Social Recognition: The Virtual Way to Engage


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Nice mention by Recognition Council for my Social Media work with Dittman Incentive Marketing -- Wendy Flanagan

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Social Recognition: The Virtual Way to Engage

  1. 1. Social Recognition:The Virtual Way to EngageTransformation“Social media has transformed our world into one great bigsmall town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, bythe strength of relationships, the currency of caring, and thepower of word of mouth,” according to serial entrepreneurand business author Gary Vaynerchuk.6By its very nature, social media encourages informationsharing, exchanging ideas and participant engagementthrough instant communication methods that range fromtext messages to blogs and Facebook posts to RSS feeds.Because social media tools are a relatively new channel for“word of mouth’ exchanges and “friendly” interaction, theyrepresent a new virtual path for peer-to-peer recognitionand instant congratulations of employees who demonstratecompany values and achieve goals, allowing leaders torecognize extraordinary efforts in a more timely and exciting • 664 Million Facebook Users1way.Social media also offer quick, easy ways to recognize • Average Facebook user hasteammates on a day-to-day basis as the phenomenon tapsinto everyday behaviors like sharing, being part of a group, 130 friends2even interactive touch points that can deepen engagement,loyalty and a sense of belonging. Much like traditionalrecognition and reward methods, recognition delivered via • 106 Million Twitter Users3social media is poised to unleash employee engagementand directly improve the bottom line. • Average Twitter accountAs Vaynerchuk tells us, “Social media relationships andpersonal relationships work exactly the same way—you get holder has 300 followers4out of them what you put into them” and “you can’t reap thebenefits of social media’s word of mouth without a ton ofpatience, as well as commitment and strategy.” Nevertheless, • 60 percent of online users“when done right, social media is one of the most effective access social networks withand least expensive platforms you can use.”7 half visiting daily5On the Edge of OpportunityFor several years now, businesses and their employees have had a rough time. Reduced revenues, downsizing, harderworking conditions and fewer opportunities for advancement or raises have taken their toll. In a June report by LeadershipIQ, 69 percent of North American workers said they are either disengaged or “underengaged.” (Based on responses from 102,311 employees and managers at 130 organizations, mostly in the U.S.)…Leaders, as well as rank-and-file workers, are feeling less motivated…More than half of frontline supervisors1 www.internetworldstats.com2 Vaynerchuk, Gary. The Thank You Economy. New York: HarperCollins, 2011: 20-21.3 Business Insider. 14 April 20104 Vaynerchuk, Gary. The Thank You Economy. 20-21.5 Vaynerchuk, Gary. The Thank You Economy. 53.6 Vaynerchuk, Gary. The Thank You Economy. 11.7 Vaynerchuk, Gary. The Thank You Economy. 63, 78, 80.
  2. 2. 2 report either being disengaged (8 percent) or “underengaged” (44 percent). Fully one-third of middle managers… voiced similar sentiments, as did 30 percent of executives. LeadershipIQ’s study echoes a report in January by BlessingWhite Inc…In North America, where only 33 percent of employees identified themselves as engaged.8Clearly, the current economy is giving rise to concerns about employee engagement across the board as post-recession,stressed-out employees increasingly tune out at work and are poised to jump on new opportunities. As Vaynerchukreminds us, “the dominant obsession for any leader running a company…shouldn’t be the competition, nor should it becustomer service. It should be your employees.”9Social media extends the reach of traditional communications and can be a powerful way to spread reward opportunitiesby reminding workers about goals and building excitement and engagement around expectations. It directly connectsindividuals and can become the platform for a full range of activities, incorporating everything from communication to full-blown delivery of awards. Although tools and practices are rapidly coming to market, social recognition is still in its earlydevelopment and adoptive stages with most companies having only limited experience with its full capabilities.Current TrendsIn the IMA Recognition Council 2011 Trends Survey, 85.7percent of the respondents said that their companies usesocial media to market products and services. In the same survey, the issue of “understanding social media and itseffectiveness” was listed as one of the top ten employee challenges over the next five years.While some incentive clients are ready to use public tools like Facebook and LinkedIn, many prefer to keep programsbehind the firewall, using mechanisms that often resemble Facebook and other social media venues. In its 2011“Incentive Industry Trends” Pulse Survey, the Incentive Research Foundation found: • 58 percent of respondents use social media prior to an incentive or recognition program • 36 percent use social media during an incentive or recognition program • 27 percent use social media following an incentive or recognition program.Other business studies project that, by 2014, social networking will replace e-mail as the primary form ofcommunication for up to 20 percent of business users.10Incentive industry leaders corroborate the need to incorporate social media into employee engagement efforts.Pollstream’s Founder and President Steven Green believes that, “Social recognition brings to light the contributionsand milestones of employees and transmits the story instantaneously across the corporate intranet.” 11I 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. Aneffective social recognition strategy has both an internal and external dimension.”12Newton Manufacturing’s Executive VP of Sales and Marketing Jay Donlin tells us that “The use of social mediaseems to be more relevant to Gen Y and external employees who have grown up with the technology and are morein need of receiving frequent and immediate accolades. Being able to recognize the desired behavior more promptly,especially for this group, seems to be an effective way to improve morale and productivity.”In response to emerging trends, companies like Dittman Incentive Marketing offer platforms that incorporate theprinciples of social media in everything from peer-to-peer internal recognition all the way to integrating systems withpublic properties like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as a way to recognize community facing components, such aschannel partners, fundraising efforts and innovation contests.8 Kranz, Garry. “Special Report on Employee Engagement: Losing Lifeblood.” Workforce July 2011. Retrieved 13 Sept. 2011 < hr-management/features/special-report>.9 Vaynerchuk, Gary. The Thank You Economy. 89.10 Dandes, Rick. “The Social Revolution: Using Social Media to Help Recognize & Reward.” Premium Incentive Products 3 Feb. 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011 <>11 Dandes, Rick. “The Social Revolution: Using Social Media to Help Recognize & Reward.” Premium Incentive Products 3 Feb. 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011 <>12 Suleman, Razor.”Using Social Media to Extend the Power of Employee Recognition Beyond Organizational Walls.” Incentive Magazine 1 Dec. 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2011 <>
  3. 3. According to Dittman Incentive Marketing Digital Marketing Consultant Wendy Flanagan, “Although the capabilityhas been available for some time, we see social media being adopted slowly by clients. It requires 24/7 monitoringand a plan for crisis control and communications that many companies feel they do not have the bandwidth toaccommodate.”One of the side benefits of using social media is the ability to encourage participants to create their own profiles on thesystem and share ideas and things like photos which can, in turn, help create a sense of community.MotivAction’s Director of Marketing Beau Ballin adds that his company uses “social media for incentive travelprograms utilizing Flickr for event photo sharing, Facebook for event marketing, Twitter for audience responses,YouTube for video promotion and a variety of mobile applications for onsite interactivity.”In a similar vein, ITAGroup’s Manager of Strategic Initiatives and Technology Stacey Slifka reports: Social media allows group event participants to communicate and share event information with each other. This is especially useful at group events, where people often break into groups of familiar faces. Social media allows participants to interact with each other prior to an event, building a new community to interact with once they are there, ultimately, enhancing the experience for attendees. In a business development conference for example, sales representatives from all over the country meet in one location to build excitement for the coming year. Social media allows these representatives, and event speakers, to easily communicate with each other before, during, and after the event. Integrating social media communication strategies into the registration site sets a positive tone for the event, helping to build buzz and inform attendees of important news along the way. In an annual meeting, social media can help promote the event, in addition to spreading important information after its conclusion. Using multimedia, such as photos and videos, along with stories from the event, helps increase the event’s overall impact on participants. The social media platforms we recommend allow administrators to easily promote and build a strong community. We believe this will lead to higher engagement levels and a more effective program overall.The Rise of GamificationThe development of thetechnology that enables socialmedia has also amplified theability to streamline incentive andreward program participation andadministration. The relative easeof administering points-based Social media allowsprograms using social media group event participantstools has led to increased use of to communicate andgamification as a wayto promote engagement. share event informationFrequent flyer miles and hotel with each other.loyalty points have conditionedconsumers and employees toengage in game-like behaviorthat leads to rewards.Specifically, gamification isthe use of elements fromsocial game design, like competition, status updates and rewards, for non-game applications like solving problems,launching products and engaging employees. A recent report predicts that “by 2015, more than 50 percent oforganizations will gamify their innovation processes” and, “by 2014, a gamifiedservice for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as3
  4. 4. 4important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon and more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at leastone gamified application.”13As ITAGroup attests, games, in varied formats, are now a standard partof employees’ lives: • The average age of video game players is 37. • More than one in four gamers is over 50. • The average game purchaser is 41. Games are now • On average, Xbox players play 7.3 hours per week; PC gamers play a standard 6.6 hours per week, and PS3 gamers play 5.8 hours per week.14 part of employeesThe changing demographics of the workforce, coupled with the pervasivenessof electronic game experiences, is paving the way for the use of technology thatwill grab attention and help workers to focus on goals. Game mechanics offers a livessolution that can drive a deeper level of engagement while multiplying the touchpoints and dramatically increasing awareness and connection to a program.15Executives and stakeholders tend to think that gamification, or game-playing,could have a negative influence on an organization’s culture and/or bottom-line. Jane Larson, performance solutionsmanager at ITAGroup, notes that: Leadership not only wants to know how social media will engage and motivate their workforce, but how ROI will be proven. The functionality around social media can readily control award budget integrity. In addition, offering award payouts commensurate with performance that aligns with a company’s priorities and goals is readily managed through these types of platforms. Social media--particularly those that utilize interactive touch points such as gamification--affords companies the ability to track and assess how expenses associated with such initiatives are performing and, therefore, justify return on investment.What Makes a Successful Game?ITAGroup identifies five key factors for successful games: 1. Flow – The “sweet spot” that keeps a participant motivated to continue playing. 2. Personalization – Creating portions of the games that allow participants to choose images (avatars), names, etc. to make the experience personal. 3. Social goals – Participant set metrics that are visible and can be commented on by others. 4. Competition/Cooperation – The use of tools such as leader boards or forums that allow participants to publicize and celebrate results. 5. Directed reinforcement – Immediate awards such as badges, points and virtual awards that mark milestones and provide immediate gratification.16What Does Gamification Look Like?In June of this year, Marriott International launched a novel interactive game, My Marriott Hotel, to help the companyattract as many as 50,000 new employees in 2011. The game allows participants to manage a “virtual” hotel,beginning with the kitchen and moving on to other areas within hotel operations. Players buy equipment, hire and trainemployees and serve guests in their quest to earn or lose customer points and realize a “virtual” profit. Based on theFarmVille and CityVille games popularized by Facebook, the game had players from 58 countries within its first 48hours of operation that grew to 99 countries in just three weeks.17 13 Van Grove, Jennifer. “Gamification: How Competition Is Reinventing Business, Marketing & Everyday Life.” Mashable! 28 July, 2011. Retrieved 9 Sept. 2011 <>14 ITAGroup, “Engagement Through Game Mechanics,” June 2011.15 ITAGroup, “Engagement Through Game Mechanics,” June 2011.16 ITAGroup, “Engagement Through Game Mechanics,” June 2011.
  5. 5. The difference between Marriott’s public game and those that populate the recognition and rewards space is the needto go beyond and move closer to the psychological foundation of engagement and motivation. Recognition gamescan set short and long term goals that encourage participants to socialize their status and make progress towards pre-determined milestones that help keep them engaged throughout the program. Think of achievement goals such asenrollment, profile updates, completion of learning modules, reaching a sales goal, etc.As ITAGroup’s David Reisner says, “Gamification is merely borrowing from the motivation techniques used in onlinegames and bringing them into traditional pursuits (product marketing, incentive programs, etc.). The concepts areproven; we’re just updating them for an interconnected virtual world.”Success FactorsThe consensus of incentive professionals is that social media recognition programs, like all others, need to be clearlytied to business objectives, values and the culture of the organization.“The most crucial elements to a successful incentive program are that all the program rules, guidelines, etc. arewell defined and communicated to the program participants and that the awards are achievable by the programparticipants,” according to Mary Anne Comotto of Partners for Incentives who also believes that it is important that “aclear communications plan needs to be developed prior to program kick-off.”Because social media provides a robust feedback channel, companies must be prepared by dedicating the resourcesto monitor feedback 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 betweenthe organization and the individual…Social media as a means of delivery should not replace more personal one-on-one recognition in the workplace, which is so important for establishing deep connections. It is an additional tool forthe toolbox.”Clearly, this new virtual approach is not for everyone. Corporate Rewards COO Edward Brookshire explained that,despite the company’s widespread use of web tools, it would not be wise to deliver items like digital gift cards “overany kind of open forum.” Similarly, Bruce Fox’s Dave Morrison saw it more as a marketing tool for companies like histhat manufacture recognition awards.Summing Up“As much as the reward influences behavior, recognition behind the reward carries as much weight…Like theincentives industry, social media is a very people oriented channel. The most effective media users are the ones thathelp promote or mention what people are doing.”18In the final chapter of The Thank You Economy, Vaynerchuk offers some solid advice for succeeding in today’s socialmedia business world: • Care—about your customers, about your employees, about your brand—with everything you’ve got. • Erase any lines in the sand—don’t be afraid of what’s new or unfamiliar. • Approach social media initiatives with good intent, aiming for quality engagements, not quantity. • Don’t be afraid to crawl before you run.1917 Siedsma, Andrea. “Marriott Hopes to Win With Facebook Game,” Workforce Management July 2011. Retrieved 13 Sept. 2011 <>18 Hinda Incentives. “Social Media and Employee Recognition Programs: A Perfect Match.” 4 May 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2011 <> 19 Vaynerchuk, Gary. The Thank You Economy. 233-4.5This paper 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 .
  6. 6. Achievement Awards Group LTD I Love Rewards O.C. Tanner0 (27) 21 700 2300 416-531-1531 626-796-5544 -or- www.octanner.comBruce Fox, Inc. Intelispend Partners For Incentives / Schaffer Partners248-701-3000 636-226-2184 216-881-3000 -or- www.pfi-awards.comCorporaterewards.Com ITAgroup, Inc. Rideau Recognition Solutions212-689-1200 -or- 877-922-GIVE 515-326-3400 -or- 800-257-1985 www.Rideau.comCrystal D Marketing Innovators Staples Promotional Products800-544-1131 847-696-1111 -or- 800-401-3698 314-812-5879 -or- www.staplespromotionalproducts.comDittman Incentive Marketing Corp. Miller Company, The Summit Group, LLC.732-745-0600 817-498-6885 301-625-0800 -or- www.summitmarketing.comE Group, Inc. Motivaction, LLC. US Motivation703-674-5423 763-412-3000 -or- 800-326-2226 www.usmotivation.comHinda Incentives Newton Mfg.773-890-5900 -or- 800-621-4412