In recent years, I’ve talked a lot about the shifting nature of business and how social media is changing the way we should approach our business models. Whether it’s getting your brand up and running on social networks, or taking formal steps to making your business a true social business – we all need to make appropriate use of social media, or run the risk of being left behind.
There’s a whole other side to this, as well. It is no longer good enough to delegate – or relegate – social interactions to the marketing or communications function. The change brought about by social media demands a social change across the entire business. As a leader and manager, it’s crucial to motivate your employees to become digitally savvy, and this push should come straight from the C-suite itself. Simply empowering your employees isn’t good enough – their observations of your use of social tools in your day-to-day work will dramatically change your team’s uptake and application of these tools and also increase their productivity.
The reality is…everyone prefers to interact with people versus brands that are represented by a logo and a tag-line. The trick is to create a social media brand presence that is compelling and brings your brand personality out through your employees. If you want to humanize your brand, you need to let your employees be humans first. For the communications function, that means empowering your team to embrace social tools, facilitate relationship building through digital platforms, and bring their own personality to brand advocacy. We’ve done this within Text 100, and are seeing significant results for our clients and new business prospects, and, not to mention, employee morale is at an all-time high. We were recently voted “Best Agency to Work for in North America” by The Holmes Report this year – a ranking that is determined by employee-submitted surveys and recommendations.
Every industry is different, of course, but at this point it seems antiquated to think that your employees shouldn’t be using digital and social tools for business – even in the most highly regulated of industries. The key is to identify which social tools will best help you achieve your business goals, and determine the ways in which your employees can use them to facilitate this.
If you haven’t started with social media quite yet, there are a few ways to get moving. Start small – research similar companies in your industry and see how, if at all, they are using social media to achieve a business goal.
Create a social media policy and framework which outlines how your employees should use the social tools you’ve made available to them, and define the larger purpose they serve, especially if your industry happens to be regulated because of security or privacy concerns (such as in the areas of government or health care). Identify individuals within the organization that will specifically function as “brand ambassadors” – be it a community manager, full social media team, or a select group of employees who already have a deep understanding of social tools (Jeremiah Owyang and Altimeter Research created a great visual explanation of the various ways to organize for social media here).
While you want every employee to be a brand evangelist, not every individual in your organization needs to be using social tools to be brand ambassadors, that is, speaking on behalf of the brand in a public, social setting. Be sure to work directly with your employees to ensure they understand the tools and how, when, and if to engage. Hold internal trainings for networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook to help them understand how they should use them in the work setting.
The communications function needs to take the lead in helping their brands become social brands. Their experience in engaging with a range of audiences and telling stories through online interactions means they should be at the heart of any employee engagement program. With C-suite endorsement and involvement, a socially empowered organization can become an even more successful one.
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