Blame Henry Ford—the world loves specialization, verticality and clearly-defined roles. But when it comes to social media and business, specialization doesn’t work so well. Rigid roles undermine what these social tools were designed to do.
Sure, companies may have a social media manager—a person who ultimately ‘owns’ the process, is the go-to guy or gal for all applicable questions, distributes messages across various channels, and trains staff. But the real value of social media lies in its broad application, in its value as a messaging platform for all areas of a business, and in its unique ability to start conversations between your company and your customers.
Social media works best when it’s integrated laterally to give voice to key employees in every part of your business. What better person is there to write a blog article about a client’s success with a product or service than the account manager who interacts with customers all day long? Who can tweet the excitement of a new product launch better than the product manager who developed it?
Un-siloing access to (not necessarily control of) social media tools allows everyone to share successes, start narratives, engage with clients and ultimately boost business. If you’d like to get more people talking and tweeting at your company, here are five steps to take your social media from bureaucratic to democratic.
1. Open up channels. Don’t tell Mr. Ford, but assembly line methods don’t work with social media. Fight the widget mentality and redefine your social media manager's role as a resource for guidance on content instead of sole content creator. Ask your social media person to:
- Suggest a list of blogs or Twitter accounts that each department can follow
- Establish communication and branding guidelines and host training sessions so social media tools can be used properly and diplomatically by everyone
- Pass along successful blog articles so employees can get a feel for what generates response and how good content is crafted
2. Start conversations. Establish clear internal channels where employees can vet potential topics or ideas for publication. Get people talking to each other internally, teaming up to write blog articles and bouncing ideas around. Define company-wide messaging goals and explain how they can be integrated with social media topics and content.
3. Have something to say. Guard against establishing unrealistic messaging frequency for your employees (or, blogging just to blog). This approach might start conversations, but they won’t be positive ones and eventually readers will tune out. Encourage message-worthy, thought-provoking content, especially for blog articles and don’t set a quota for frequency or volume.
4. Broaden responsibility. Designate social media leads per team or per department. This approach accomplishes two things: First, it takes some of the day-to-day operational and content-generation duties off of your social media manager, freeing up time to review response, strategize, and explore new marketing tactics. Second, it encourages participation per department and puts more “feet on the ground” to identify great messaging opportunities.
5. Celebrate success. Don’t forget to talk about results. Not all employees are natural-born writers or marketers; asking them to organize and publish their thoughts and ideas may be quite a stretch. Encourage future participation by calling out successes and rewarding engaged employees based upon great ideas and response.
The social media revolution is just beginning and we’re only starting to understand how it can help businesses succeed. Smart companies are realizing that the best ambassadors of their products and services are their dedicated employees who have a direct line to customers and clients.Kentin Waits is a freelance writer and marketing specialist based in Portland, Ore. His work has been featured in U.S. Airways magazine and top-rated blogs such as Wise Bread, the Consumerist and MSN SmartMoney. When he's not writing, Kentin runs a small online antiques business.
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