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2/7/2013
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Jake Wengroff
Jake Wengroff
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How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors

Can you ask employees to do social media marketing after hours? Here are some suggestions to encourage engagement.

10 Pinterest Pointers For Businesses
10 Pinterest Pointers For Businesses
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Is asking employees to take on additional responsibilities OK? Can companies really ask their employees to post to Facebook and LinkedIn -- without rewarding them with additional compensation?

The short answer is "Yes."

Without this article devolving into an argument discussing labor-rights and fairness issues, we should recognize that in our "jobless recovery," companies are doing more with less.

And thanks to social networks and apps on mobile devices, companies are asking or sometimes expecting employees to do marketing -- even when out of the office and outside of work hours.

While companies do not anticipate that employees will evaluate budgeting spreadsheets or make sales calls on a weekend, companies do know that their names are often listed on and affiliated with employee bios and social profiles. As such, when an employee tweets or updates his or her Facebook status outside of the office, that company is carrying out marketing activities.

Social media monitoring is a great way to capture such conversations, with feedback into training and compliance. But to make this initiative fully work, a company needs to incorporate employee out-of-office social marketing into its overall social business strategy.

A Cue From The Top

Observing senior leadership taking an active role in off-the-clock marketing certainly helps, primarily because plenty of CXOs still aren't sold on the power of social, digital and self-publishing technologies to spread a company's message.

That a senior leader is tweeting, posting, liking and sharing content in the evenings or weekends not only validates the idea that employees should be engaging in social. It also demonstrates that everyone should be accountable for doing more outside of the office.

However, not everyone might be sold on this. So as to be encouraging -- and not threatening -- a company can conduct a series of trainings and provide a suite of services for its employees that enable such off-the-clock marketing activities. Employees should be able to see the benefits of such actions -- not just for the business, for their own personal and professional gain, too.

[ Need something else to worry about? Read Is Facebook Making You Fat?. ]

Clearly, when personal gain is demonstrated, social adoption will skyrocket.

What Is Defined as "Work" These Days

Of course, while counting on non-sales employees to serve as the face of the company -- and such social media marketing activities might actually be related to prospecting or client service -- a company might be leaving itself open to legal and human resources risks.

One issue is whether the tweeting, Facebook posting or LinkedIn Group messaging actually counts as "work." If employees are doing something at the urging of management -- even if those activities are outside of their job descriptions -- then those efforts could legally be counted as responsibilities that should be paid for.

However, in today's downsized, lean work environments, many employees have accepted the fact that at some point -- whether to hold on to their jobs or to receive some type of additional recognition -- they are going to be needing to do social on their own time and on their own device. It's the stick, rather than the carrot, if you will.

How to Keep Engagement With No Extra Pay

Here are a few pointers for companies large and small, to encourage and continue social media involvement even when employees are volunteering:

Gamification. Adding gamification elements, with both virtual and real-world rewards, has been proven to not only standardize social business but also to energize the workforce. There are vendors, such as Bunchball, Badgeville, or PAKRA, that offer gamification tools. But gamification can start as a homegrown effort, with someone on the social media team manually selecting the most prolific Twitterers or the most interesting LinkedIn posts, and creating a type of leaderboard for recognition and visibility. As more and more employees get involved with social, a more formal, paid program for gamification and training -- which in itself, can include badges or "degrees" -- can be brought in.

This is the same concept with social media monitoring. About four years ago, back when social media was still unproven, many resource-strapped marketing and communications departments started doing their own social media monitoring using only free tools. When senior management was shown the engagement levels, they greenlighted the purchase of a premium service.

Broadcasting. Set up a public, visual display of employees' tweets or social network postings. This could be little more than using a visualizer like VisibleTweets.com, or simply creating a list on Twitter and refreshing the list, and displaying this on the flat-panel TV in the reception area or break room. Other employees will notice these and conversations will immediately begin. Of course, this may prove difficult for an organization that is spread out over several offices, or for a 100% remote workforce, but public broadcasting definitely adds to the excitement of becoming a social business.

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mojohand
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mojohand,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2013 | 5:54:59 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
It is disgusting the ease with which you recommend that companies intrude upon their employee's personal time to provide uncompensated marketing labor.

But I do appreciate that your thumbnail has provided an image to to forever associate with the phrase 'corporate lick-spittle.'

Sincerely,

David Blumgart
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2013 | 7:50:47 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
Few people I know in the corporate world work 9 to 5, especially with ubiquitous mobile devices and Internet access. And that goes both ways, as I think about the number of businesspeople I see at afternoon soccer games, with one eye on their smartphones.

However companies handle the balance, real-time engagement with customers will increasingly be something companies have to do in order to stay competitive.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
RW0r1d
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RW0r1d,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2013 | 8:21:10 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
Your "corporate world" does not appear to include many warehousemen, line staff, POS staff, laborers, or in short minimum to low wage earners.
Melanie Rodier
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Melanie Rodier,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2013 | 10:39:10 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
True, with companies offering more flexible hours, employees can balance their workload. Employees who are offered a flexible arrangement can promote their brand during work hours, or if they want to, and management agrees, during non-work hours, in the same way that they might decide to complete a work assignment during non-work hours. A flexible social media marketing `policy will obviously not work with per hour workers, minimum wage earners etc, but for salaried workers and open-minded companies it can be a good solution. After all, more people go onto social networks off-hours in general, so it's a win-win: the company can get broader visibility on social media with "off-hour" tweets and the like, and employees can feel empowered by having that kind of flexibility.
RW0r1d
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RW0r1d,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2013 | 8:16:13 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
Too many variables on size of companies, employee distribution, etc. to make comments that cannot be logically disputed. It is also clearly in the best interest of the employee to encourage the sale of the products or services which pays their wages. The few comments that can be made may go along the line of: extremely dangerous to imply that an individual's job should be dependant on using their personal social network for work related marketing, line staff and union members would probably not enroll in the ranks of weekend marketers simply on principle which means you are targetting your article to salaried, mid/upper management, my opinion is a separation should be made between social networking (Facebook being principally personal and LinkedIn professionally focused). As more companies are fined for attempting to make access to or using Facebook accounts as terms of employment and more labor cases are presented for unjustified termination, I believe this issue will find its own legal definition.
Truly S.
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Truly S.,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2013 | 11:31:06 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
This has to be the most insidious business article I've read in a long time. It should've just been titled "Want to Make Your Employees Work for Free On Their Own Time? Threaten Them with Being Fired If They Don't. Hey, In This Crappy Economy, It'll Work!"
Truly S.
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Truly S.,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2013 | 11:36:04 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
I see no personal gain for the employee, unless the employee is promoting only himself or herself. Otherwise the employer is just getting free work out of the employee. This is as ridiculous as saying that both employers and employees gain when employers hire employees. Well, duh. The employers get work done and the employees get paid. Yes. Well, where's the advantage to the employee to work on his or her own time for no pay, other than to the employer? Yes, the company may get more work, but in the end that will profit the company more than the employee. There's no reason to assume that such work will get the employee a promotion, raise, etc.
SalemWitchesWereInnocent
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SalemWitchesWereInnocent,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/9/2013 | 1:21:08 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
I hope the employees use the social media to loudly tell the world what they think of their company, which forces them to work unpaid in their private time. And then I hope they start contacting their lawyers to arrange for compensation and damages.
RW0r1d
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RW0r1d,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2013 | 2:56:32 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
Granted, engaging in social during the workday helps the employee, but you failed to cite one concrete instance of an employee's social participation resulting in a promotion. I would go so far as to wager that for each case one could cite of a promotion, I could cite a court action either for wrongful termination or slandering the company.
rjones2818
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rjones2818,
User Rank: Strategist
2/12/2013 | 7:28:52 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, 8 hours for myself. Period. Management types and their paid shills need to remember this.
jswap
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jswap,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/12/2013 | 11:48:28 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
Yeahhhh, I'm gonna need you to go ahead and tweet about the company on Saturday. And probably Sunday too. Yeahhhhhh, and about those TPS reports...
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2013 | 9:45:15 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
I suspect few companies will mandate this behavior, but many will recognize employees who act as social ambassadors on their off-the-clock time, particularly if they're effective ones. I know Ford's approach is to provide the content that's easy to share on social media, so those who are proud of the company and its cars will find it convenient to share those sentiments on social media. No gun to the head required.
egrobichaud
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egrobichaud,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/14/2013 | 7:23:57 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
As you can see from all the comments, there are too many variables here to make blanket statements. Upper-level salaried workers are different than hourly paid line workers, and more. Big corporate versus smaller local businesses. People in different companies, in different types and sizes of companies, and in different positions will react differently to this article. One can clearly see the different perspectives in the various responses.
PJS880
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PJS880,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/15/2013 | 4:08:06 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
There are way to many variables and different type of workers to make a conclusion that would group them all together. Obviously if I own the company I will be more than happy, and most likely be promoting myself through social media after hours. If I am a line worker getting paid an hourly wage, I will probably not be updating my Twitter to feed to announce anything regarding that position or company. That being said the amount of people who access social media at work, while on the clock is gotten out of control and a bit ridiculous. I have read that some people think it is unfair for an employer to ask, I agree, however if I were an employer I would most certainly encourage it after hours. If you are an employee of mine and do not promote our business through social media on your own time, then you had better not be accessing any social feeds when you are on my time.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
Cara Latham
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Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2013 | 3:37:43 PM
re: How To Encourage Off-The-Clock Social Ambassadors
With tools like HootSuite, social comments by employees that are posted during non-work hours -- such as those to promote content or to market a company's products -- can be easily scheduled during work hours as part of an employee's responsibilities. Social media has changed the way companies do business, including engaging with customers on weekends. It's just the way it is now.
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