Should Employees Be Encouraged to Tweet?

At Mitel, an Ontario business communications company, managers have enlisted 1,600 employees to become brand advocates in social media.

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Ontario business communications company Mitel has been around for 41 years, but its profile is low. Martyn Etherington, the company’s chief marketing officer and chief of staff, is out to change that — and he thinks social media will be a big part of the process.

In March of 2014, the company had about 30 people actively engaged in social media, using Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook to talk about the company.

By November, that number had grown to 1,600.

This runs counter to what many companies practice. At most organizations, employees are not encouraged to talk to the world about the company. At many they are outright banned from doing so.

In “Can You Really Let Employees Loose on Social Media?,” an interview with Etherington by Gerald C. (Jerry) Kane, associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and guest editor for MIT Sloan Management Review‘s Social Business Big Idea Initiative, Etherington explained how he got those numbers of engaged employees up so much so fast.

Have faith that digital marketing can pay off.

“One of the things that I saw when I first came to Mitel was that we’re competing with the likes of Cisco and Avaya,” says Etherington. “These guys have have very, very strong brands. I knew that with a David and Goliath story, we could punch way above our weight if we started to invest in digital and started to leverage digital and social.”

Find a book or a case study to provide a path.

In Etherington’s case it was the book The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work, by Cheryl Burgess and Mark Burgess. “I read it in one weekend, and it resonated with me,” says Etherington. The book argued that the company should “ensure that our employees understand and embrace that we are all stewards of our brand.”

Consider training.

Etherington helped develop a series of social training sessions for Mitel staff. “We had close to 1,300 employees go through that training,” he says. “Since then we have put through almost 400 of our sales personnel.” Training isn’t mandatory, however, before people start talking about the company online.

Make it easy by giving people “canned tweets.”

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Social Business

Social business research and more recent thought leadership explore the challenges and opportunities presented by social media.
More in this series

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Comment (1)
Sander Biehn
Was there is any special social emphasis with those employees known as sales people? If so, how does their training differ from the others. 

There is a difference between pure employee advocates creating awareness or consideration via social vs. sales people who need to sell things in the next month or risk losing their livelihood. With pressure like that, marketing can greatly assist by creating relevant content that will open conversation via social and not just drive the typical 'likes' or 'clicks.'