate in the external social activities of the company .

Once you tie social media and participation into an employee’s “what’s in it for me” (along with having a product, service, and company worth the buzz), the participation won’t be forced. This is the one of the hurdles.

Another hurdle is that the big buzz marketing ideas and strategies are growing Facebook and Twitter fan bases aimed at engaging their customers. Companies are currently too focused on their external customers and in my findings, are not doing enough with their internal customers, and their most valuable asset: their employees. Social media has been widely discussed and implemented as a marketing tactic and hasn’t been explored enough as a strategic tool within the organization.

When you factor in the mindsharing capabilities that social tools enable companies with, the possibilities for a sustainable competitive advantage increases significantly. Considering the power of networks as well, a strong internal “social network” is also likely to decrease attrition and save companies millions of dollars a year. Organizational development and training is an area that large organizations can benefit from through social tools by harnessing the power of their internal crowd and collaborating on a much larger scale, without geographical (or even “cubical”) boundaries.

We already know the power of social media and companies are finally jumping on the bandwagon to listen to their customers. Most companies have forgotten the power of the employees that they already have and the power that their participation in company sponsored social media/social sites could have on their organization for not only external marketing campaigns and tactics, but also for long-term sustainable competitive advantage.”

-Originally shared (by me) on LI to much disappointment in the quantity of responses considering that many attest to being a “ninja” regarding social media these days
My positioning on whether or not social media should be an employee requirement teeters on yes, but knowing that motivation and recognition factors for human behavior hinder the feasibility of a yes or no answer in terms of implementation, the fact of the matter is simple:
If you have a good company, have a good product, treat customers and employees right, then requirements aren’t needed, people will oblige and participate for the long-term sustainability of the company, no matter what the collective effort is.
But truth be told, how many companies can truly say that they, in Google’s words, aren’t evil in any aspect of how they do business and that anything that they do internally (minus trade secrets, business strategies, and the like) should be published for all to see?