Studies show that the number of companies who are now incorporating social media into their business "strategy" has gone from 40% in 2008 to 80% in 2011. What this means is that there is an increasing need for people to manage these social media campaigns.
Let's look at the company CEO , to start. A great CEO will surround him or herself with great C-level executives in each department , and will then give them the leeway to run their department as they see fit. Its worked this way forever , but it doesn't work for social media. Why?
The fact is that social media is not a one-way campaign. Rather than a company just going on about what they do, why they do it better than others etc, a good social media campaign creates a dialogue between the company and its customers or clients. What this means is that everyone at that company has to be on the same page, ultimately repeating the same message.
The great irony is the fact that the marketing department rarely tries to get the executives engaged in social media. Whether they feel it's the role of their department to create and execute the campaign or they feel that the C-levels are too busy matters less than the fact that, without C-level involvement, a company will never see the true benefits of social media.
What you can do initially to get CEO's involved in the beginning is to ask them what it is that they love the company. Find out what they want people to know about the brand. Ask them what they tell people at cocktail parties or business lunches and functions. Work on getting to the root of their own, personal opinions about what they do and why it will help move them toward understanding what social media can do for the company.
If you can successfully engage the C-level executives of your company in the power of social media to promote your brand you will get a complete top/down engagement throughout the ranks. If the bosses are doing it, everyone will do it too.
It's not always easy to convince them to take social media seriously. Most C-levels will look only at the bottom line to determine effectiveness of any campaign but what many don't realize is that the bottom line definitions have changed with this new internet technology.
Social media is incredibly important…and incredibly time consuming. Many small business owners must choose between properly promoting their companies on Facebook and Twitter or actually running their companies. The solution is to delegate some of the social media work to an employee or outside consultant.
Who controls the information?
There's no need to limit yourself to only one social media representative. If a formal or informal survey of your employees finds a group of people who are interested in tweeting and posting your company's behalf, consider inviting all of them to do so. If you want a Twitter presence, you might ask each of them to give you one tweet a week with a link, in that they may all have different levels of expertise that would all be interesting to your customers."
Having multiple people involved is fine, however, you should have one executive, perhaps from corporate communications or public relations, who will be responsible for making sure the posts and tweets actually happen, and for a overseeing their content. Information needs to be carefully looked at before posting it.
Does IBM get it right with it's "no policing" policy on social media?
IBM has a decentralized social media approach in that it lets employees talk—to each other and the public—without intervention. With a culture as diverse and distributed as IBM’s, getting employees to collaborate and share makes good business sense. They are a knowledge-based company, and it is their employees' expertise that they are tapping into. They represent their brand as employees first – with the understanding that their brand is shaped mostly by the interactions and relationships that they have with their customers.
Their social media guidelines are employee-created and basically state that employees are individually responsible for what they create and prohibit releasing proprietary information.
IBM’s Culture for Social Media Innovation involves the following:
- Stand back - Have guidelines, but don’t police from above. Employees tend to self-regulate.
- Involve employees in Social Media planning.
- Letting employees write the guidelines helps them feel empowered.
- Giving employees powerful and effective social media tools that will encourage them to do their jobs more efficiently, as well.
- Not every company can create their own tools. Look for powerful social media tools and encourage employees to use them to do their jobs better.
- Crowd-source employees, clients, etc. for a powerful group sharing of ideas.
(Granted, this will not work for most companies, but I would appreciate any feedback you may have on the concept.)
Now, getting back to your own company and it's social media, here are some other ways to engage others to take part.
1) Set up a “focus group” of employees to serve as community leaders who will guide and assist your company as it breaks into the social networking world, but don’t give any one group all of the power. The more people who you empower to influence you social media, the better.
2) Look in your own community. You will be surprised to learn that leaders can emerge from your own community population, in the form of employees, partners, customers, or prospects. Many future contributors or influencers will come from places that you never expected. Try, then to empower each and every member of your community with the resources they need, and then be sure to listen and be responsive to their insights, needs, and ideas.
Make sure that you truly treat your community members as partners, not just as fans or numbers. Integrating your business into the social environment is key to your company’s future success, but it's only part of what you need to do. Shifting your business strategically, culturally, and operationally are key components to the success of your social media equation.
This means that you need to create a community for the people who matter most in making your business thrive—a place that is all theirs and that is connected to your brand. Keep in mind also that your members want to connect with like-minded peers, and they want to feel as though they are contributing to a purpose that’s bigger than themselves. They are buying products and services from you, investing in your company, and working for your organization. Therefore, providing them with a community that they can call their own is the least you can do for them.
Blogging Lets Your Employees to be "Brand Ambassadors"
It's important to train employees to be brand ambassadors. You want them to have a sense of ownership in your company so that they will be eager to spread the word and to help grow the brand.
One of the best ways to do this is to let them blog for your company. Any time an employee writes a post, he or she is helping to build and promote the brand – with their words shaping your brand’s image, and gives them a lot of power and influence.
Of course, you want to make sure the messages they’re sending out are consistent with the brand you’re trying to build. That’s why it’s always a good idea to review employee blog posts before accepting and publishing them.
If you’re the only one contributing to the company blog, you’re limiting the blog’s potential. Without bruising your ego, but there’s only so much that you know about. By allowing a few key, qualified employees also blog, you get a better-rounded blog…a blog where each employee can highlight his or her areas of interest and expertise. This turns your blog into a comprehensive resource that offers an excellent reader experience. And, once again, by having various employees involved in different social media platforms, it will help in maintaining an effective campaign by not burdening you with every little detail.
Taking your business social is not just about building a website. Rather, it is this connection to being human – to the company and it's employees being transparent that is at the core of business. We are not robots performing sufficient duties – delivering satisfactory results to the revenue line. We are people. We have hopes and fears and dreams and desires. And so do those working with us. By allowing those around us who know our business well to contribute to the company's online persona, it's telling them that they matter, and that they are an important piece in the company puzzle.
When making the decision to go "social", plan it out. Find those people in your company or your community, or among your peers that you feel would be a positive reflection of the values and views of your company. Sit down with them and strategize ways to communicate to customers and prospects, by allowing them to see what your company is all about – and what you can provide. It seems that somewhere along the process we became so "techie", that it seemed that business was all business.
The methods of drumming up business have changed. The playing field of business has changed. Embrace it - get yourself and your company out there using social media.
Enlist the help of those who will provide value and represent your company appropriately. Lastly, get help from professionals if you need it. Sometime the higher ups in the company lose touch with what really is going on in the trenches, and what works in keeping customers happy. All levels of management should be open to what other members of the company have to say and can contribute – all of which will provide a web presence that will be informative, engaging, and "real".