How to Use Social Media as an HR Tool



Social media is more than just a sales and marketing tool. It also works wonders to build bonds among staff members.

Why do customers return to a jewelry store? Typically it’s because of their experience, and that all comes down to the people who have served them.

A number of stores are deliberately trying to strengthen bonds among their employees, and they’re doing it through social media. Rather than using these sites exclusively as consumer promotion vehicles, they’re using them internally—to connect their employees, to share ideas and information, and to provide inspiration.

“Social media is a great human resources tool,” says Shannon Chirone, coauthor of Digital Marketing for Everyone: Connect With Your Customers, Grow Your Business, & Demystify Social Media. “Retailers want to raise the level of happiness among employees, and one way to do that is to raise the connection between them. Social media can connect employees from one store to the other—or even people they are next to all day.”

At Keir Fine Jewellery in Whistler, British Columbia, Nicole Shannon, one of the three owners, says social media helps create a good rapport in the store so the working environment is not all business. “And it makes it nice for customers, who can feel that when they come in,” she says. 

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Keir Fine Jewellery owners Lana Beattie, Nicole Shannon, and Maryse Morin

Shannon, her two partners, and their two employees are all connected via Facebook, which is especially helpful when the busy season starts and they have less time to chat in the store. And as a business group of five women, seeing what’s happening in each other’s lives means things run more smoothly on the job, Shannon says. “You can understand when somebody needs a break or needs to work more. It means you can cut each other some slack.”

Businesses have found that encouraging employees to connect through social media is a good way to boost morale, says Chirone. Retailers can run contests between teams on these websites—such as asking employees to post their best Halloween costumes, from which they’ll pick a winner. And staying connected helps extend the good feelings fostered by out-of-office reward events throughout the year—for example, the holiday party or summer retreat. Using social media, workers can maintain morale-boosting friendships with their colleagues on their own.

Indianapolis-based Reis-Nichols Jewelers is a fan of social media as a means to connect staff members and lift morale. “We encourage our employees to send us interesting things to post,” says spokeswoman Lori Roberts. “[This] engages them in our business and builds teamwork among the departments within our company.”

One employee’s husband is a recruiter for the National Guard, so employees might pose for a picture in T-shirts he donates. On Jeans Day, the company posts photos of employees in their denim.

And employees who have bonded tend to work together more effectively, Chirone says. When they’ve seen a recent baby picture or heard someone ran a marathon, “they’re going to get a fellow employee’s request completed faster because they’re more inclined to help a friend.”

But it’s not just about creating friendships; social media can also be a great communication tool within a jewelry business.

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Emoticon Heart and Asterisk rings in sterling silver; $150 and $95; Wendy Brandes Fine Jewelry, NYC; 212-213-3504; wendybrandes.com

When designer Wendy Brandes started using social media in 2007, her peers in the industry told her it would ruin a ­luxury-goods business. “So I was ­making up my own way of doing things,” says the owner of New York City–based Wendy Brandes Fine ­Jewelry, sold online and in stores in Santa ­Monica, Calif., and El Paso, Texas.

Brandes uses mostly Twitter (and occasionally Facebook and Instagram) to keep in touch with the people she works with, including her full-time employee, other jewelers, packaging people, graphic designers, and Web developers. She’s used Twitter, she says, to track down other ­jewelers at a trade show, alert her graphic designer to a quick turnaround request, and share inspiration for press pitches with her marketing ­coordinator. “I communicate the most with peers, such as other designers and other small business people,” she says. “It definitely feels like the office ­watercooler, where you can talk to people with similar experiences.”

The owners of Keir Fine Jewellery use Facebook to communicate, particularly when they travel. “We can send pictures of things we are on the fence about buying, confirm dollars spent, and report whom we’ve met with,” Shannon says.

The creative/marketing team of New York City–based Diamond Envy uses the company’s ­Twitter handle at conferences to keep other employees updated on what’s happening there. ”And we’ll discuss things we’ve learned when we are out of the office so we can be sure to discuss it in depth later,” marketing manager Emily Duke says.

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New York City–based Diamond Envy uses Pinterest to communicate with its designers, artists, and fans on color stories and design ideas.

If it’s new ideas you’re after, retailers are ­turning to social networks for productive collaboration, staff feedback, and a flow of fresh thinking. Social media is an ideal tool for brainstorming, says Lorrie Thomas Ross, CEO of Web Marketing Therapy Inc., in Santa Barbara, Calif. “It’s a lot better than getting 50 emails from the team or getting the dreaded ‘reply to all.’?”

Because social media is a more casual communication tool than email, it is more likely to elicit comments, Chirone says. If jewelry store operators are looking for input on a new move for their business, they can put up a post and take comments on it for a few days or weeks, she explains. “In social media you get the entire company collaborating.”

Diamond Envy uses Pinterest to spur creativity among its employees, says Duke.  

As jewelers ramp up their internal use of social media, there’s another aspect to consider: Increasingly, the lines between personal and business social media are blurring.

Back in February, Diamond Envy shared the engagement of an employee on its Facebook page. “We chose to run it so our audience could see a more human side to the industry, and it was our most engaging post so far,” says Duke. The post garnered 496 likes, 29 shares, and 18 comments.

“It was very well received by our audience,” Duke says. “They liked getting a peek into the employees here, and it makes them feel connected to us. We don’t want to look like just another brand advertising and pushing sales on Facebook. We share personal anecdotes like the engagement news so customers can feel a human side to our company.”

At Reis-Nichols Jewelers, “We post a lot about our employees. It’s about getting to know us, not just the things we sell,” Roberts says. “It gives customers an inside look and makes our clients feel a little more connected to our business. We are ­trying to interact with them and be their friends, not to sell jewelry.”

(Top: Jose Luis Pelaez/Media Bakery)

 

The Hot Spots

Interested in using social media in-house to support your business? These are the top five social media sites for use internally, says Adonica Shaw, social media strategist at Image in Motion PR in Los Angeles.

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Facebook: Create a closed or secret group to which new participants must be invited. 

Pinterest: Establish secret boards for videos, pictures, and text to be shared only by people in your group.

LinkedIn: Set up a group and invite other people to join. The downside: Privacy issues are a concern, and you need someone’s personal email address to join. On the plus side, it’s very professional. 

Google+: Use hangouts on this site, which can be private but is easy to search and see other people’s interests.

Brabble: A blend of Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, this new, very interactive platform is used in real time, so it works like a conversation. Use it “to increase teamwork or do fun competitions between sales teams during private events or product launches,” Shaw says. —AB

(Ian Masterton/Alamy)