Recently two stats jumped out at me. Nei­ther of them is all that mind-blowing inde­pen­dently, but together they make up an incred­i­bly strong argu­ment for why com­pa­nies need to be train­ing their employ­ees on social media. First, 85 per­cent of social media users believe a com­pany should not only be present but also inter­act with cus­tomers. The sec­ond, from Edelman’s Trust Barom­e­ter, revealed that the aver­age employee is trusted sig­nif­i­cantly more than a company’s CEO. The pub­lic wants to engage with your employ­ees, not just your social media managers.

Yet within many com­pa­nies, employ­ees are ner­vous to talk pub­licly about their employer, prod­ucts, and work life for fear of some swift ret­ri­bu­tion for say­ing some­thing they shouldn’t. If they are active, the line is some­times blurred between com­pany expec­ta­tions and online behav­ior. Although most com­pa­nies under­stand the need for guide­lines and fly their social media poli­cies proudly, smart com­pa­nies are mov­ing beyond social poli­cies to for­mal social media lit­er­acy through hands-on train­ing. They’re putting into place the nec­es­sary guardrails and then look­ing for ways to acti­vate their employ­ees through an open social culture.

There’s Real Value To Be Gained

The ben­e­fits of for­mal­ized train­ing are real—and not just for avoid­ing a social cri­sis. Employ­ees can engage and con­sumers seem to be lis­ten­ing. Some com­pa­nies have reported that links shared by their employ­ees get clicked almost twice as much as those same links shared by branded social accounts. Train­ing helps mit­i­gate risk, but it also edu­cates on best prac­tices, help­ing employ­ees gain con­fi­dence in their abil­ity to share infor­ma­tion in a respon­si­ble way with­out wor­ry­ing about ref­er­enc­ing an employer.

Com­pa­nies who show their employ­ees how to appro­pri­ately use their own per­sonal social chan­nels to talk about work gen­er­ate a team of advo­cates who can more effec­tively rep­re­sent their brand online. You must find the right bal­ance, though, because acti­vat­ing employ­ees to share every­thing will sim­ply gen­er­ate spam. A report released last week by Altime­ter Group, titled “Social Media Edu­ca­tion For Employ­ees,” sug­gests that Adobe’s efforts are hav­ing an impact, renew­ing our own com­mit­ment and ongo­ing effort to push for­ward the idea of empow­er­ing and acti­vat­ing our employee base.

Build­ing Brand Ambassadors

Adobe has been fairly aggres­sive at putting together social media train­ings. To date, approx­i­mately 30 per­cent of the employee base has gone through some form of social media train­ing, and we were recently granted addi­tional funds to fur­ther build out and scale social train­ing pro­grams. Our evolved train­ing ini­tia­tive will launch at the start of 2014. Our for­mal train­ing pro­gram is a help to our cur­rent employ­ees, but we’re also adding a social media sec­tion to our new hire ori­en­ta­tion. This pro­motes our train­ing ini­tia­tive, but it also briefly helps employ­ees under­stand key prin­ci­ples such as dis­clo­sure and who to con­tact with ques­tions. Guided by a set of core Adobe prin­ci­ples, the pro­gram aims to build employee social media flu­ency through aware­ness, empow­er­ment, and excellence.

Our efforts are pay­ing off. A Novem­ber report released by SociaLook ranked brands by their employ­ees’ activ­ity on Twitter—how much they’re talk­ing about work, shar­ing con­tent from work, etc. Adobe rankedthird on that list and first in terms of per­cent­age of the employee base who actively ref­er­ence their employ­ment in their bio.

Like many of the stan­dard com­pli­ance train­ings, social media guid­ance for employ­ees in the work­place is no longer just a good idea. It’s expected.


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Cory, I work in public health and was wondering if you could recommend any specific social media training...perhaps training that is focused on the use of social media in government (specifically public health) contexts?