To (probably) quote Cicero, when it comes to social media marketing, don’t put the cart before the horse. In this case, the cart is goals/strategies for your organization’s social media marketing, and the horse is employee training on social media tools.
Before debating sophisticated points of social media strategy (like whether to emphasize influencers or advocates) – even before talking modest specifics like the importance of an editorial calendar – make sure the key players know how to use the tools. In fact, make sure they know they ARE the key players. Think of it as enrolling your 16-year-old in driver’s ed before you ask her to do the weekly grocery run. To continue the beast-of-burden metaphors, you know what you do when you assume.
Case in point: I’m the employee at EVG who keeps up with LinkedIn so I can help others do the same. After six months in this role, I just realized there is an easier way to share articles with my LinkedIn network: directly from my browser using a bookmarklet. This kind of concrete, specific knowledge can make a big difference in how often and how well employees use social media to advance your brand. And especially for small businesses, all employees should be seen as customer touchpoints that can help build or break your reputation.
So what are some key considerations when prepping employees to use social media to serve as brand ambassadors?
1. Tell and show. Get detailed about what you want them to do and when, then show them how. Consider periodically providing example posts/updates or having a standard disclaimer (see the example from Sprint in this article). Techniques like this help lower the barrier to sharing by giving employees a bit of cover.
Make sure to train on specific platforms. Don’t assume everyone knows how to share your company’s Facebook page with their friends. Generational differences may be a consideration here. At the least, direct employees to the wealth of information available from platforms’ help centers (for example, How Do I Share a Page with Friends?). Role-specific case studies of social media use by a salesperson, a customer service representative, a repairperson, etc. can also be useful.
Be specific about when you want employees to engage social media. Should they include a link at the bottom of all emails? Should they ask each new contact to connect with them on LinkedIn? Do you want them to Tweet once a week? Be aware that there may be legal issues surrounding any requirement that employees engage in sales or marketing activities off the clock.
Hand-in-hand with teaching what to do is addressing what employees should NOT do with social media. It’s not wise to assume that everyone has the same understanding of what’s appropriate. This can be especially important in fields like financial services and health care, where rules of confidentiality apply. Provide a game plan for responding to comments on social media, particularly negative ones (How long until response? When to escalate and when to ignore? Which social media platform to use first and which to follow up with?)
2. Make it easy. Acknowledge that asking employees to use social media to talk up your company is something else you’re putting on their plate. Make it as painless as possible. Consider if it can be integrated into any existing company platforms, like your intranet. And it’s only fair to let employees be “social” about this new aspect of their jobs. Expand the social media training onto a social media platform, thereby providing a place for them to offer feedback and to help each other.
3. Let them see you doing it. Social media use should be a top-down undertaking. Traditional organizational charts don’t have a place here. Identify your enthusiastic, social-media savvy employees and let them help educate and encourage their supervisors. And make sure upper-level managers are tasked with (and held accountable for) social media use, too. And speaking of accountability…
4. Catch them being good. Like with anything, if you don’t check up on them, they’ll likely stop making the effort. Think about how to monitor and measure employees’ social media efforts. This should be part of your larger effort to measure social media’s impact on your marketing goals. And the crucial last step? Make sure to REWARD the behavior you want. Gift cards, cash and gamification programs (here’s just one example) should all be on the table here.
Does your organization have any inspiring (or cautionary) tales of employee use of social media? Have you made social media training part of overall employee education? Let us hear your opinions and stories. We all have something to learn!
Emily Smith – Writer & Editor