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Harnessing social networks can enhance your brand

According to a recent survey, 40% of employers in South Africa are least likely to implement organisational social networking policies. However, according to Right Management, although social networks present huge risks if used haphazardly, they can be leveraged as a contemporary channel to reinforce brands and elevate reputations if harnessed effectively.

Contemporary organisations across the globe are increasingly harnessing the connective power of social networks to enhance their brand and to drive employee engagement. Social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube allow individuals to connect and share information with unprecedented ease and power. As millions of individuals and organisations are active social networkers, the popularity of social media raises serious challenges around reputation management for organisations. Company brands now exist as living, breathing entities in an online ecosystem, and their reputations can be enhanced or discredited at the click of a button.

Right Management, a Manpower brand that provides a comprehensive range of services for the employment and business world, recently surveyed 470 workers who confirmed that they use social networks to assess prospective employers. This highlights how critical it is for organisations to successfully factor social networks into their brand reputation activities. 31 percent of respondents said they use social media to determine if prospective employers value and respect their employees and 30 percent use social media to learn about career development opportunities. For these reasons, there is a clear role for social networks to help build and maintain employee engagement and brand reputations, particularly with the younger generation.

Manpower recently surveyed 34 000 employers in 35 countries and territories to gauge employer attitudes towards the use of external social media in the workplace. The results indicate that 75% of all employers surveyed, reported that they did not have a formal policy regarding the on-the-job use of social networking sites. South Africans along with the EMEA region employers indicated they are least likely to implement organisational social networking policies in comparison to the other surveyed regions.

On the other hand, the organisations that indicated differently, agree with their counterparts in the Americas and Asia Pacific regions that they cite avoiding productivity loss as the most effective result of social networking policies.

Additionally South African companies identified social networking as a vehicle to foster collaboration and communication as well as brand building as the greatest benefit in future for their organisations.

Of all employers globally, those from the EMEA region were least likely with only 2% to assign damage to their organisation’s reputation as a result of social networking.

‚Social networks are invaluable tools for organisations to communicate their organisation’s core mission and vision. For example, leaders can use social media to establish and enhance a two-way dialogue with employees, who in turn can then understand better how they are a key piece of the company puzzle,‚ says Lars Forseth, Manpower Regional Managing Director.

But what happens when social networks threaten to derail an organisation’s reputation, for example a negative comment about the treatment of workers in a factory. While social networks present risks in this type of situations, it also present opportunities.

Organisations should harness social networks as a tool to respond to potentially damaging allegations. If organisations are one step ahead, already utilising and actively present or own social networks, they can start, or even influence a conversation with a ready-made community of brand activists. It demonstrates that companies are listening and willing to act based on issues they heard in social media groundswell.

Although social networks present huge risks if used haphazardly, it can be leveraged as a contemporary channel to reinforce your brand and elevate your reputation if harnessed effectively.

Manpower recommends that companies consider taking the following steps to promote constructive use of social networks:

Clearly communicate to employees what you are attempting to accomplish. A classic mistake is for companies to enter the social network space without a clear sense of what they want to achieve. Companies should outline what benefits they want to reap from social media, how that vision fits within the company culture and that all their people understand the core values.

Challenge employees to innovate. Promote the positive use of social networks by encouraging employees to develop ways to use these tools to improve their jobs. Engagement increases when employees feel that they are contributing.

Tap internal experts. Encourage employees who regularly use social networking in their jobs to discuss and demonstrate how it’s done. Keep track of the new ideas that flow from this.

Let employees ‚own‚ the governance. Motivate employees to help develop and enforce your company’s guidelines. This will certainly appeal to those employees most likely to use social media, promoting trust in the goals of the guidelines that ultimately are instituted.

‚It is critical not to insist that final policies are set in stone, instead, they should be allowed to change as the technologies evolve. Any social media guidelines should be linked to your company’s overall behavioral guidelines,‚ says Forseth. He continues ‚the goal is to create a system of governance under which social networking is not seen as an exception, but rather an activity that is intimately connected to your company’s overall people practices. Only by creatively channeling its use, will organisations succeed in reaping those benefits for sustained competitive advantage.‚

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