As social networks have spread to the professional sphere an uneasiness can sometimes be felt between those who are comfortable with the use of social networks and those who are still adapting. One one side you often find Millennials, who have grown up alongside the rise of social media. On the other side, there are the older generations who have had to experience and learn social media use later in life.
Having begun their careers in the past 5-10 years, many millennials have been part of workspaces where the use of social media for professional purposes is not only accepted but also encouraged. Meanwhile, non-digital natives are likely to have spent years working in spaces and with methods where social networks played absolutely no part. Now that the value of social media for business is clear, can companies successfully encourage all employees to get on board? Can older generations learn to become as comfortable with social media for work as millennials are? Can the gap between them ever be bridged?
Make it Simple
Millennials are by no means racing ahead on social media. As of 2016 64% of US internet users aged 50-64 use Facebook, while 46% of global Facebook users are aged 35 and above. The issue, therefore, is not that older generations don’t use social networks; it’s that they are more likely to have experienced the prohibition of social media in the workplace. This makes transitioning to workflows where social business is accepted and prioritized more of a challenging for older generations than it is for millennials, who have entered the workplace at a time when the momentum of digital transformation is already underway. Taking the time to incorporate the fears and uncertainty of your older generation employees and pairing them with someone more comfortable with social network posting (say a millennial co-worker) can often help reduce the stress associated with posting. Furthermore, using an employee advocacy tool which helps make posting simple and allows administrators the ability to monitor content posting takes the worry out of the equation. By using such a simple tool, posting online becomes more accessible to all generations.
Make it Personal
While millennials may have grown up with social media, it is important to remember fact that the use of social media for business doesn’t necessarily come naturally to millennials. Millenials have grown up using social networks as a personal communication tool, often without the need to moderate their posts, comments, and shares. The unease of crossing over to using social networks in the workspace can create resistance from individuals of all ages. It is therefore essential to convey the value of social business not just for the company, but for employees themselves. Social media is now one of the main communication channels used by investors, clients and recruiters alike. Regardless of age, anybody who builds a strong online personal brand and nurtures professional relationships on social networks can gain a huge professional advantage in terms of visibility and accessibility.
Make it Relevant
It is important to keep in mind that successful social selling and business requires more than a comprehensive understanding of social networks and social media best practices; it involves the transfer of great content and individual expertise. In this regard, it is older generations – not millennials – who are at an advantage. On social media, prospects look to connect with sales professionals who have proven expertise. Recruiters are constantly on the lookout for all profiles, from new graduates to individuals with years of experience. Business decision makers want to network with employees in senior positions. Given their level of experience, older generations have an arguable advantage when it comes to developing an online profile, and using industry knowledge to interact with professional contacts on social media. Pairing that expertise with the knowledge that millennials have of social networks makes for a winning combination. Encouraging employees to work together to develop personal brands and providing them with access to relevant content, easy sharing, and tools to build their online profile not only benefits your employees and brand, it brings your workforce together and boosts productivity.
Social networks, employee branding, and social selling are becoming the norm. It is important that your workforce feels comfortable and united when tackling social business. Social networks might be millennials’ forte, but that doesn’t mean they are always open to using social media for business purposes. Moreover, social business comprises a number of skills that can be as new to millennials as they are to older generations. Meanwhile, the learning curve for older generations can often be overwhelming. Taking steps to bring all employees, regardless of age, experience, or comfort with social business is a sound strategy that will not only benefit your employees but will also build your brand.