by Jennifer Lumba | March 05, 2012
Billions of messages are transmitted daily over Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and networks such as location-sensitive foursquare. And most of those transmitting are disengaged with their jobs to some degree. We know many employees turn to social media as a diversion from work, but social networks don’t have to function this way. Facebook, Twitter, and others can be tools at work and sources for inspiration, delivering and broadcasting recognition and messages of praise. But before you hit the social media airwaves, know some social recognition ground rules. Here are 10 things to avoid when taking to social media for motivation.

1. Don’t be negative! While it may sound odd to warn against behaving badly when praising an employee, remember that Twitter, Facebook, and others are “naked” mediums. Publicly thanking an employee for overcoming the anonymous failures of another could come off as passive-aggressive and do more harm than good.

2. Be respectful of conversations. Social media may not be symmetrical in the same way as face-to-face, but interrupting a thread of dialog when you aren’t already part of the discussion can be construed as being rude. Post your thanks as a new thread and then encourage others to join in and add to the praise party.

3. Be mindful of the venue. Different social networks carry different expectations. If your plan is to post praise to LinkedIn, do it in the form of a recommendation rather than commenting on a link post. On Twitter, use replies and encourage peers to retweet. In each case, you’ll always do better when thinking about the social network before crafting your message.

4. Know your employees. While most staff members will appreciate an appropriate amount of public gushing, some will recoil at being in the spotlight. Take praise private if the situation—or the personality—calls for it.

5. Don’t be exclusive. Social media is nothing more than a vehicle for delivering praise and should never be viewed as a substitute for a firm handshake, hug, or gift. Granted, this may not be an option for remote employees, and for them a public thanks on social media probably makes the most sense. But if you have the ability to also offer praise in person, do so.

6. Mix up your messages. Social media streams are at their best when they offer value to readers. Don’t make your Twitter account an endless list of congratulatory notes. Offer followers useful links to information. Reply to interesting and relevant tweets. Then, when you do recognize someone publicly, it will make the gesture that much more special.

7. Don’t discount private networks. Public social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are wonderful, but company-only networks can be excellent vehicles for delivering recognition. They allow for more detailed praise, since there’s no worry of leaking sensitive information.

8. Don’t be vague. Everyone likes to be called “nice” or “smart,” but recognition is at its most powerful when it is tailored and specific. A Facebook post that congratulates a co-worker for setting a new record with a 53 percent boost in territory sales is far more effective than talking up the person’s amorphous “extraordinary salesmanship.” Avoid ambiguity.

9. Avoid boring posts. Using social media for recognition doesn’t have to mean “say something nice.” Posting to Twitter a picture of an employee receiving a surprise gift can be just as powerful. Or post a congratulatory poem to Facebook. Be creative!

10. Always follow through. Make recognition a business practice. Document how and when you plan to do it and under what circumstances. Define goals. When seeking out and recognizing excellence is treated with the same seriousness as making payroll, employees will seek to be recognized—and deliver excellence in the process.

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]