Feb 1 | Dave Gibson Like everyone else, leads have slowed for us too, so marketing is naturally expected to make up for that. Being the one-man marketing team and already tapped, I needed some help. I looked out across the studio and suddenly before my eyes I saw my crew transform from designers, programmers, and strategists into micro marketers. Each has networks and each has expertise and knowledge they can share. The challenge is that many are not natural marketers and they need guidance. So consider this as a guide to help employees be better micro marketers.
First a little context. For marketing managers and employers, its important to realized that whether they know it or not, and whether for good or bad, your employees that already blog and participate in social networks are already brand ambassadors representing your company. As networks grow and mix personal with professional connections (read Facebook Cures Personal/Professional Schizophrenia) employees need to first recognize that once that mix happens, everything they post will contribute to the impression of the company.
The opportunity here lies in identifying people with relevant and marketable expertise in your company and position them as thought leaders for the company. When convinced of the value and properly guided and motivated, these employees can each serve as mini marketers that open up entirely new channels.
Employee Guide to Social 1. Separating Personal and Professional: Make a conscious decision and act accordingly. Each employee should decide whether they should mix business with pleasure, and assume that once you do, you can’t turn back. Facebook is where we see this the most. A colleague or client invites you to be a friend. If you say yes, from that point on, they see what you post and what is posted to your wall. Everyone just needs to be conscious of this line and then act accordingly if it’s crossed.
Now there are methods for maintaining degrees of separation. One is to identify channels. You can decide that you’re going to use Facebook only for friends and family, and use LinkedIn for your professional network. I think this is common and acceptable. You just need to explain this to folks that invite you to join a network – call it your personal network policy.
Facebook also allows you to create “friend lists” for which you can control what members of a list can or cannot see. You can setup a “Professional Limited” friend category for example, and restrict access so that they don’t see your photos, religious and political affiliations, etc.
Companies might want to consider policies that address these issues as well. This begs a posting all on its own.
2. Employee as Company Ambassador Once the line is crossed and an employee is posting publicly or within networks that include professional contacts, they’re online actions reflect upon the company. The simple test of what content would be appropriate to post might include asking yourself “would I email this to my boss or a customer?”
3. Understand the Strategy and its Value It’s important for those participating to first understand why this matters. For Propeller, online marketing and application development is constantly evolving, so there is a lot of education we have to do about the risks and opportunities, and the strategies that address both. There are also a lot of hacks. So, our social strategy is to first educate our community and position Propeller as the partner for both the strategy and execution. We want to be recognized for our thought leadership and further the separation the wheat from the chafe.
This effort is valuable because we ultimately want to build upon our position of thought leadership. Plus we need to educate our clients and the market about what we do and its value. In our business, the person-to-person relationship is very important. We want to earn trust, and it starts with honesty and showing potential customers who we really are. We have excellent people with great ideas, strong work ethic and high values. We want to leverage all these things through multiple channels and build broader awareness with the least amount of effort (for me).
The other huge value point is how these efforts affect SEO. Dominating the search engine results page (SERP) is of major importance. Multiple channels and the in-bound and cross links that an army of micro marketers can provide is gold. Let your staff know of pages that need inbound links and the associated keywords for staffers to user in their posts and the anchor text of the link. Outbound links are important too for that matter.
4. Channels, Message, Tone Whether it’s the website, blog, LinkedIn, Facebook ,Twitter – the message and tone is going to be unique. The audience will be different as will be the culture. Let me walk through just a few channels – there are many more, but this is a combo that work well together. I’m ordering these from strictest to loosest in terms of message and tone. In all, while the conversation tone may become more conversational, don’t abandon proper grammar, spelling, and common sense. Assume your mother, your boss, and your customer will read anything you write.
Website: Here the message is professionally designed, with clear communication of your mission, offering, and competitive advantage. It’s tight and professional. The average employee isn’t going to write on the site, but the website serves as the strictest of the channels
Blog: Depending on the company the blog is going to serve many purposes such as education, customer engagement, hr recruiting, and/or SEO. Where the website may be written in the second or third person, here you write in the first. The tone shifts to be more conversational and real – here you talk to the audience as if they’re in the room with you. It’s an opportunity to really demonstrate thought leadership while educating clients.
LinkedIn: As a professional networking tool used for lead generation, customer engagement, branding, recruiting – the tone of the profile page tends to be pretty stiff. Consider it to be a dynamic resume – so dot each i and cross teach t.
Facebook: Crosses personal with professional with those that choose. Create a “friend list” for professional contacts and restrict access. Be smart, and use good judgment about what you post and who can see it. Facebook can be used very effectively as a channel for positioning yourself as a thought leader – and for getting the word out.
Twitter: As a microblogging platform, you only have 140 characters to make your point anyhow, so grammar and spelling are out the door. Text messaging short cuts are common. Rather than sharing the fact that you’re eating a PB&J, this channel is more effective in sharing what has your attention: breaking news, links, ideas, and events. Here's a great article on using Twitter for business by Chris Brogan
5. Appropriate Content You want to obviously put a positive light on what you post. Don’t air your dirty laundry. Duh, right? You’d be surprised. You may address a challenge your company might face, but make sure the challenge isn’t potentially damaging to the sense of trust from the customer, and then only to highlight the brilliant solution that evolved from addressing the challenge. Transparency is important, but for the sake of your company, be smart about it. In all, take it back to that rule mentioned before: if it passes the mom, boss and customer test, it’s probably fine. If you have a question, ask the person in charge of the company’s marketing strategy.
In general though, content needs to be engaging to the given audience. Allow humor and tangents. Let it be fun to write.
Last Point for Employers and Managers For employers, temper fears of “controlling the message”, and understand that its too late for that. The opportunity is to now engage and turn your crew into an army of micro marketers to position your company where you want it.
Post Script | March 25, 09 : Found this blog post noting the US Air Force's adoption of social media and their use of service men as word-of-mouth communicators. For all those afraid of loosing control of the message - consider the implications of the military now entering the social web.