Organizations large and small from both the for-profit and non-profit sectors often cite their people as one of their brand’s greatest assets. While some have taken steps toward empowering their team members as brand ambassadors offline, few have developed a digital strategy to arm employees online as well.

Though social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have proven to be effective tools for the marketing staff to engage in large-scale brand building, there’s still a disconnect between brand-based and employee-powered social media engagement.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to overcome internally is the perception that social media is a time-waster when it can actually be a net positive for your brand. Many forget that we used to worry about employees using phones and email, where as now both are workplace mainstays.

Social media can be a great way for your team members to interact with, share, and amplify your brand’s conversations and content. Here a few basic ways to encourage your employees to engage online on behalf of your brand.

Claiming the Business

Start by encouraging your great employees to proudly fly the company name and link on their Facebook wall or Twitter bio. When policy is vague, individuals not wanting to cause a stir may opt not to include their employer as part of their social profile. Make it clear that it’s okay to claim your brand.

Connecting with the Brand

Remind team members to connect with your brand on applicable social channels where they engage personally. Note the last part. Your employees shouldn’t feel compelled to go join new networks just for the sake of interacting with your brand. However, if they are active Instagram users, make sure they are following your brand’s updates there. All of this leads to enhanced social proof.

Promote Re-Sharing

Once a team member has opted in to your brand’s social media marketing, they’ll be exposed to regular updates. As a marketer, you should empower them to share and retweet updates from your brand that they are excited about and moved by. As they continue to spread your word online, you’ll start to connect with your employees’ friends and their networks.

Provide Training

As you become a more social organization, you may decide that it’s necessary to provide continuing education opportunities for employees to get more familiar with social media if that’s not a current strength of your team. You can bring a speaker in for a brown bag lunch and learn or consider programming from your local community college.

Define Your Policy

Once you have an employee engagement plan, solidify it with policy. If you need disclaimers noting that individuals don’t speak for the brand, add them. Above all, as Jason Falls and Erik Deckers note in their book No Bullshit Social Media, “Trust everyone, but have a policy that deals with those who cannot or do not comply.”

Bottom line? Just as we trust our employees offline to engage with the community at large to help us build our brands, we also need to ensure that we extend the same courtesy online as well. You’ll not only build a more connected workforce, you’ll create an army of social brand ambassadors.

How are you empowering your employees online?