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The early days of social media in the workplace centered around a series of don’ts. If you want to get a job, don’t post embarrassing photos of yourself online and don’t write ridiculous things on Twitter. Once you’re hired, don’t disparage the company or public figures in a way that might put your job in jeopardy. And don’t waste time on Facebook during work hours.
In short: Don’t be an idiot.
But as social media has evolved, and more companies have amped up their efforts to wade into the online chatter, it’s not only led to the creation of an entire subset of corporate communications — the role of social media manager — it’s led businesses to encourage employees to engage online to help the company’s bottom line.
Jenna Slattery, who manages social media and public relations at Kronos, a workforce management software firm in Lowell, says that for her, it was a matter of math, particularly after she started noticing that many social networks had upped their fees for companies looking to expand their reach online. “All the social brands were making it hard for any organic reach,” she says. “You have to pay to play.” So she started to search for alternatives.
Slattery’s research turned up some interesting findings: According to Nielsen, 90 percent of customers trust recommendations when they get them from people they know. And the Edelman Trust Barometer found that 49 percent of customers trust news coming straight from employees, rather than a company’s PR department.
She realized that encouraging her colleagues to post and share news might be a more effective way to reach customers, and partnered with a company called SocialChorus to help coordinate internal campaigns. The company offers a Web and app platform that Slattery now populates with company news; employees link their Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn accounts to the service and can share the stories with just a click. It’s one of several startups, like Bambu, Social HorsePower, and EveryoneSocial, that are helping companies turn their employees into brand ambassadors.
“We have 1,500 employees in this program and they’ve shared 35,000 pieces of content, and that’s reached 35 million people,” says Slattery, who estimates the company would have had to spend $477,000 in social advertising to get that same kind of reach. Participants are rewarded for their efforts with gift cards and other recognition.
Other businesses see social media as not only a promotional tool but one for recruitment. “Social media is really just a cocktail party going on digitally all the time from a networking standpoint,” says Jim Porter, the executive vice president of marketing at Suffolk.
The Boston-based construction firm encourages its 1,715 employees to use LinkedIn and Twitter to build a network of contacts that are in likeminded businesses. And it recently overhauled its entire website to better attract talent. That means highlighting the projects people are working on at their 10 offices across the country, Porter says, and using Juicer, a social media aggregation tool, to pull in content from the company’s favorite hashtags into the site. Suffolk’s website also offers an anonymous chat feature that allows interested candidates to talk directly with recruiters before submitting a resume.
Anonymous social networks are also being used by companies looking to get honest feedback from employees. Whitney Pulsifer, the director of strategic initiatives at Peabody Properties, says that the Braintree-based real estate management firm uses the job site Glassdoor, which allows visitors to post company reviews, as an internal yet public communication tool, and encourages current employees to leave anonymous suggestions on how the company can improve.
“When you have an outward facing platform such as Glassdoor, it creates a space of authenticity,” Pulsifer says. “We want our future team members to see that.”