A Taco Bell employee posts a picture of himself licking a stack of tacos in an actual Taco Bell. Excited about the topic of social media use on company time yet? 

Employees should be encouraged to use social media -- just not in a licking-tacos kinda way.

Rise in Social Media Usage

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Kendal Peiguss feels this way. The marketing programs manager and former social media manager responsible for the adoption and growth of social communities with SmartBear Software, Peiguss caught up with CMSWire after her presentation on the topic at last month's Gilbane Conference in Boston.

SmartBear, whose customers include developers, testers and operations professionals monitoring performance of their APIs, mobile, cloud-based and Web applications, began focusing on social media as a primary marketing platform late in 2012. Today, the majority of the marketing and sales teams have become regular users of Twitter and LinkedIn for business.

"People have bought into the powerful effect that it has on connecting with clients," Peiguss said.

Product teams are heavy users of Google Plus and Reddit, which is in line with the demographic of those platforms, said Peiguss, who estimated that two-thirds of SmartBear users are actively using social media.

Have a Clear Policy

So where do you start if your charged with steering employees toward valuable social-media use?

First, recognize this -- your employees are on it. According to Pew Research, 72 percent of all online adults are using social media sites.

"Ignoring the fact that your employees are on social media does not make it less true," Peiguss said.

What does a social media policy do? It allows employers, Peiguss said, to create an open dialogue with their team about what's appropriate on social. It's also, she said, a great time to encourage the use of it.

Address items like the consequences of inappropriate usage and defining harassment. "But it's also a good idea to encourage people to be active on LinkedIn two to three times per week or to participate in Twitter hashtags during live events," Peiguss said.

Have an 'Un-policy' 

An informal un-policy encourages social media more than it restricts it, Peiguss told us.

It should provide guidelines and direction for appropriate use, she said, but also training on how to use social for business.

"It should encourage employees to share exciting new content and to participate in conversations during live events," Peiguss said. "The un-policy should provide a list of suggested LinkedIn groups, Twitter handles and Facebook pages to follow and explain the reasons that social media has the power to be awesome for the company and for the individual."

Create a Twitter List

What can a Twitter list accomplish for a company?


SmartBear uses Twitter lists to keep track of customers, industry experts and evangelists and also its internal team.

"I encourage social media managers to create a public Twitter list of employees at the company," Peiguss said. "This makes it easier for co-workers to find each other online and also shows transparency to clients and prospects."

How can "fun stuff" in social media help an organization? 

"In my experience, the 'fun stuff' is the cornerstone of company culture," Peiguss said. "Energetic meetings, free lunch and company parties allow us to experience the human element of a business. Our sales trainers say  'People don't buy from companies — they buy from people.'"

By sharing the company culture on social media, you're allowing current and potential customers to see that human side, she added. Just not the licking-tacos side of the human side, that is.

Encourage employees to share pictures and videos of employees having a good time. It's a recruiter's dream, Peiguss said.

"Everyone wants to work for the company with a great culture who enjoy each other's company and who feel accepted and secure in the work environment," she added. "Social media is the organic channel through which to spread your company's awesomeness." 

Leverage Your Subject Matter Experts

Social media is also an easy way to score customer-service points -- especially when clients can reach your subject matter experts directly. 

Traditionally, these experts in your organization can be hard to find. But not anymore with the likes of Twitter, for instance. Get your experts out there.

"In a content-driven world, subject matter experts (SMEs) are essential to creating high-quality resources for customers and prospects," Peiguss said. "If you're not referencing your SMEs on social media, you're missing an important opportunity to showcase their skills and expertise. Especially in highly technical industries like software development, our social strategy hinges on our experts' ability to share knowledge."

Include your SMEs' social media information in press releases, webinar and event promotion, and on business cards.

"Give your experts high-quality training," Peiguss said, "and acknowledge their efforts to the team when you get a great response."