A Social Shift in Social Media Training for Employees

Recently two stats jumped out at me. Neither of them is all that mind-blowing independently, but together they make up an incredibly strong argument for why companies need to be training their employees on social media. First, 85 percent of social media users believe a company should not only be present but also interact with customers. The second, from Edelman’s Trust Barometer, revealed that the average employee is trusted significantly more than a company’s CEO. The public wants to engage with your employees, not just your social media managers.

Yet within many companies, employees are nervous to talk publicly about their employer, products, and work life for fear of some swift retribution for saying something they shouldn’t. If they are active, the line is sometimes blurred between company expectations and online behavior. Although most companies understand the need for guidelines and fly their social media policies proudly, smart companies are moving beyond social policies to formal social media literacy through hands-on training. They’re putting into place the necessary guardrails and then looking for ways to activate their employees through an open social culture.

There’s Real Value To Be Gained

The benefits of formalized training are real—and not just for avoiding a social crisis. Employees can engage and consumers seem to be listening. Some companies have reported that links shared by their employees get clicked almost twice as much as those same links shared by branded social accounts. Training helps mitigate risk, but it also educates on best practices, helping employees gain confidence in their ability to share information in a responsible way without worrying about referencing an employer.

Companies who show their employees how to appropriately use their own personal social channels to talk about work generate a team of advocates who can more effectively represent their brand online. You must find the right balance, though, because activating employees to share everything will simply generate spam. A report released last week by Altimeter Group, titled “Social Media Education For Employees,” suggests that Adobe’s efforts are having an impact, renewing our own commitment and ongoing effort to push forward the idea of empowering and activating our employee base.

Building Brand Ambassadors

Adobe has been fairly aggressive at putting together social media trainings. To date, approximately 30 percent of the employee base has gone through some form of social media training, and we were recently granted additional funds to further build out and scale social training programs. Our evolved training initiative will launch at the start of 2014. Our formal training program is a help to our current employees, but we’re also adding a social media section to our new hire orientation. This promotes our training initiative, but it also briefly helps employees understand key principles such as disclosure and who to contact with questions. Guided by a set of core Adobe principles, the program aims to build employee social media fluency through awareness, empowerment, and excellence.

Our efforts are paying off. A November report released by SociaLook ranked brands by their employees’ activity on Twitter—how much they’re talking about work, sharing content from work, etc. Adobe rankedthird on that list and first in terms of percentage of the employee base who actively reference their employment in their bio.

Like many of the standard compliance trainings, social media guidance for employees in the workplace is no longer just a good idea. It’s expected.