Should employees be rewarded for using social media ?

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That’s a major trend : an increasing number of organizations are trying to make as many employees as possible use social media. Reasons are varied (modernity, employer branding, using the voice of employees to promote the brand), many levels are involved (employees, executives) but the result is the same.

So we see more and more businesses congratulating themselves because they have x employees on twitter, proudly announcing that a top exec created his account the previous week etc. Pretty nice for the people en question who get their minute of fame and recognition. But besides that, some wonder if all this din makes sense, if it’s really serious.

I won’t discuss here the benefits of having actively engaged employees using social media. The benefits are know, the risks too.

“My boss is on Twitter !”. So what ?

What I find questionable is that the presence of lots of employees and, most of all, execs on social media often looks like a end in itself. Businesses want numbers, profiles and care more about what it means in terms of image than what it means for people.

As for internal social media where the number of communities and users does not mean anything except that the system exists and is live, the notion of impact is totally overlooked. Being present on social media means nothing. Moreover when massive awareness campaigns have been conducted in a given organization, it’s interesting to see how things look like 6 months or one year after. Empty profiles, deserted or awkwardly used accounts. Not sure it helps either the organization or the organization. Results are better when targeted campaigns have been conducted.

A targeted campaign means not saying “let’s all go on twitter”, but “here’s how those who want can use twitter to make an impact”. Impact on their career, on the company’s image, on their own performance when intelligence and networking are critical. No matter if only 2% of employees buy it : they’ll do things well and achieve results.

The talented sculptor is valued, not the use of the chisel

If we assume that using twitter is not vital for everybody, depending on one’s nature, personality and needs, over-valuing those who do may have two side effects.

The first is the demotivating of those who are don’t use social media, don’t feel ready, are not born for that. These ones will tell you that being highlighted and shown as an example just because one uses a tool or is on a network may be too much. The second is when these people try to go social just to not look like people who refuse to play the game and do it in a wrong conditions because not everybody is comfortable with this kind of communication.

What deserves awards and recognition is not the use of social media but what’s done with social media. Find a customer, share a message in a targeted and efficient way, detect a business opportunity. This kind of success stories, their impact, deserve to be on stage. Not the tools.

Recently a sales manager told me : “with such an approach I must say “great” to those who detect deals through social media and “meh” to those who do the same in a more conventional way ? I count deals. Period. I’m asked to bring out the successes achieved through social media…I find more logical to bring out successes, whatever the channel”.

We’d better remind that if some artists are admired it’s because of their production, not because they use a chisel or a paintbrush.