The sales, marketing and customer service landscape is continually and swiftly evolving. Where in the past, contact centres, inbound and outbound sales reps and traditional marketing were sufficient to deal with queries, create awareness and demand, customers are seeking more from the organisations they support.
Whether you are a large enterprise or a micro business, modern customers are seeking real time engagement and service.
In order to be successful, businesses must embrace new technology and be available at every touch-point for customers. Fear of the seemingly unknown must be conquered and new opportunities swiftly and successfully incorporated and managed.
The practice of social media marketing has for some time been moving toward social media business in which a greater effort is made at incorporating customer services, as well as sharing valuable information with customers via social media channels. Social media business is now advancing even further however, and forward thinking organisations are empowering ‘social employees’.
Most employees today are active on at least one of the top five social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram). Empowering employees with an online voice at work, through social media and other online media channels, can be highly beneficial for both marketing and customer service. There is little doubt that this is a sizeable part of the future for customer service, sales and marketing.
Managing Risk in Social Media
Avoiding the seeming risk associated with letting a group of employees loose on your company social media accounts, is more often than not – counterproductive. In fact depending on the size and culture of your company, far more damage can be done to a brand when employee activity on social media is not managed efficiently.
This fairly well known photo of a Japanese Burger King employee lounging on a pile of hamburger rolls in August last year, is a good example of what can go wrong when employees engage on social media and that engagement has had no opportunity to be efficiently managed at the outset.
As Aliah Wright explains in the intro to her book ‘A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… and the hundreds of other social media sites’ – good companies pay attention to the social networking sites their customers and employees inhabit.
Efficiently managing risk in social media, forms part of your overall Online Marketing Management Strategy which in a nutshell, refers to the management of your reputation on the internet in every sphere. It is imperative to remain abreast with what your customers and employees are saying online, because they are talking even if you are not necessarily aware of it.
Imagine if one of your sales team was attending a conference and another attendee mentioned some mishap or piece of news to that person. In all likelihood, that piece of news will have been distributed and found on social media channels by your audience and competitors.
Scenario 1: With a pro-active Online Marketing Management Strategy in place, the chances are that your employee would know all about the piece of news or event, would be fully up to date on current circumstances thanks to regularly updated news feeds from the team, and would therefore be able to respond accordingly. The result: your company looks transparent, relevant and organised.
Scenario 2: On the flip-side, if you don’t have an efficient Online Management Strategy in place, your employee would be lost for words. The result: potential embarrassment for the employee, or an opportunity lost to promote your brand, products and services.
Creating an environment in which employees can engage on social media in a meaningful and constructive manner is a pro-active approach to risk management. For this to work however, your first step is to develop an Online Marketing Management Strategy and within that, your social media policies, procedures and guidelines.
You can find a range of examples and some truly fascinating information when you visit this Social Media Policy Database on the Social Media Governance website, where you’ll find policies from leading brands and organisations from across the globe. Alternatively, contact The Formula and we will work with you to draft a solid Online Marketing Management and Social Media Management Policy.
Uncover the Power of your existing Brand Ambassadors
Having cleared the air on the apparent risk of allowing your employees access to social media, let’s take a look at just some of the benefits that can arise when you begin to harness the power of your existing workforce to boost your social media efforts.
Keeping Teams and Customers Informed
Keeping customers informed goes beyond merely punting your products and services. In the event of a service malfunction or any apparent ‘disaster’, updating your clients as to the current state of affairs via social media is a pro-active way to deliver the level of service that they deserve at that time. One outstanding recent example of this is ENMAX, Canadian provider of electricity who kept customers updated, while curtailing rumours via social media during downtime as a result of flooding in Calgary.
But social media should not only be used in a crisis situation. Possibly one of the best local examples of a brand using social media and online marketing channels really well has to be FNB. By creating their online RB Jacobs persona, FNB have continued to keep their customers informed, while efficiently managing customer service complaints and queries via their various social media channels.
Of course employees who are linked with you social media pages can contribute to content, while remaining informed as well. A healthy curiosity should be encouraged in the workplace and the desire to assist individuals and teams to ensure that customers receive the best possible service and swift response to their queries.
Sharing Wins and Successes
Sharing success stories should be encouraged as a spontaneous and natural affair by both employees and customers. We’ve written in the past about the necessity for mobile short video productions in marketing, and in employee driven social media engagement strategies, these as well as photos really do come into their own.
On the ground footage and up-to-the-minute accounts of customer service tales and other company successes is ‘real’ material that your audience will find surprisingly newsworthy. People are inquisitive and most love a positive story – so sharing these via social media is a sure-fire way to help drive engagement.
Here is a remarkable story about Holly the Southwest Airline Attendant who won the praise of a passenger on one of her flights. Southwest Airlines, who we’ve referenced before as an exceptionally forward thinking airline, keeps an eye on their social media activity with the result that they were able to turn one client’s feedback and a staff member’s great service into something really special.
Keeping Employees Excited and Engaged
Beyond a great salary, psychological and social fulfilment are the key motivators for employees to stay at a company. While engaged employees actively contribute to achieving business goals and are committed to helping realise a positive future for the business, disengaged employees drag down others and negatively impact many areas such as customer service, productivity and quality.
If well planned, social media can:
Play an integral role in keeping employees connected to one another so that they feel an important part of something bigger by letting them engage and collaborate with each other through social media;
- Make their jobs easier by providing them with easy access to key information that will help them by using social media applications to make information more easily accessible;
- Enable employers to recognise employees by advertising their individual successes, compliments and contributions over social media channels.
A really fantastic example of an organisation using social media to drive employee engagement has to be PR Daily’s 2013 winner of the ‘Best use of Social Media for Internal Communications’ ConAgra. This North American organisation has made it possible for previous silos of information to be made more accessible to all relevant teams, while enhancing internal communications and project collaboration.
For those companies that are ready to take a step into the future of customer service, sales and marketing by empowering key employees with their own social media voice, there is no question that a solid Online Brand Management Strategy and Social Media Management Strategy is required to realise true success. The payoff however has the potential to achieve great things for your reputation with customers externally, as well as your operational success internally.
You may be feeling the need for a good brainstorming session or some expert guidance to ensure that social media is a success for your business. Give Garth Dahl or Shiraz Khatib a call on 021 556 5661 or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance with your Online Brand Management Strategy or your Social Media Management Strategy. Our consultations are free and we’re always looking for ways to help you make your business flourish!