Social media is now everywhere, it’s gone beyond our personal lives to now playing a significant role in our professional lives as well. It was only a short while ago where official corporate social media training was considered an added “bonus” to the job. However, today it has now become a mandatory aspect of the employee onboarding process. Companies like Unisys, PepsiCo, Adidas, HP, and Sprint are making social not only part of the company’s core training curriculum, but also a key element in their recruiting message, stressing the employee benefit of receiving social media literacy training.
One painfully obvious reason why companies are now developing and rolling out social media training programs is to avoid the social media disaster. Remember what happened to Domino’s Pizza? Three years after that awful video was posted to YouTube, when you Google search Domino’s Pizza it’s still the fifth result. As a result, companies like Unisys, Sprint, and HP are creating social media training programs to avoid these types of social media headaches, as well as show employees how leveraging social media can be a valuable business tool which can increase their performance and productivity.
In a recent interview with Forbes Sprint’s social media manager, Sara Folkerts, elaborated about how today’s employees are “often confused about how to properly use the company’s internal social network.” According to Folkerts, in some of her experiences with the company’s own internal social network, Sprint Space, she noticed “that employees seemed to lose sight of the standard rules of engagement one they got online.” She points out that some employee’s “social-media blind spots” became pretty apparent, particularly as they were typically called out for inappropriate behavior. As a result, Sprint realized that they need to establish a specific set of social media guidelines.
Guidelines, however, are only the first step. What companies really need today is the existence of a formalized social media literacy program writes Meister. “Offering social media training creates a team of advocates who are equipped to represent their employer online,” says Gloria Burke, Director of Knowledge and Collaboration at Unisys. “When you give them the training, you’re empowering them to be more confident and effective in what they are sharing,” says Burke. This said, implementing a social media training program isn’t a walk in the park, so luckily Meister supplies five guidelines to help you do it right:
1. Start early
“At Unisys, new hires are briefed on social media policies practically before the ink on their contracts is even dry,” says Meister. The company has intentionally made training start on day one of a new hire’s time at Unisys. “We start at the very day of hire with our social media policies and will soon be incorporating a new video on how to engage with social media into the new hire process,” says Gloria Burke. Establishing this type of training sends new hires a message that the company’s emphasis on social media is not just lip service; it’s a legitimate focus for all employees and needs to start on day one.
2. Establish a branded program for training
“Employees will aspire to amazing things when they feel aligned to a brand. This includes the company brand as well as the brand associated with employee training,” writes Meister. At Sprint, the company has dubbed their internal employee social media training program Sprint Ninja. Sprint employees who volunteer for the Sprint Ninjas program complete a two-hour workshop in order to receive their Ninja certificate, but the training does end with the workshop. Graduates then enter into a community that is continuously engaged in discussion about how best to use social media to advocate for the company.
3. Be specific and explicit about what you want
“For many people, the thought of fusing ‘social’ with ‘work’ conjures a hazy gray area intimidating in its impreciseness,” points out Meister. This was the case at Sprint. Even after the company created the Ninjas, some of its employees still wonders what exactly to say and share. So Meister suggests helping them out a little bit. Sprint does this by posting suggested tweets and status updates regularly through its internal site’s blog, which the Ninjas and other employees can access throughout the day. Additionally, “when employees tweet on behalf of the company, they are encouraged to use the disclaimer ‘donating my status to sprint’ ahead of the tweet,” says Meister. This helps reassure employees, as it helps them mix social with work while keeping them distinct. It helps them feel secure that they are doing the right thing when they pass along information to their friends and family.
4. Gamification to engage and reward employees
Even though we all enjoy social media, it does represent another level of responsibility for employees. So managers must try to encourage employees to stick with it. They must consider how gamification can be used to help engage, recognize, and reward the achievements of those who complete, and subsequently use, their social media training. Hewlett Packard’s Social Media & Digital Content Lead, Alex Flagg, believes the success of HP’s social media training is owed in large part to its use of gamification. “The addictive nature of gamification, with badges, points, a leaderboard and ways to share all of this inside and outside the company, is highly motivating and quite honestly needed to encourage our employees to compete this type of mandatory social media training.”
5. Continual improvement
Just as its important to school employees in social media, it’s as important to for businesses to expand social media training into a social media community that engages continuously through an online platform. That way, training doesn’t end with the workshop, but continues organically as a collaborative process. “Management must listen to employees’ experiences with what is and isn’t working in the social realm and what customers are saying about the product or service. And they must be willing to adapt based on that feedback,” says Meister.
Social media training has quickly become a top priority for companies. Millennials are already accustomed to the ease that social media brings to collaborative work – from group projects using Google +, sharing documents in Google Drive, to discussing topics in private Facebook groups. In other words, they are using these tools anyway and forward-looking companies must recognize and that stay ahead of that trend.