Social Media Marketing Policies and Education: The Employee Perspective

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?

Social Media Trends, Prospects, and Challenges in India

Our ever-growing global network of Local Social Media Managers around the world helps us ensure contextually relevant content through social listening, content production and response management. It’s a network of very talented people who possess great knowledge of social media in their local context – one of them being Nishanth Krish from India who shares his insights into the social media trends, prospects and challenges in India right now.

 

 

India is a mobile first country where 41% of total mobile users are active on social media. And it remains the fastest growing market for social networks in the world. The increasing affordability and use of Smartphones as internet devices means India is serving data to almost one billion mobile phones, and an individual spends an average of 3 hours on social media every day irrespective of device.
However, this rise of social media adoption among Indians has led to a growing concern over poor Internet speed in the country. Internet access is still unevenly distributed with connection speeds remaining disappointingly slow at just 2 Mbps on average, far below the global average of 4.5 Mbps.

Digital India, a program to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy by the government is expected to enable high-speed Internet connectivity across the length and breadth of the country, which will ultimately join the social media bandwagon and create a positive network effect for further growth.

 

Personalized Content is the Key

As much as our counterparts in other countries do, we consume content, but are averse to sharing. We Indians are conservative by nature and often not as open to sharing content online. Brands have realized that social media is not only about posting brand updates, but also about driving engagement by creating meaningful conversations. In our country of diverse culture, language and practices, brands are developing customized content, which is both relevant and appealing. Top brands such as PepsiCo and Bharti Airtel have integrated regional languages into their digital campaigns, resulting in more than 150% engagement compared to identical English posts.

Indians today are looking for a more personalized social networking platform where they can communicate with different groups of people. As eyeballs have shifted into the digital world, media spend has been following suit. Indian advertisers are spending far more on social media ads compared to their global counterparts. India is projected to be amongst the top three countries in the APAC region as regards its CAGR (2012-2016) in digital media ad spend and many brands have effectively developed tactics to enhance visibility by investing in promoted posts/tweets that carry targeted information about offers, coupons and contests through custom targeting.

Social media platforms have been a melting pot for running promotional campaigns for e-tailers understanding the different user behavior attributes, interests and changing buying behavior patterns. Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, and e-commerce brands like Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal are blending their assets across platforms to tap into customer preferences. Moreover, e-tailers are reducing the length of the purchase cycle by using features like the ‘Get Deals’ button.

 

Catching the Eye Balls

Images and short format videos are gaining traction in India. Visual rich media content clearly dominates the social media space and gains the majority of engagement with Indian audiences as more people than ever before are sharing, discovering and engaging with videos on Facebook and as content creators build and engage a global audience. From increasing audience traffic to digital publishers and the high level of online conversation during major events, this growth in content discovery and discussion is taking place across social platforms.

 

Reaching the Rural 

The soul of India lives in its villages with 60 percent of the population residing here. To reach the under-penetrated areas, Facebook has initiated the Internet.org project with a vision to provide basic mobile Internet services for free. The service is run by Internet.org in collaboration with a number of telecom players. This service is available in English and six local languages — Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi — and can be accessed via a dedicated Android app.

Facebook is by far the social networking platform with the widest reach, boasting of 118 million monthly active users in India, out of which 55-60 million are daily active users. 95 per cent of these users are ‘mobile-also’ users.

Twitter has specialized its service for the Indian audience with hashtags in regional languages and the ability to support regional language scripts, which has helped the social networking giant to reach out to the large number of non-English users in India who were previously untouched by the phenomenon of micro blogging.

Twitter in India takes center stage for breaking news and special events, bolstered by its partnership with broadcasters and media distributers. These partnerships have allowed Twitter to make the most of product innovations like polls, audio cards and the ability to share videos on the platform. Its rich media tweets gain far more reach than standard text-only tweets.

 

Focus on Social Mobile

Whether it’s discovering information about a breaking news story or an upcoming TV show, an exclusive screening of a movie trailer first or celebrities engaging with fans in authentic and meaningful ways, people converse on social media around the things that matter most.

As Indians continue to gain access to cheaper smartphones and data plans, with shifting platform preferences, it is imperative that brands shift focus to social mobile communications to reach out to an audience that are always on the go.

The future of social media marketing is expected to be mobile driven and in the year ahead it is most likely that we will be seeing more contextual and location centric content, helping brands to evaluate the different platforms better with accurate reporting capabilities for tracking engagement.