• 2.1 Billion Internet Users1 Social Recognition: • 664 Million Facebook Users2 & Impact Opportunity • 106 Million Twitter Users 3 • 5.3 Billion Use Mobile Devices4 • 8 Trillion Messages 5OpportunityIn the recognition sphere, social media offers quick, easy ways to recognize teammates on a day-to-day basis. It taps intobehaviors we already practice in personal communications: sharing, being part of a group, even game-playing, deepeningengagement, loyalty and a sense of belonging. This engagement, when achieved through traditional recognition andrewards programs, goes directly to the bottom line. Social media has the potential to contribute to these connections andgenerate long-term benefits. At the same time, it conjures up privacy issues, the risk of losing message control and becomingimpersonal.It is important to consider the appropriateness of social media programs versus traditional programs. The industry leadersof the Recognition Council, a strategic industry group of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), have come together toconsider if social media can effectively become a recognition delivery method or is better used as a communications tool foremployees.Recognition Council SurveyIn the IMA Recognition Council 2011 Trends Survey, 85.7 percent of the respondents said that their companies use socialmedia to market products and services. In the same survey, the issue of “understanding social media and its effectiveness”was listed as a top ten employee challenge over the next five years.Social Media Is Here To StayIn “The Social Revolution: Using Social Media to Help Recognize & Reward,” author Rick Dandes points out: Some studies project that by 2014, social networking will replace e-mail as the primary form of communication for up to 20 percent of business users…Not surprisingly, C-suite, sales, marketing and human resource executives are turning to social platforms to enable people across departments and even countries to recognize, share best practices and highlight company values.61 www.internetworldstats.com2 www.internetworldstats.com 3 Business Insider. 14 April 2010 4 Mobithinking.com 5 Mobithinking.com 6 Dandes, Rick. “The Social Revolution: Using Social Media to Help Recognize & Reward.” Premium Incentive Products 3 Feb. 2011. 15 July 2011 <http://www.pipmag.com/feature_print.php?fid=201103fe03>
Social Media AmplifiesSteven Green, Founder and President of Pollstream, tells us, “Socialrecognition brings to light the contributions and milestones of employeesand transmits the story instantaneously across the corporate intranet.”7Social media directly connects with individuals and can become theplatform for the full range of recognition activities, incorporating everythingfrom communication to full-blown delivery of awards. Unfortunately, socialrecognition is still in its infancy with most companies having only limitedexperience.For instance, Newton Manufacturing’s Executive VP of Sales andMarketing Jay Donlin views social media “primarily as a way to broadcast arecognition message to the public domain. The employee being recognizedreceives a public kudos from the organization. Potential employees seethat the organization will recognize their achievements. Customers see thecompany as one that tries to create a positive work environment.”MotivAction’s Director of Marketing Beau Ballin pragmatically reflects,“Conversations about recognition happen every day within organizations.The reality is that most of these conversations happen outside therecognition program ... Social media provides a way to capture, guide andtrack those conversations providing built-in monitoring and feedback.”I Love Rewards CEO Razor Suleman says that “Social recognition is about putting a mechanism in place within yourorganization to facilitate easy social interaction and the public sharing of recognition between managers and peers.”8Current ApproachesThe speed of social media makes it a natural for instant recognition, helping managers recognize accomplishments in a timelymanner despite challenges like geography, schedules, etc. It builds on the peer-to-peer connection already established bytools like instant messaging and makes it easier for others to “pile on” the recognition.While some clients are ready to use public tools like Facebook and LinkedIn, most currently prefer to keep their programsas part of their corporate intranets, using mechanisms that may resemble social media venues. Most contributors9 to thisanalysis see social media as an optional delivery channel that augments an established traditional recognition and rewardprogram.Several companies, like Dittman Incentive Marketing, have full blown platforms that incorporate the principles of social mediato span everything from peer-to-peer internal recognition and totally private feeds all the way to integrating systems with publicproperties like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as a way to recognize community facing components.Beau Ballin shares that “MotivAction has been an early adopter of social media in the context of incentive travel programsutilizing Flickr for event photo sharing, Facebook for event marketing, Twitter for audience response, YouTube for videopromotion and a variety of mobile applications for onsite interactivity.”Technology enables the process by streamlining administration and participation of points-based programs. It also allows forthe use of gamification as a way to increase engagement.Potential RisksJay Donlin tells us “The use of social media seems to be more relevant to Gen Y and external employees who have grown upwith the technology and are more in need of receiving frequent and immediate accolades.”7 Dandes, Rick. “The Social Revolution: Using Social Media to Help Recognize & Reward.” Premium IncentiveProducts 3 Feb. 2011. 15 July 2011 <http://www.pipmag.com/feature_print.php?fid=201103fe03>Suleman, Razor.”Using Social Media to Extend the Power of Employee Recognition Beyond Organizational8Walls.” Incentive Magazine 1 Dec. 2010. 15 July 2011 <http://www.incentivemag.com/print.aspx?id=6841>9 The Recognition Council collected voluntary responses from its members to a set of questions as background for this report. See the list of contributorspublished with this paper.
According to Dittman Incentive Marketing Digital Marketing Consultant Wendy Flanagan, “Although the capability has beenavailable for some time, we see social media being adopted slowly by clients. It requires 24/7 monitoring and a plan for crisiscontrol and crisis communications that many companies feel they do not have.”One of the big issues with social media is that not everyone has the same access so providing universal coverage can be achallenge. A company that relies on social media as its only form of recognition can undermine the connection created by thepersonal relationship between leaders and employees.The rapid move toward mobile devices and anytime, anywhere virtual connections, raises security risks for companies atevery level, including recognition and reward programs.Critical FactorsThe consensus of contributors is that social media recognition programs, like all others, need to be clearly tied to businessobjectives, values and the culture of the organization.“The most crucial elements to a successful incentive program are that all the program rules, guidelines, etc. are well definedand communicated to the program participants and that the awards are achievable by the program participants,” according toMary Anne Comotto of Partners for Incentives.Because social media provides a robust feedback channel, companies must be prepared by dedicating the resources tomonitor content and assure that needed adjustments occur quickly.Dittman’s Flanagan sums it up by saying, “The most critical thing to get right is to establish a personal link between theorganization and the individual…Social media as a means of delivery should not replace more personal one-on-onerecognition in the workplace, which is so important for establishing deep connections.”Effectiveness?All contributors acknowledged that it is too soon to really measure theeffectiveness of social media programs. To date, most have used socialmedia tools mainly as extensions of marketing and communicationefforts.This new virtual approach is not for everyone. Corporate RewardsCOO Edward Brookshire explained that, despite the company’swidespread use of web tools, the company has issues with any kindof delivery of items like its universal digital gift cards “which would notbe wise to send over any kind of open forum.” Similarly, Bruce Fox’sDave Morrison views social media more as a marketing method forcompanies like his that manufacture recognition awards.Bottom LineThe bottom line is that, although recognition an reward programs clearlymotivate behavior, much of the power lies within the act of recognitionitself. It’s more about being noticed than the actual reward. Social mediaparallels the incentive industry in being very “people focused.” Just as successful social media users promote what peopleare doing, recognition and rewards programs benefit from spreading the stories of exemplary workers. Clearly there is asynergy between social media and reward and recognition programs that deserves additional focus and experimentation. Contributors Beau Ballin, MotivAction • Edward Brookshire, Corporate Rewards Mary Anne Comotto, Partners for Incentives Jay Donlin, Newton Manufacturing Company Wendy Flanagan, Dittman Incentive Marketing Consultant ITAGroup • Tom Miller, The Miller Company • David Morrison, Bruce Fox Recognition Council 2011 Trends Survey RespondentsThis report was created by the Recognition Council, a strategic industry group within the Incentive Marketing Association that educates and promotesthe benefits of recognition and rewards to the worldwide business community. More information is available at www.recognitioncouncil.org.