Gini Dietrich

Social Media Use At Work

By: Gini Dietrich | February 20, 2012 | 

Last week I was working with a group of CEOs and one of the leaders said to me, “How do I get my employees to use social media? None of them want to do it.”

It’s like pulling teeth sometimes. Most, if not all, use Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter in their personal lives, yet seeing that passion translate to work is oft missing.

And executives are frustrated.

The issue, though, stems from the difference in how people are invited to the social networks.

When using Facebook or Twitter (and now Pinterest), the following happens:

  • They are invited by a friend, family member, or acquaintance: “Hey, you really should look at joining XZY social network” and most feel some sort of inclination to do so.
  • There is something they want to do, such as share family vacation photos or stay in touch with friends spread around the globe.
  • They have control over who sees what, which means bosses aren’t seeing what is posted…unless you are invited in on their own accord.
  • The applications are added to personal smartphones and tablets so they don’t cross into the business sphere.

In contrast, however, when we ask our teams to be socially active online, the lines are different.

  • They are asked to obey authority, which takes away the feeling of being part of a friends and family network.
  • It’s rare what they are paid to do is gather information from colleagues, peers, and customers. While using social media professionally makes sense for marketing, sales, HR, and customer service, being social online means they have to break down the silos and work together.
  • Participation feels like there is no return on time spent. You want a return on the time and money spent; so do they.
  • They feel like they are giving up control on who sees what. Now you have access to their accounts and that makes some uncomfortable.

Because of this strong divide between the feelings of personal and business social media use, most leaders are frustrated they “can’t get” their team to use the tools at work.

That’s OK. There are some people internally who are passionate about using the tools 24/7, no matter what kind of control they’re giving up.

Following are some things you can do to gain buy-in, even if it’s just a handful of people.

  1. Define the vision. What are you trying to achieve with social media use internally? Is it more qualified leads? Is it brand awareness? What are the success measures? Clearly communicate the vision and keep everyone updated on how close you are to achieving it.
  2. Find your most introverted person and ask them if they’d like to manage one of the accounts. Despite popular belief, introverts aren’t shy and have no social skills. Quite the opposite, in fact. Large social settings stress them out, but if you give them an opportunity to use social media to break the ice, where they don’t have to interact face-t0-face, you’ll see them excel in group settings, such as trade shows, client dinners, and presentations.
  3. Make participation part of the bonus pool. And, just like anything else, set the strategy, outline the goals, and define what it takes to participate in the bonus program. This will become part of their jobs so make it fun and measurable.

You’re going to have some ups and downs, especially while you figure out the right things to measure. But, if you approach if from an exclusive team-oriented perspective instead of a mandate to all, you’ll have success.

This first ran in my weekly Crain’s Chicago Business column.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Interesting insights. I like the way you thought that out. I think it’s refreshing that CEO’s are looking at it that way. Normally I hear, “But I don’t WANT my employees using social media. They’ll waste time!”.

    The one factor that is huge for many is the age of their staff. I’ve worked with quite a few small businesses where they have an older staff, and social media just isn’t a part of their lives, even on the personal side. For them it is a much bigger leap.

    • ginidietrich

      @KenMueller That’s typically what I hear, too. But there is a shift in certain cities – NYC, LA, Chicago – where I’m seeing executives say, “OK. I get it. Help me get my team involved.” I worked with a guy last week who has 80,000 customers. His marketing team is all using social media personally. But he can’t get them to use it professionally. As you can imagine, he’s a little bit frustrated.

      • @ginidietrich I guess that would be frustrating. This is why I tell businesses that they need a social media policy, and not just one that has “don’t do this” and “don’t do that” but one that actually encourages participation. With one business, we set up a private employees group on FB so their employees spread out over 20 locations could communicate directly with the management and owner. It has been more effective than email or their internal communications software. And it gets them thinking about social media from work perspective.

  • LisaPetrilli


    I love your suggestion to ask an introvert to take the lead! Coupling this with the assurance that your social media team is fully immersed in the vision of the company is a brilliant strategy.

    And thank you for sharing my “The Introvert’s Guide” eBook with your readers – it means so much to me! All the best!

    • ginidietrich

      @LisaPetrilli It’s absolutely my pleasure, Lisa! I think everyone should read it…even if they’re not an introvert. Helps you understand how the “others” work.

  • JayEhret

    How do you get my employees to use social media? via @lisapetrilli

  • GnosisArts

    @ginidietrich Love your facial expression in the vid where you answer the question: “Am I in the same category as Peter Jennings?” Hilarious

    • ginidietrich

      @GnosisArts HAHAHAH! Um, no. Not the same at all

  • John_Trader1

    The single toughest thing about my job in the past year and a half has been to get my colleagues to participate in social media as a way to build brand awareness, identify leads, and establish themselves as thought leaders in the verticals they are responsible for. I usually get snickers and hee hee’s when I bring it up and stress that social media is a TEAM effort. This is a very timely post for me as I rack my brain thinking of ways to encourage their participation. I need to more clearly outline the goals and vision of social media to them so they can see the bigger picture. Really like the idea of empowering an employee to take over a platform, I’ll try that. Thank you.

    • ginidietrich

      @John_Trader1 Let me know how it works for you. It won’t happen overnight, but hopefully some of these tricks give you some forward motion.

  • mpace101

    One word “culture”

    • ginidietrich

      @mpace101 Yes! But changing culture has to start somewhere. And some of these tips will help move the Titanic.

  • LinkYeah

    Interesting advice. I’ve had some trouble trying to get colleagues to join in the social media brigade. It’s all about people wanting to keep their personal profiles separate from their work lives. I share your opinion on introverts though. it’s funny how that happens.

    • ginidietrich

      @LinkYeah It’s funny you say that. I’ve said that to a couple of CEOs and they’ve responded with, “Then why do they friend me on FB?” Um, I don’t know?

  • sherrilynne

    It’s funny what you say about introverts. I’ve noticed the same. The guys that are most ‘wallflowerish’ at an event are often the ones most active on Twitter. Excellent tip Gini!

    • ginidietrich

      @sherrilynne I know from experience. 🙂

  • ginidietrich

    @dalicie It works really, really well

    • dalicie

      @ginidietrich Excellent! I shake out as INFP, myself! And… thank you for being such an inspiration. Huge fan of your blog and company.

      • ginidietrich

        @dalicie That’s so nice of you. Thank you!

  • GaellePR

    @ginidietrich interesting article

    • ginidietrich

      @GaellePR Interesting good? Or interesting bad?

      • GaellePR

        @ginidietrich rather good. Nice evening 2 u.

  • 1SamJones

    @tonia_ries @ginidietrich Awesome analysis Gini. Very timely read for us too. At present, we have 2 clients at this stage. #bighthanks

    • ginidietrich

      @1SamJones Oh good! I’m glad it’s helpful

  • We had a bonus plan awarded monthly at the company meeting. Couple of objectives to win. 1) had to participate in company’s overal social media campaign whether that was by contributing a blog post, building followers on Twitter, starting and participating in discussions on LinkedIn or doing something creative with the Facebook page such as post photos or start a poll. Then we looked at the results which was commonly measured by engagement and traffic. How many responses did that person get? Did we see an untick in traffic to the site during that period?

    All your points above are valid, but I think a couple things I really struggled with were getting people to spend time away from their day-to-day tasks and getting them to understand that even though they were the office manager, staff accountant or head of sales, that they had a voice, an opinion, and they were part of our company and its culture. Often, people would rather do their ‘job’ than to take a few minutes to do something else and if they had already deemed it a function of marketing, then I was always dead in the water.

    • ginidietrich

      @C_Pappas So did the bonus plan work? Or no?

      • @ginidietrich @C_Pappas

        It worked for awhile but people started to lose interest because the same person would win every month. Love to hear creative ways others are going about this.

        • ginidietrich

          @C_Pappas We had that same experience with a client. So we did a call for interest, creating a social media team, and they were responsible for all of it. It was a group of people who were really excited to get to use FB and Twitter and the like during the day. They actually closed social media off to the rest of the company (which I don’t recommend). Soon people were dying to get on the team. So we cycle people in and out every year.

  • I think it comes down to motivation and returns, combined with the personal/professional divide. Most people I know would be reluctant to turn pimp out a personal network for business. Who wants to be the boring person who used to share cute kitten videos and great trip pictures and NSFW jokes, but now pimps their company every 3rd update and has filtered out all the good stuff b/c their boss is watching?

    The other part of that is the lack of return when using it professionally b/c again, if they’re not being paid or rewarded for it somehow, who’s going to invest their precious time and effort this way? Work LinkedIn, make connections via Twitter, write kick ass blogs/comments — all returns going solely back to the employer? There needs to be connections with how this improves their jobs, careers – beyond ‘personal brand’ enhancement.

    I absotively favor the team approach (should that be inclusive?) and yes, it can be a challenge to get employees to opt-in to using social networks for business. I agree w/ @KenMueller comment about SM policies being restrictive when they should also advocate and encourage participation. FWIW.

    • ginidietrich

      @3HatsComm @KenMueller It’s funny because I have totally separate accounts. But I still have trouble getting everyone involved in the Arment Dietrich Facebook page. There is no reason you need to (or should you) pimp your business stuff in your personal profiles. But you can, and should, participate in the business profiles.

      • @ginidietrich @3HatsComm @KenMueller I’m with Gini on having 2 separate accounts, well, 3 technically, but I’ve noticed more overlap lately. I move in similar circles as my employer so that’s kind of expected, it’s just recently gotten more pronounced.

        For me, it wasn’t much of a stretch to get involved in and manage the social media profiles of my employers. Struck me as natural, but I can see how employees see it as an intrusion on their regular work day. If I had been working a “regular” job, I’d probably use social media as an escape and balk at the suggestion, or demand, that I use it for work, too.

        • ginidietrich

          @econwriter5 @3HatsComm@KenMueller Which is why there can be success by asking for volunteers and forming a small group of people inside the company to lead it. We did this for one client and it worked phenomenally well.

      • @ginidietrich @3HatsComm @KenMueller funny you have separate accounts Gini like my comment suggested but you kept it a secret in your post!

        • ginidietrich

          @HowieSPM You know what’s funny? I don’t let just anyone into my personal account, but obviously anyone can like the business page. As soon as people find out I have a personal page, they want in there too. So I rarely say there is a personal page…unless you stumble on it on FB.

        • @ginidietrich your secret is safe with me. But I have seen double Gini’s come up in various places. I actually disable the search engines for my personal accounts (or try to). My policy is let me find you, don’t you find me. lol

        • ginidietrich

          @HowieSPM Oh and you have no trouble finding me.

        • @HowieSPM @ginidietrich @KenMueller Just the thought of two Facebook profiles, two LI, two G+ is exhausting. I do have multiple Twitters, but that’s anonymous play; none of my F&F are using Twitter that I know of. So I can’t imagine having to login to a ‘personal’ FB, log out and use it as a ‘professional’ — that’s more trouble than it’s worth. I’m not even thinking of the overt pimping, just the constant updates that would bore the crap out of people. IDK I guess I just like to keep things separate, makes it ‘easier’ to manage.

    • @3HatsComm @KenMueller don’t believe verything Ken comments about. he is shifty. Last week he gave a Myspace Seminar for $49

      • @HowieSPM @KenMueller Damn, missed it!

  • Funny, the title totally threw me off, I thought you were going to say that CEO’s couldn’t stand #SM addicts like me playing on facebook and commenting on blogs while they’re supposed to be “working.” So you’re actually telling me that once Social Media becomes a “job” that no one wants to do it?? Tell your bigshot cronies that they have the wrong people and need to go all Donald Trump on them…. Then fwd them my email address so I can start reviewing their offers!

    • ginidietrich

      @SociallyGenius OK. That will be my next recommendation. Stay tuned.

  • I just give my employee a Whiskas cat treat every time she tweets. Works like a charm.

    • ginidietrich

      @JayDolan She is good like that, isn’t she?

      • @ginidietrich She’s the best. That’s why she’s so in demand.

        • ginidietrich

          @JayDolan I can imagine. Will she go to Utah with us?

        • @ginidietrich @JayDolan she also sneaks a shot of tequila to wash the Whiska’s down.

  • WarrenBJobs

    @ginidietrich | Social Media at work=Personal Branding Opportunities | That=cool new future career opportunities. Grow as a person&company.

  • Here is another great tip because you hit upon the ‘social’ v ‘work’ divide here Miss Gini.

    If the goal is to use the technologies internally for communication, feedback etc…. Encourage employees to create business accounts. When I quit Facebook I created a new account Howie ChunknChip so I could still run my client’s page without having to log in my personal account.

    If the goal is to have them communicate outside the org for the business this can be done as well. One thing I regret is I did not create a professional Facebook account for myself. After I allowed shonali @DannyBrown and yourself into my Facebook world I started getting all these invites and I kept thinking do I want them to see my burningman pics.

    So in a nutshell have all employees have separate work accounts! =P

    • ginidietrich

      @HowieSPM What? You don’t want us to see those pictures???

      • @ginidietrich you I don’t mind. Jack Bauer is a Burner at heart. He has furry boots doesn’t he?

        • ginidietrich

          @HowieSPM He totally does. But we don’t let him talk about it.

  • archiejeter

    @stann2 @ginidietrich I think many have the perspective that it’s “playing” on the web, w/o a defined business strategy from the top down

  • ginidietrich

    @KatSKrieger Did you have today off?

    • KatSKrieger

      @ginidietrich Yeah – still worked a bit somehow while juggling baby and toddler! Love the long wknds, hate the short work week! 😉

      • ginidietrich

        @KatSKrieger How do you hate a short work week? What is wrong with you?

        • KatSKrieger

          @ginidietrich Oh I will love it at say Friday at 4, but until then I will be cramming all five days of work into four! Lol

        • ginidietrich

          @KatSKrieger Yeah- that part sucks

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  • Byron Fernandez

    Um… we’re facing these opps/challenges in our agency, too. I think I’ll just take the high road and teach my pet iguana to run our social presence

    • ginidietrich

      @Byron Fernandez That’s probably a very smart idea.

  • sradick

    One of the things I heard at a conference years ago is that “bloggers aren’t trained, they are freed.” Despite my repeated efforts to get people in my organization whom I thought had a lot of value to add via social media, I realized that most of them just didn’t have the self-awareness and/or the self-confidence to really get out there and use social media professionally (

    • ginidietrich

      @sradick That’s a really good thing to remember. It happens with all of us…even happened with me. We launched this blog and I just didn’t have time to work with it. All you need is to show a little success and suddenly everyone wants to be involved.

  • Always an interesting conversation when I check in here …. I’ll admit it too – I have two FB accounts. I had so many sales reps wanting to connect with me that I set it up. No reason for media reps to see my cute dog and know how weird my kid is. Then I started using this account when I worked as admin for clients. Now I function out of this account all day and just use my phone for my personal FB account..

    The rest of the article is oh-so-true. I struggle with my clients all the time to get them to update their social networks once we’ve done the setup and developed a strategy. I always give them the example of email – remind them of when email came out and everyone was all in a tizzy about how they were going to find the time to check their email. We all figured out how to make it fit into our schedules (I still can’t believe that you clear out that inbox every day!) and the same goes with social media. For some reason, that seems to resonate with them and get it.

    • ginidietrich

      @penneyfox UG! YOU ARE RIGHT!! We have one client who wants to blog, but he’s nowhere to be found, when it comes to commenting or reading and commenting on other’s articles or blog posts. It totally defeats the purpose. And then, of course, he gets mad and says, “Why can’t you guys do for me what you did for Spin Sucks?” Well, uh, our CEO engages.

      • @ginidietrich Amen to that! Sometimes I just want to say – look if you’re really not going to keep the social media pipeline flowing then just go ahead and write me a check for my time today. There’s no use in our continuing with the setup, training and strategy if this is just going to die after the contract is over.

  • jenicantle

    @briancarter @ginidietrich Similar one for any UK followers – might be interesting for them, written by a law firm:

  • There is also an increasing number of bans on the usage of social media in companies where I’m at, simply to deter employees from ‘playing’. In some companies, the only department that gets access to social media is the HR department (only LinkedIn) or the marketing department (only Facebook). These companies haven’t got to reach the stage of social media acceptance in their business.

    • ginidietrich

      @janwong That makes me sad. When I speak with CEOs and they tell me that, I tell them it’s disappointing to me. I also tell them their employees are checking the social networks on their phones, so what difference does it make. But I am beginning to see more and more company leaders allowing it internally.

      The best way to move it forward? Buy your CEO an iPad. Suddenly you have WiFi and access to all sorts of things!

  • KCSourceLink

    @sweetiepie245 @shellykramer Almost afraid to look.

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  • danielleawilson

    I’ve had similar clients who I’ve set up social media accounts for and in the beginning the novelty is overpowering. There is a flurry of tweets and posts and then I check back a couple of months later and the updates are few and far between. I think there are a couple of important ways to make sure that employees continue updating. 1) Finding the right people. Asking introverts is an interesting idea. Usually, I would target the people who love being a connector and spokesperson. Those people are hard to find but once you find them they are a gold mine. They are already deeply engaged in the mission and outcome of the company and would be dedicated to continuous social media use. 2) Compensation. A bonus system is a great idea and very important. By compensating employees for their work, you are signaling that social media is an important and valuable part of their job. In other words, social media becomes something they do everyday as opposed to something that they do when they have time for it. 

  • GLarcombe

    @ahbing @bufferapp @ginidietrich hi not on facebook sorry

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