We tend to think of social media as a set of marketing tools. But a social strategy focused on employees is an option well worth considering. The human resources approach is particularly applicable in these four corporate environments.
- When employees are scattered across multiple geographic locations and have few opportunities to interact.
- When employees attend conventions, seminars, and other corporate events on a regular basis.
- When employees already use social media and are eager to use it for business purposes as well.
- When management is interested in using social media for marketing purposes but is unsure about how to proceed.
Using External Social Media Platforms for Engagement
Information Sharing, Knowledge Building, Relationship Building
In the first situation, when employees are scattered geographically, networks such as Facebook and Google+ are extremely useful for sharing photos and managing and archiving discussions. Both networks are also effective for scheduled or impromptu meetings: Google+ “Hangouts,” designed for video chat for groups up to 10 people, seems especially well suited for this type of engagement, since access is private. Types of information that are often shared by employees through social media include –
- Photos from and commentary on company outings
- Discussion of industry news and trends
- Announcements of awards and honors earned by employees
There are advantages of using public networks for these activities. First, access is easy and available to any employee with an Internet connection. Second, if employees are participating in social media or curious about it, they will be more apt to use it over company Internet portals intended for similar purposes. Third, social networks have an inherent “fun factor” that encourages experimentation and engagement. Many companies struggle to keep employees off social sites, when they could instead channel their activity productively.
Event Communication Hubs
In the second situation, when employees attend multiple events, social networks offer efficiency and a host of practical, tactical benefits. Twitter is widely used by seminar attendees to share presentation highlights with the outside world in short, 140-character bursts. Using hashtags, seminar tweets are easy to find either in real time or after the event.
Facebook makes a convenient, all-purpose communication hub for conventions. Where should we meet for dinner? What booths should we visit? Where is the ABC Co. reception being held? What were the highlights from today’s session? Can I see a picture of that new XYZ gizmo? Questions like these can be answered and shared with a great deal of efficiency.
Thank mobile technology for making these on-the-go applications of social media easier and more powerful than ever. I can’t speak for all devices and apps, but I do know that the iPhone/iPad Facebook app and the HootSuite Twitter app are child’s play.
Tapping Hidden Human Resources
In the third situation, where employees are eager to use social media, companies enjoy an immediate boost in morale simply by facilitating the effort. But this immediate gratification is only the beginning. As with just about any other aspect of corporate activity, employees bring great new ideas and energy to the table if they’re encouraged to do so. This fact of business life becomes critically important when …
Laying the Groundwork for Marketing Success
In the fourth situation, when companies are doubtful about social media marketing, starting with an employee focus is a fabulous way to test the waters and lay the groundwork for future, outward-oriented efforts, an approach that is both bold and conservative: bold, because it empowers employees to create, execute and refine their own program within the organization; conservative, because it eliminates the need of hiring outside resources or staffing a new department.
For the most part, the activities I’ve been describing can be easily transitioned from inward focus to outward focus. A scheduled Facebook discussion can be extended to customers without changing the way it is handled. Twitter commentary on a seminar can be promoted among customers as well as employees. And certainly, logistics management and information sharing at an industry convention will be just as useful to customers and suppliers as attendees.
However, since the methods of executing these activities have been tested and refined internally, customers, vendors and external stakeholders are only engaged in a firm’s social media presence after it has been refined to a great extent. This alone makes it a reliable process for developing a winning social marketing program.
Examples: Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Social media can and should mix a little pleasure with a lot of business. From a morale-building standpoint, this is a good thing to remember and something that distinguishes social from most other communication media. Here are a couple of examples that illustrate the point.
Simple, Spontaneous Contests
Our agency recently had a run on shaved heads, so we decided to have a little fun with it and post a little blurb on Facebook and Google+:
This took all of about 15 minutes to set up, write and publish, and we did it mainly for the benefit of our staff, since it had become something of a running joke. That said, nothing here would be offensive to clients who visit our Facebook or Google+ page, and we did manage to tie in a business theme.
Getting to Know People
A better example is something I noticed the Content Marketing Institute doing on Google+. They are running a series of mini-profiles of employees, done in a lighthearted, social media-friendly style:
This profile would be interesting to any of Robert’s coworkers, whether or not they already know him well. And I think it conveys a positive and probably very accurate impression of the character of the organization. Again, a little fun and a lot of business serve morale and the bottom line.