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.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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