Employees Get Involved in Social Media at Nokia

by Cindy Mehallow

When organizations use social media, it should be all about listening and having a two-way conversation.  That’s a radical departure from traditional corporate communications and marketing which rely primarily on talking to an audience, rather than engaging with them.

That was the message I heard repeatedly at the Justmeans “Social Media, Technology and Change Conference” in New York recently.  As a communicator who helps companies tell their sustainability stories to their stakeholders, I’m always interested in learning how other companies are successful using new technology to advance their sustainability agenda.  The panelists at the “Listening to and Engaging With Customers and Employees” did not disappoint.

Nokia’s Social Media Agenda:
Nokia, the giant mobile phone manufacturer, actively helps its employees to embrace social media and use it to connect with people. In the early days of its social media activity, Nokia was guilty of content pushing, admitted panelist John Pope from Nokia.  Now the organization is looking to move beyond that. “We must look at social media as having a conversation, not content pushing,” said Hepburn.  “That makes our communication more transparent and genuine.”

Nokia’s three-prong agenda includes using social media to:

1) Build relationships
2) Improve its products and services
3) Demonstrate its values and leadership

Social Media Certification
Nokia invites its employees to utilize social media and offers a six-part social media certification which they must complete before becoming active on social media. I call them the Be-Attitudes.  Nokia employees must:

1) Be prepared
2) Be transparent
3) Be smart
4) Be nice
5) Be yourself
6) Be professional

Roles for Employees
There are two potential roles for employees in social media: listening and speaking, according to Marcel Lebrun, CEO of the social media monitoring and engagement firm Radian6.

“First, every employee can listen to voice of customers,” explained Lebrun.  “Let a product manager or programmer hear the customer’s voice firsthand rather than through a moderated panel. Employees become very motivated because they own the information.”  This is a good first step for companies who are just getting involved in social media.

By its very nature, involving employees in social media via listening is inherently less risky than employees engaging with customers and other external stakeholders on behalf of the organization.

Allowing and even encouraging employees to speak for their company does carry potential risks, but it offers powerful advantages, according to Lebrun.

“When you let employees be human in their engagement, the color of the employees’ personality comes through the brand, and the brand becomes humanized,” continued Lebrun.  He commended Dell for doing a “fantastic job” with 3,500 employees now acting as brand ambassadors.  This social media involvement leads to brand engagement as customers build relationships with people rather than the brand. In turn, trust and advocacy goes up, predicts Lebrun.

So how does employee engagement in social media advance a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda?  “That’s where employees can help drive the message,” said Lebrun. “As employees are passionate and authentic, as they are engaged in activities, external stakeholder awareness of a company’s CSR activities will come though them rather than PR statements.”

Cindy Mehallow is principal of CRM Communications, a woman-owned sustainability communications consulting practice specializing in corporate social responsibility reporting and stakeholder communications. GRI-Certified in sustainability reporting, Cindy has produced award-winning sustainability reports for Fortune 500 clients in a variety of industries.