Employees as Online Celebrities

employees online


Alexandra Samuel explores employees as online celebrities in a recent Wall Street Journal article:

Co-branded employees can raise tough questions about how to contain their online activities—and how to compensate them. It also isn’t easy for managers to balance responsibilities among the bloggers and non-bloggers within a team. And it takes an effort to make sure employees’ brands align with the company’s.

To ensure that co-branded employees benefit a company, rather than undermine it, managers need to consider these questions:

Can employees tweet on the job?

A management consultant with a top-ranked blog on business efficiency might sound like a tremendous asset, but colleagues slogging through work for clients may not appreciate the hours she spends online, especially since social networks like Twitter depend on round-the-clock and not just after-hours engagement.

Co-branded employees should get some workday time for activities that support the company’s goals. But setting limits on those activities, along with clear expectations for what else these employees need to accomplish, can help ensure that they complete their primary work and avoid resentment from their non-blogging, non-tweeting colleagues.

Where is credit due?

When a tweeting travel agent thanks his colleague for pointing him to the latest great travel deal he’s now sharing online, that colleague may be delighted—or annoyed that her deal has been scooped. If a professional posts information, stories or insights gleaned in part from his day-to-day-work, chances are his colleagues are indirect contributors. Setting formal guidelines for attribution, using senior executives’ blogs as models and encouraging employees to ask their colleagues how to parcel out credit can all help address this challenge.

How much should brands align?

It doesn’t take a dramatic misfire for a co-branded employee to prove problematic. An overall focus or tone that is off brand or a single tweet that strays—seemingly innocently enough—from the company message may undermine your overall marketing and communications efforts. Even a LinkedIn profile can undercut your brand’s positioning—if it focuses on an employee’s cost-cutting genius, for instance, while the company brand is built on quality rather than price.

Your communications or marketing team may be able to offer basic branding or media-relations advice to employees with public social-media presence, but you will need to tread carefully to avoid discouraging or inflaming those employees.

What is a social-media presence worth?

A significant online following may feed an employee’s expectations of a raise or a promotion, particularly if a social network yields tangible business benefits. A pharmaceuticals sales rep whose LinkedIn network grows from 500 to 5,000 doctors and hospital administrators may ask for more zeros in her base salary, too. But providing those rewards may engender resentment in team members who aren’t so prominent online.

Setting transparent guidelines for rewarding employees’ social-media presence and providing alternative advancement and bonus opportunities for social-media-shy employees can accomplish two things: encourage employees to raise their profiles online, if that’s what the company wants, and make it clear that developing a personal brand isn’t the only path to success.

Who owns that blog?

A recruiter who builds a huge Twitter following for the advice and information she doles out on hiring and managing Generation Y may see that account as her property, even if she’s done a lot of her tweeting during business hours. But for her company, that following is an asset supporting the business’s branding and recruitment efforts—an asset that could walk out the door if she moves on.


marnie larson

GUEST BLOGGER: Marnie Larson, B.Comm, MBA, is CEO of StarGarden Corporation and former Board Member of Wired Women Society and SFU MBA Alumni.

Stargarden Coporation is a Vancouver based software provider offering a full suite of enterprise level  Human Capital Management (HCM), Payroll, Time and Attendance solutions.


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