by Jennifer Lumba | October 13, 2014
Social media is the last tool you'd want to use to recognize great work, right? Between limited text space and the impersonal nature of tweets and posts, it's easy to see how even words typed from the heart can come across as cold and unfeeling when used in social media.
Unfortunately, avoiding social media won't work any better. Millennial employees are using public and private networks to connect in ways that previous generations never did. According to research commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, three-quarters of Millennials have at least one social media profile and spend an average 1.8 hours a day on social media sites. Engaging these employees through other means may not be as effective.
So, a balanced approach to social media in the workplace is likely to work best. But where do you draw the lines? Here are 10 tips for using social media to recognize and engage workers:
1. Set standards. Great work happens all the time, especially in big corporations. Make it clear that your organization has a culture that recognizes (and rewards!) outstanding performance. That way, congratulatory tweets or posts won't come off as impersonal or hackneyed, but something to be prized.
2. Be consistent. Surprises can be nice, but your recognition program will also benefit from structure. Set weekly and monthly goals, as well as approximate timing for when you'll recognize those who've overachieved. Make it an event that workers look forward to, both at HQ and online.
3. Make it available to all. Once you've developed a culture that prizes recognition, unleash your workers to recognize their peers. One idea might be to create a community hashtag for teams to use in talking openly about their projects on social media. Success stories will inevitably surface.
4. Use photos. Host a small gathering at HQ to recognize a particular achievement and then document the event with photos. Post to your followers on social media and make note of those honoured. Send the link to relevant teams -- or even company-wide -- via email to encourage further sharing.
5. Make your best stories searchable. Recognition needn't be a one-off. Instead, use a custom hashtag to make your best tweets and posts searchable and part of the permanent record.
6. Develop a social newsletter. Formalize your recognition process by scheduling a newsletter meant to document company achievements. Make managers responsible for surfacing the best stories and sending them to your newsletter editor. Publish this newsletter and send it to your followers and share it internally.
7. Start recognition conversations. The best recognition happens organically. How about starting a discussion with peers about a particular project that turned out well? The ensuing conversation should surface opportunities for meaningful, heartfelt recognition, while also demonstrating your company's capabilities.
8. Use groups. What if great work happens on a confidential project? Confine your posts to employee-only groups and then let the praise flow. Share details to make it worthwhile for your workers to spend time navigating to such a closely monitored forum.
9. Be a cheerleader. Forget the cynics. If you're proud of the work your team is doing, say so on social media. Call out workers by name so they can be recognized. Encourage others to follow them and their work.
10. Get real. Social recognition is key, especially for Millennial workers who spend hours online. But the process needn't begin and end there. A nice card, a kind word in the hallway, eye contact, and a firm handshake can be just as valuable. Take steps to engage workers wherever they may be, both online and off.
In the end, workers know the difference between a company that has a "recognition policy" and one that prizes -- and truly recognizes -- great work. 
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]