Social media in the workplace isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Source: Shutterstock

Why social media is just as important for staff as customers

Across all age groups and geographies, social media is fully integrated into most, if not all people’s daily life. As such, it has rewritten the rules when it comes to business.

Free to play, for the most part, social media can level the playing field, giving each competitor a fighting chance in the race to dominate in their respective industries.

It is unfortunate, however, that while most businesses recognize and evangelize the value of a comprehensive social media strategy to engage with the customers and users, many are overlooking its potential to enhance things within the business as well.

Prior to using social media to engage their market, company executives must ensure that their employees are the first ones to max out the benefits.

This is crucial as social media can drive innovation, the fuel on which a successful company runs on. Compared to traditional channels, social media is a drastically different form of workplace communication.

Unlike email, for example, social media gives more space for employees’ personal expression in various forms, whether it’s words, sounds or images. This makes it a unique enabler of creative discussions, providing a sounding board for employees to throw around and collaborate on ideas simultaneously.

Business leaders should bear in mind that their employees’ default channel of communication is reflective of their perception of the organization.

If employees view their organization as top-down, mandated and regulated, there would be a fear that their ideas might be met with hostility and disrupt the equilibrium in their work environment. Consequently, internal social media would be the last place they would go to express their thoughts and ideas.

With social media part of our daily lives — a key part of we interact and communicate with each other — even the most traditional or corporate businesses would be doing themselves a disservice by turning their back on the power of social media in the workplace.

Business leaders can lead by example, getting comfortable with using social media themselves, in order to show they’re ‘human’ and promote its healthy use among employees. A strong social media presence is now even expected of CEOs — it can serve as a key brand differentiator, affecting reassurance to investors and employees during a crisis, “setting the moral tone”, and boosting staff motivation and retention.

In the US, two-thirds (65 percent) of employees said it was important that CEOs communicated via digital platforms, helping employees stay abreast of business updates, vision and successes. 

Of course, encouraging employees to flock to certain social platforms in order to discuss and collaborate on big ideas for the business, can pose a threat of sensitive company data being leaked, or falling into the wrong hands, if users aren’t careful.

Safeguards such as clearly expressed legal policies around data privacy and defined bounds of propriety can give employers the reassurance that employees are using social media purely as a means of sharing ideas internally, or even with trusted suppliers. The consequences of such breaches should also be communicated clearly to employees.

Another way to catalyze the use of social media platforms is through ‘innovation ambassadors’. Essentially internal influencers, these are individuals that have trusted relationships with their peers and are actively exploring and sharing new ideas.

Selecting innovation ambassadors, however, must not be a top-down exercise. He or she must be on the ground and have a good grasp of what the ‘Regular Joe’ thinks about working for the company.

As a channel of creativity and innovation, just like any other type of technology, social media can be used for the betterment of a business. Use it well, and it could help to unify, inspire and motivate your workforce to join together to pursue the wider goals of the company.