In a few short years, companies have gone from seeing social media as a danger to be avoided to training employees to be social media brand ambassadors.
Social media usage is now ubiquitous outside and inside companies Regardless of our age or generational cohort, we are now all digital citizens.
Let’s take the case of MasterCard , Five years ago, MasterCard saw social media usage in the workplace as a possible security threat to the organization. As a public company in the financial services sector, there was a tacit understanding among employees that they were not allowed to talk about the company on their personal social media sites or twitter handles.
Added to this, MasterCard managers were reluctant to use social media inside the company for fear of inadvertently sharing confidential information. But as the employee demographics of the organizations grew younger, a growing number of MasterCard employees expected to navigate the workplace as easily and seamlessly as ordering food from Seamless, a taxi from Uber or a book from Amazon.
Then in 2009, MasterCard CEO challenged the entire company to transform from a 45-year-old B2B financial services company into a more consumer-focused payments technology company. And one way to do this was to infuse social and digital media into the organization so each MasterCard employee could be excited about being a brand ambassador for MasterCard. So the question was how to do this in a way that brought the entire organization focused around this shared vision?
MasterCard Journey To Social Media Usage
MasterCard’s social media training program began in earnest with the launch of their Conversation Suite, a social media listening program created to showcase the millions of the relevant conversations about the MasterCard brand now displayed on a 40 foot LED monitor in the center of MasterCard headquarters. Rather than just a piece of eye candy, Conversation Suites is now part of a four phase strategy to educate, empower and encourage all the 8,000 MasterCard employees to become brand ambassadors.
For MasterCard, the secrets to seeing social media as an opportunity involved launching three initiatives:
- Create Easy To Understand Social Media Guidelines
A simple set of social media guidelines which no longer read like a third year law student wrote them, but encompassed easy to understand directives focusing on how MasterCard employees can act Responsibly, Respectfully and Transparently using social media inside and outside the organization. Says Ron Garrow, MasterCard Chief Human Resource Officer, “We set out working with our legal department to make the social media guidelines clear in how to safely share information yet also focus on the opportunity for the organization and the individual in an open culture. We let everyone know that it was okay and even encouraged for employees to share but also made it clear there were certain parameters that had to be adhered to including being honest about who you are and not sharing confidential information.”
- Launch Cross Functional Alignment
Next MasterCard set out to create a cross functional team including Legal, PR, Communications, HR and Learning that focused on building a shared vision for how to utilize social media as an opportunity for the organization rather than a threat to be avoided. Says Marcy Cohen, Vice President Communications , “By forming this cross functional team, it was clear that social media usage is not owned by any one department but rather a cross functional business priority which could benefit all the departments in MasterCard. Bringing in various stakeholders into the process early to shape the program enabled the widespread support we received.”
- Build A Training & Communications Plan
Finally, MasterCard engaged their learning department and created a training program known as Social Media 101 and a Communications plan to focus on how to train all employees to use social media inside and outside MasterCard. This comprehensive program included:
- In-person social media 101 sessions in several offices around the globe to focus on what it means to be a Brand Ambassador and how to use social media to further the MasterCard brand and your own personal brand.
- A social media online community site, featuring a series of Social Media Playbooks, on how to use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr to engage in online discussions, and link back relevant data MasterCard social channels.
- Short educational videos on how to use MasterCard social media channels such as and YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
- Reverse mentorship with the MasterCard “YoPros” young Millennial MasterCard employees who mentor older senior MasterCard executives to get up to speed on the latest social media platforms and importantly share the business benefits of doing so.
- Social Jams on the MasterCard Conversation Suite which internal and external subject matter experts are invited to share the latest uses of social to build a consumer brand.
Using the MasterCard example, here are four action steps you can use to move your organization from seeing social media as a danger to a brand building opportunity:
Cast a wide net by creating a cross functional team of legal, communications, Public relations, human resources, corporate learning and IT to draft a shared vision for how to use social media inside the organization.
Define clear metrics at the start of the project.
In the case of MasterCard, several metrics were identified and are being achieved such as:
- To date, more than 40% of the 8,000 MasterCard employee population are Social Ambassadors, meaning, they are sharing MasterCard content with their friends on their social channels and blogging on internal and external MasterCard platforms.
- More than 10% of the MasterCard employee population has attended Social Media Training 101.
- Three senior executives are actively involved in reverse mentorships and report this is a key to understanding the value of social media to build the brand and impact business results.
Develop social media training.
For companies embarking on seeing social media as an opportunity rather than a danger to be avoided, the question is not if your organization will go down this path, but when. Increasingly using social media to build a company’s brand will be a point competitive advantage in the global marketplace and developing a training plan is key to achieving this goal.
Find the employees who are already social media advocates.
Do you know who your social media early adopters are? Every organization should uncover these employees and recognize they are not just Millennials but any employee who is actively creating content in their personal lives and looking for an opportunity to do the same for their employer. Tap their expertise and enthusiasm to get your program off the ground.
So readers, what are you doing to train employees in how to use social media to build the company brand ad drive business results for your organization?