Entries from November 2010 ↓

Activate employees who already use social media, improve business literacy for the rest

Cross-posted from A Shel of My Former Self

The various reasons companies block employee access to social media can be summed up in one word: fear. Among the many things that make employers afraid, from lost productivity to network infections, worry that employees will say the wrong things — or, worse, bad things — ranks near to the top.

A Forrester study released last week (and reported by Josh Bernoff) offers a good-news/bad-news outlook on the behavior of employees — specifically information workers — online.

  • The bad news — Nearly half of information workers are likely to talk down the company; fewer than a third are inclined to promote it
  • The good news — Among staff who already use social media, nearly half would recommend a company’s products or services; only 22% would bad-mouth them

The Forrester study, principally written by Matthew Brown, appliced a slightly adjusted version of the Net Promoter Score to its research. The 5,519 information workers from five countries were asked to answer this question on a 1-10 rating: “How likely are you to recommend your company’s products or services to a friend or family member?” You were a promoter is you scored your answer 9 or 10 and a detractor if your ranking came in between 0 and 6. The NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of your detractors from that of your promoters.

Among information workers across the board, the NPS was -23%, but among those already active in social channels, it was 26%.

Two lessons emerge from the study:

  1. Let the employees who are already using social media do so from work and, with appropriate policies and training, let them serve as enthusiastic ambassadors for the organization.
  2. Start focusing on the detractors. Your organization needs to look at the culture, the steps required to boost engagement, and the pressing need to bolster product, brand, and business literacy.

When employees are aligned with the company, there’s no end to the benefits they bring to the organization, as reported in this article from Advertising Age which argues (in the same excerpt Josh used in his post)…

While employees have always been the front line of customer interactions for brands, particularly those in the service industry, a number of factors of late have brought them more to the fore, including a more transparent and socially engaged society, a still-fragile economy where everyday value trumps aspirational brand attributes, and an ongoing lack of trust in corporate America and CEO spokespeople.

Your first step is to take the pulse of your employees. How does your employee population compare to the Forrester sample? If it’s as bad (or worse), you need to identify the reasons, then introduce the cures. It’s not easy, but it can be done — in fact, in the current business environment, it’s not optional. Ogilvy PR’s Rohit Bhargava, quoted in the AdAge piece, says, “Employees are the actual heart of the brand.” Without their support in a world increasingly characterized by the interconnectedness of people, a brand not represented by its people is at a disadvantage that can be impossible to overcome.