by Jennifer Lumba | August 19, 2013
Social media is a wonderfully dangerous tool available to virtually anyone. There is no filter. There are no qualifications to participate. It’s just a digital megaphone attached to the World Wide Web. No wonder executives view tweeting employees as a public relations disaster in the making.
Who can blame them when each day seems to bring yet another celebrity social media meltdown? However, avoiding all public networks isn’t the answer.
According to recent research from Conversocial, more than half of retailers surveyed now resolve all their customer service issues via social media. The net effect? Companies are training consumers to reach them online, which leaves managers little choice but to train and develop socially-savvy workforces.
Here are 10 tips for getting your employees engaged in the major networks without spamming your customers in the process:
1. Start with lists.
Whom do you want to talk with? Who wants to talk with you? Do your homework and find out who is following and interacting with your company and team via popular social networks.
2. Set a benchmark.
Find out how much you communicate online. Check for patterns. Once you know what’s typical when it comes to your organization’s social activity, you’ll have a better sense of where to make improvements. Publish targets companywide.
3. Choose a tool. 
Don’t enter the social sphere haphazardly. Select a platform for helping employees connect with customers, peers, and influencers consistently and then implement it company-wide.
4. Empower employees.
Implement guidelines rather than rules. Give employees room to be creative in how they use social networks to interact with the wider world. Encourage them to share experiences.
5. Reward effort.
Be quick with praise and rewards for creative efforts. Whether it’s a phone call from the CEO or a gift card to the local luncheon, make it a habit to recognize those working hardest to improve your company’s social media standing.
6. Publish progress.
Keep your workers informed. Are you failing to make progress in a certain area? Say so, but do so not to admonish but to encourage. Properly incentivized employees tend to chase both personal and corporate goals.
7. Respond.
Make it a policy that no tweet, post, or blog about your company go unanswered. You’ll never meet the ideal, but in setting the goal you’ll unleash employees to go forth and communicate with those most likely to buy your products and services.
8. Have a target in mind, always.
Don’t broadcast. Publishing a status update to the entire social web is spamming, and is likely to get you ignored. Instead, think of each update as a letter: note who it’s for and why.
9. Listen.
Don’t treat social media as a pulpit or a bullhorn. You aren’t a preacher and you’re not leading a rally. Acknowledge when customers, partners, and observers reach out to you, even if, in the moment, all you can muster is a simple “thank you”. Then, take the time to consider what your followers have to say and provide as detailed a response as is necessary.
10. Be a conduit.
Don’t just communicate. Participate. Help to establish community by hosting chats and allowing guest blog posts. Offer the most active early access to new products and services in hopes of creating brand ambassadors.
Social media is fractured, haphazard, and dangerous for how quickly it can turn a public mistake into something more. Executives are right to fear it. But ignore it? That won’t work either.
So, strike a balance. Use these 10 tips to cultivate an informed and empowered workforce and give them targets to shoot for. You may be surprised by the results. 

Jennifer Lumba is the chief marketing officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions. Built on state-of-the-art technology, Rideau’s employee recognition and customer loyalty programs change the way companies recognize employee service and achievement, reward individual and team performance, strengthen customer relationships, and create brand loyalty. Lumba can be reached at [email protected]