As one year comes to a close, and another year gets ready to kick off, it’s the right time to review your social media policy and strategy to set goals around employee behavior and social media. In support, consider employee education as an objective in reaching your goals.

You might think that education isn’t necessary. In fact, that’s what many Corporate Communications pros have told me. They’ve said their employees are aware of their various external/internal social media platforms. But when I dig a little deeper, it becomes apparent that only pockets of employees are active on their social media outlets. This worries me because a company reaps the benefits of social media when everyone works it; not when usage is spotty or silo-ed. And when I dig even deeper, it becomes obvious that foundational elements–such as employees establishing their profiles in the internal social media platform–have been left to chance.

This sets my Public Relations, Marketing, and HR Communications hats on fire. When companies ignore employees’ presence on internal or external social media, they court reputational risk–not to mention the loss of current and prospective customers, and the loss of key talent and prospective candidates. Of course, some companies rely on their crisis communications team or their HR department to react after the bad event or the critical talent has left the organization. I think that’s too late, and given the viral nature of social media in our post-truth world, I’m not sure how effective after-the-fact actions would be either.

So a better path forward is for Corporate Communications to plan now and set social media goals that are aligned with business goals. Then, support those goals with measurable objectives, including offering social media education to employees.

By education, I don’t mean a presentation about the social media policy or micro-managing post or comment content or basing compensation rewards to the quantity of activities on internal online communities or photo or video forums. I mean being deliberate and conducting regular targeted-to-employee learning sessions about:

  1. Building an individual professional brand;
  2. Establishing a social media bio, both internally and externally;
  3. Appreciating the two-way conversational nature of social media and the importance of listening;
  4. Understanding that not all social media outlets are the same and helping employees to become knowledgeable about the value of each of social outlets,  including internal platforms, for careers and collaboration, as well as progress and productivity of teams, departments, and units;
  5. Sharing the highlights of your company’s external social media plan–especially the why’s and wherefore’s of your senior executive’s thought leadership visibility, product and service marketing, consumer touchpoints, community outreach, etc.; plus, insight into the employee role and responsibility in that larger plan.

The details of the education should be customized to reflect your company’s overall brand and social media strategies, business objectives, and take into account the fact that five generations are side-by-side in the workplace. You may also wish to embrace your contractors and supplemental talent to ensure transparency and alignment. Plus, you may want to arm your managers with coaching tools so that they can engage with employees in support of the social media program.

Experts can help you craft a bespoke education plan that’s fit for your company’s purposes. But first, you need to embrace Corporate Communications’ unique role in helping employees in your organization make the most of your company’s social media. So set some social media goals this year and support them with an employee education objective. Believe me, your company will thank you as critical talent remains within the organization, and when the inevitable crisis occurs.