Even though we’ve grown accustomed to front lining leadership, marketing and PR to inform the public, research shows that decentralizing external communications by empowering experts, peers and even regular employees to serve as social brand ambassadors is a more sustainable, scalable approach.
The problem is, not everyone is skilled in the business of public disclosure. It’s one thing to trust the CEO to speak on behalf of the company.
It’s another thing to trust employees who aren’t trained in the intricacies of reputation management.
In the social media age, maintaining trust involves not just minimizing bad behavior.
It’s about optimizing the impact of official voices on unofficial voices.
It’s about creating an environment where employees are encouraged and trusted to like, retweet and comment on shares from your official branded accounts.
That’s not what happened in the case of GM’s ignition switch recall crisis.
Their customer engagement chief was quoted acknowledging the critical importance of talking directly to customers via social networks.
But they tried to manage the crisis exclusively through their official branded social media accounts. They failed to appreciate, that after one of the worst recalls in automotive history, those voices were untrusted.
To rebuild trust, they would have needed to inspire an army of goodwill ambassadors.
But the more ambassadors you inspire, the greater the risk of social media misuse.
Up to now, that strategy for managing social media misuse at most companies has been to issue a social media policy.
But if you think social media policies protect organizations or their employees from noncompliant use, think again.
No one reads your social media policy. They sign for it, and put in the bottom drawer.
So your social media policy may justify disciplinary action. But it won’t change employee behavior.
Despite the fact that 80% of employers have social media policies, 70% have disciplined employees for social media misuse, according to a recent survey.
At many companies, we’re starting to see the marketing spend shift from social media to paid media, as executives become more wary of the risks.
To be clear, social media policies are necessary but insufficient for managing social media risk.
And unmanaged risk is a threat to your social marketing efforts.
So how do you manage the risks around encouraging employees who are not skilled in public disclosure to be unofficial spokespeople?
In the old days, we media trained the CEO. But how do you social media train your entire workforce? How do you build trust by ensuring everyone knows the basics around social media compliance?
Teaching the benefits is the easy part.
But if we’re going to scale engagement by empowering unofficial voices, it’s the risk side of the equation we need to educate our employees about.
We need to teach out employees to play to social media compliance game. It the industrial age we media trained our CEOs.
But in the network age, we need to social media compliance train the entire workforce.
When you hear the phrase social media compliance, you probably think I’m talking about regulated industries. And certainly, regulated industries have more rules to comply with. But social media compliance isn’t just for regulated companies.
Social media compliance is everybody’s business, because ethics, privacy, security, disclosure and workers rights are every employers business.
Social media compliance is manageable with training. If you want to empower an army of online ambassadors, you need to show them what’s expected.
If you want to ensure uniform compliance with corporate policy as well as state and federal rules and regs, you must provide mandatory training, assessment and certification.