Does your company have a public relations department? Actually, that’s a trick question. Due to the epic rise of social media’s incredible reach and popularity, every company has the potential to hold its own PR department comprised of its employees. However there remains one question: is your company being deliberate in how its employees digitally engage?
Let’s Get Together
The trouble is, most companies don’t recognize that, officially or unofficially, every single worker is a potential marketer and PR executive. When it comes to social media, ignorance is not bliss for two important reasons:
1. Organizations miss out on the incredible potential of having a coordinated workforce helping promote and spread the company brand.
2. They leave themselves vulnerable to all the unwanted and possibly damaging side-effects of all the different, uncoordinated messages floating through the web.
Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to capitalize on the good and avoid the bad that comes from mixing social media and employees.
Set the Tone
No marketing campaign gets far without first establishing its core message. Imagine you are trying to sell shoes, but you leave it up to each individual salesperson to figure out what features of the shoe (or the company) they will use to make each sale. Any success they have is going to be more accidental than deliberate, because they will all be working off of a different script.
Sadly, this is effectively what happens on a daily basis at every company that doesn’t have a set of social engagement guidelines. Rutgers business professor and social marketing guru Mark Burgess recommends that every organization tries its own social employee pilot program to include everyone in the process of developing guidelines for engagement.
Open Ears, Open Minds
Making everyone a part of coordinating social media behavior and messaging is important not just for setting standards and getting everyone on the same page; it is also a chance to learn what employees have been doing before the guidelines were developed. The best marketing ideas don’t have to come from the marketing department.
Whether it was deliberate or a happy accident, an employee’s social activity may very well have gotten a surprisingly positive response that is worth taking a closer look at, and possibly duplicating. On the other hand, you may find that a lot of conflicting messages—not all of them positive—have been trickling out, while your marketing message goes in a completely different direction.
Getting everyone on the same page means listening, not just dictating what the new road forward has to be.
Developing company guidelines does not mean there is no room for creativity or individuality. On the contrary—the volume of voices and marketing messages online means people are starved for sincerity. While it is important to have a well-ordered strategy for social engagement, a good policy leaves room for engaged employees to just be themselves.
As long as some basic guidelines are in place to prevent inappropriate or other negative behaviour, the sky should be the limit—after all, social media can be a great testing ground, and every employee has his or her own voice. If they are already active and visible online, let them keep it up with the new guidelines in mind.
Likewise, employees who aren’t already major social media users don’t necessarily have to become so just because there is a newly minted policy. If they feel safe and supported going their own way, it will be better for everyone involved.
Social employees can be a great asset at a business of any size—but without open communication channels and an organized approach, they can also be a liability. Striking a balance takes leadership, engagement, and cooperation, but will pay for itself when done correctly.
Feature image: Niuton may
This guest post was written by Edgar Wilson. Edgar is an Oregon native with a passion for cooking, trivia, and politics. He studied conflict resolution and international relations and has worked in industries ranging from international marketing to broadcast journalism. He is currently working as an independent analytical consultant. He can be reached via email here or on Twitter @EdgarTwilson. If you would also like to submit a guest post, click here.