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