Written by J-P De Clerck, who is an experienced content, conversion and social media consultant. Like Mindjumpers, he is associated with Social Marketing Forum. You can connect with him on Twitter @Conversionation
A seemingly minor aspect of the social media marketing plan is drafting a social media policy and training your employees. First, why do you draft such a policy?
Partially, because you can use it as a public message to share with customers, partners, etc., explaining how you commit yourself to listen to them and be an ‘open’, sharing, ‘human’ and social company that wants to engage in conversations with its customers. By communicating it, you are in fact interacting with your customers and other people in the social and online influence sphere of your brand.
But of course social media policies also are drafted as guidelines for your employees. That might include some rules, but don’t see them as strict “laws” that suffocate your employees. Don’t let your fear for a “negative reputation” get you locked up in a defensive social media policy approach.
Besides, your employees use social media anyway, for personal reasons. My best experiences with brands online were not with the official representatives, but with people working for these brands. Actually, I found out where they worked in their Twitter profile, after having connected with them. They were, without ever knowing it, the best ambassadors for their brand because they were real, interesting and fun. This reflected on the brand they worked for.
People define your brand
This is important because in the end your company and your brand are not what you want them to be: they are what the people within your company, in the ecosystem around your business, including obviously your customers, make it. This is why having some kind of social media policy is important: your employees are the first “faces” of an online and social brand. And a brand can not be open, social and participating if it doesn’t have that culture internally.
If you draft such a policy, you shouldn’t focus too much on what employees cannot do. On the contrary: focus on how you can help and train them. Engage them like you engage your customers, because they are your customers as well!
Look at it as an incentive, a reward even. Value your employees by inviting them to participate in building your online brand, together, as a group of real people, all firmly trying to achieve a common goal. You might think “you can’t just have employees sharing information over social media about your company”. At least, that’s what you want in an ideal world.
But your employees will do it anyway. So motivate them to do it better by providing guidelines and including them in the training programs, another way of making them feel valued. And, yes, of course there can be some ‘rules’.
Dynamic markets, new technologies and emerging trends
Adapt your guidelines (and your training programs) as you are learning about social media marketing by doing it. You will try out new things, find things that don’t work, even make mistakes. You will discover effects you hadn’t thought about or see flaws in the way you support your staff and train your employees or even in your policy. That’s OK, learn, adapt, improve and evolve.
Even if your social marketing strategy is perfect, your employees are trained perfectly, everybody in the company is using social media as you hope and your social media policy is water-proof, you still will have to evolve, as will your employees. Customers change, the needs of communities change, technology changes, social media changes, everything changes and is dynamic. And there is always the next new thing.
Keep providing guidance and resources to your employees. Since there will always be new features in social media and new tools and technologies, you might want to have someone inside or outside your company following emerging trends.
Social media training as a reward for motivated employees?
A social media policy should include a social media training program, even if you don’t actively use social media yet. After all, your customers do so listening to what they and others say or ask is not an option anymore.
The level and degree of training should depend from the public role of the persons in question. However, if you have employees that have experience in social media, are not in daily contacts with customers, etc. but want to play a bigger role in the social media marketing strategy of your company: why not give them a full training like your official spokespeople?
It’s a win-win because you don’t only want to value external customers but also internal customers: employees, and certainly those that show motivation and initiative. On top of that your employees acquire new skills.
Of course this might also mean that once they’re trained to join another business, but isn’t that always a risk? Let’s be honest: there are many employees that learn through experience and training in a company and, once they have become experts in certain areas, decide to join a better paying company or start their own business.
But that’s not a social media training issue, it’s a HR issue every company has to deal with.
So why not?