Employees in the industrial sector are already active social media users. Sixty-six percent of engineers and other industrial professionals have a profile on LinkedIn, according to the IHS Engineering360 research report “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector.” Forty-nine percent have a Facebook account. These percentages are even higher among technical professionals 18-34 years old.

Yet only one-third of technical professionals ever share or post news or information about their company to their social networks. That represents a large opportunity gap. If you can get engineers, sales people, customer service reps and other employees to post about your company on their own social media accounts, you will gain an extended team of social media ambassadors that can help spread the word and increase the visibility of your brand, products and services.

In this era of competitive content marketing, the more people you have on your team to get the word out, the greater advantage you’ll have in winning mindshare with your audience. Plus, using employees as social media team members results in free exposure for your company, expands your reach to a wider audience and provides the cache that each post is being personally recommended by a professional in your company.

Here are five ways to encourage your employees to participate:

1. Educate employees on your brand and social media program
Any employees who might post about your company on their social media accounts should understand the meaning of your brand and your company’s core mission and values. Understanding the essence of the brand and your company’s purpose provides employees with a yardstick to measure anything they might want to post on their social media accounts. Embracing your company’s mission and core values also helps employees to be generally more engaged in their work.

Also, like any good recruiter, you should pitch your social media program to employees to get them to participate. Depending on the size of your company, you might customize your pitch for each department, or you might introduce your concept to everyone at the same time. One of those free “lunch & learn” sessions tends to draw a crowd.

2. Develop social media guidelines and best practices
While the goal of using employees as social media ambassadors is to spread the word about your company’s news and initiatives, social media is as much about the individual as the brand. Each person has their own style and voice, and although you don’t want to discourage individual style, you should provide guidelines to make sure anything they post or share about your company is appropriate.

Important topics to cover when setting guidelines include how to respond to any negative comments (no fighting, no arguing), how to avoid disclosing confidential information, and recognizing what’s appropriate (or not) to share on social media. Instill in employees a few simple rules such as using common sense, thinking carefully before posting, and being polite and professional at all times.

3. Provide curated, approved content
How do you get those two-thirds who never post news or information about their company on their own social media accounts to start participating? You make it easy for them. One way is to provide a library of curated, approved content and status updates for them to share. This also helps you maintain more control over the message being disseminated.

You could create a central repository where all social media content resides. Add entire posts to the repository: headline, copy, link, etc. All employees need to do is copy and paste to their own accounts. You can also use this repository as a place where employees can offer their own ideas for posts, provide links, ask questions and more. As employees sense they are being heard and their ideas are taken seriously, participation should increase.

4. Encourage employees to “like” your company’s social media accounts
Encourage employees to like or follow your company’s accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media properties. This simple step helps spread the word because your company’s updates will now appear in their social media feeds, exposing your message to a broader audience and potentially increasing the number of people who follow you.

5. Share social media statistics
One way to boost enthusiasm among employees who become social media ambassadors for your company is to share statistics. Seeing for themselves how their participation might be helping to expand your reach and achieve goals will instill a sense of pride and motivate them to continue posting and sharing on your company’s behalf. A large part of social media’s effectiveness is “showing up” on a regular basis and staying involved. It’s easy to do when you’re getting results.

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