There’s no denying that social media has taken the world by storm. Facebook, LinkedIn, and and Twitter boast millions of users.

Social media is a huge engagement, staffing, retention, and increasingly, branding tool. It’s at the foundation of what I call tri-branding. Tri-branding is when companies use social media to link both product and employment brand, and to get their customers to sing their praises or live their brand.

You need to leverage social media in two key ways in order to drive their tri-branding efforts:

  • Branding. Companies should be leveraging social media to boost brand.  Many enlightened organizations currently use social media to tweet, post, and blog job openings, and to share what a great place your company is to work for.
  • Communicating. Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y all communicate very differently. To engage and reach Gen Y employees, leaders need to speak their speak. They need to be sending text messages, tweeting, generating video pods, and the like to reach this growing workforce population.

Many companies are afraid of the realistic downside of social media (employees saying the wrong thing, badmouthing the employer, inadvertently sharing information publicly that should only be shared privately, etc.).  But, when I address audiences, I remind them that once upon a time, we would lock our rotary telephones so employees wouldn’t  ‘steal’ company resources by calling their relatives or friends with the 800 telephone line.  And I also recall the head of legal storming into my office exclaiming: “You’re not really going to allow our employees to have access to email, are you? They’ll steal our intellectual property”.

As we reflect back today, it is rather ridiculous to think about these former ‘concerns’.   That is where we are with social media today – social media is not going away. In fact, this is the world where Gen Y lives, and if companies want to engage and communicate with this generation, they MUST embrace social media. How? By creating their own You Tube channel where your Gen Y employees articulate your firm’s values. Or, have your employees join LinkedIn groups to share job opportunities.  Identify your most ‘connected’ employees and ask if they would be interested in being your brand ambassadors.

If you’re not embracing and leveraging social media, your departing employees might be.  Sites such as Glassdoor.com are increasingly becoming popular with departing employees who feel their companies did not treat them fairly. One of the fastest growing sites Klout.com, for example, provides individuals with their social media ‘ranking’. In the future, instead of asking employees what their credit ranking is, they might ask what their Klout ranking is.

Employers will increasingly want to hire employees who are connected as branding increasingly will be an opportunity to involve your most socially connected employees – while engaging them at the same time!

Social media is today’s brand accelerator, and a terrific way to further leverage one’s employer value proposition (EVP). When I work with new clients, the first thing I do is to help them define who they are. Why do people stay with their company? Why do people want to work for their company? Who are their stars and what are the common behaviors and traits their stars possess? To reinforce this concept of tri-branding, I often ask them a simple question: What do BMW, Apple, and Southwest Airlines have in common? They all exceptional at linking employment and product brand. Apple hires the most creative people to make the most creative products. BMW hires people who are driving enthusiasts to build the ultimate driving machine. Southwest Airlines hires people who have “fun” in their DNA. In fact, these three companies also excel at tri- branding. In addtition to linking both product and employment brand, they also amazingly get their customers to sing their praises or live their brand. For instance, I’m a Droid user, and I continue to be amazed at the number of I- Phone friends who take delight at “trumping” my Droid apps with their own Apple apps. They’re actually living the Apple brand.

Bob KelleherBob Kelleher

Bob Kelleher is a noted speaker, thought leader, and author of LOUDER THAN WORDS: 10 Practical Employee Engagement Steps That Drive Results, which has been one of the nation’s top selling employee engagement books since its release in 2010. Bob is also the author of the critically acclaimed CREATIVESHIP, A Novel For Evolving Leaders, and the just released EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT for Dummies.. Bob is also the founder and CEO of The Employee Engagement Group and consultant on the subjects of employee engagement, workforce trends, and leadership.

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