Most businesses are anti-social. This is nothing new. When it comes to any interaction with a customer or prospect it’s only natural to want to control as much as possible. The simple formula of feeding customers through highly structured channels with carefully spun marketing communications has worked for decades. I’ve been guilty of it too — who doesn’t want to keep only the good news front and center?
Not surprisingly, social media has changed all of this.
Customers now turn to social media first
The traditional and often stiff approach is clearly at odds with the speed and more casual medium of social media. We’ve seen a shift toward customers that expect to be quickly heard, because of the often frustrating experiences of all other channels. 42% of consumers who complain on social media expect a response in under sixty minutes. Reviews, ratings and recommendations among peers — good and bad — can make or break a brand. 95% of consumers share bad experiences and 87% share good experiences with others. Ironically, brands have inadvertently trained the consumer to turn to social media first — because everywhere else they turn they face bad service and a feeling of being “blown off”.
Yet companies are slowly (hard to believe in 2014) being dragged into fully embracing social. Sure there are internal teams that are dedicated to social media, but even for the largest companies the number of people actively engaged is a tiny fraction of the overall total number of employees. On average organizations with 100,000 or more employees have 50 people officially dedicated to social media — that’s only 0.005 percent. The vast majority of organizations have one to three people dedicated full time.
Trust is highest with “regular” employees
Annually survey’s like Edelman’s Trust Barometer show a significant gap between trusting “a person like yourself” and “a regular employee” vs. CEOs or a media spokesperson. If you’ve spent your career in either of these roles it is tough to hear. When it comes to credibility, all of the carefully honed content from marketing or PR/Corporate communications that dominate corporate feeds and blogs isn’t really trusted. Rank and file employees are.
Those same employees were likely issued codes of conduct to guide their use of social media inside and outside of the office. According to Altimeter Group, only 18% of businesses have trained their employees adequately. With or without company guidance and support, most employees interpret these policy documents in one way: stay off Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook or you might get fired.
- Customers go to social media first
- Social media is understaffed at most companies
- Customer trust is highest with rank and file employees
- Most employees are discouraged from using social media at work
Houston, we have a problem.
Your biggest asset is sitting on the sidelines
Fear of what they’ll say
Fear of wasting time
Fear of losing control
It’s time to embrace the human organization
When we founded Cloze we had a simple motto that has guided us since day one: people come first, everything else is secondary. This human centric view should be no different for businesses.
There are simply too many interactions and opportunities on social media to not involve the rest of the organization.
People relate better to people, not faceless brands. As an organization you need to act and behave like a human, not a sterile robot. No one wants to talk with a robot.
This means involving more than just the corporate social media mavens. The goal, in the long term should be to engage everyone but, initially, start with employees that are already engaged with customers: sales, senior executives, product experts — anyone that likely should have their own voice on social media.
Think about all of the interactions you have as a customer, from interest to purchase, to customer service. During the “customer journey” you will interact with many different employees along the way, but each touchpoint provides an opportunity to reinforce the brand promise. Let’s take a B2B example where you have narrowed your product choice down to two companies: One company has salespeople with no recent shares on LinkedIn or Twitter relating to the industry they serve and the other is highly active with relevent and interesting shares — who would you think knows more? Which would you take advice from? Who would you have more confidence in?
Your employees are your most powerful sales tool
Now is the time to mobilize your employees on social media. Facebook is now 10 years old. Linkedin is 11 year old. Twitter is 8 years old. 73% of online adults now use a social networking site of some kind. At this point, it’s highly likely that all of your employees use some form of social networking — and are comfortable doing so.
Your employees are your brand
At a high-level each business is the sum of all of their employees. With social media we have moved into a new era where each employee is their own brand — a brand that is highly portable. Employees bring their own network of relationships, their own perspective and their own personality to the organization. They are free agents — renting their brand to the organization. For marketers this has a big implication as your company brand is now in many ways derived from all of these individual people brands. Your brand has become your coworkers.
Mobilize your organization on social media
Like anything, to get it right this evolution needs to be nurtured. Some employees will already have their own voice while others will be just getting started, but what is clear — a business cannot be human without all of these personal brands.
Here are some tips to get you started.
- Feed them relevant content — Seed your employees with interesting and relevant content so they don’t have to spend the time finding it themselves. This will get them involved while the conversation is still fresh.
- Have fun — Don’t just push your own content on employees. As a rule of thumb keep company related media to less than a third of all content shared. Find something fun? Share it. It keeps the conversation fresh and employees more engaged if they aren’t just “parrotting”.
- Start at the top — If you want employees on social media you need to do so yourself. It will help set the tone and educate them along the way as to what is appropriate and how to let their own personalities shine through.
- Make it dirt simple — Don’t over complicate it for them. Some training and tips are always recommended, but complex certifications and software is death to any program. In fact — it shouldn’t feel like a “program” or campaign at all. Remember the average employee likely hasn’t used any kind of social media management software.
- Be authentic — this means giving employees room to find and create their own voice, their own personal brand and their own point of view. If you lock down and force only company approved tweets, customers will see through this pretty quickly. Help them with content to share, hashtags, copy ideas, but let them put their own spin on it.
Social business is here to stay. Now is the time to embrace and support your many personal brands. Your customers will engage with you at deeper level and ultimately become more loyal. Let the human in your organization shine through.