6 steps to becoming a social business

This post was originally published at www.digitalpivot.com.


Sandy Carter, IBM’s vice president of social business evangelism, has it right when she says that becoming a social business involves much more than having a Facebook page and Twitter account.

“Becoming a social business can help an organization deepen customer relationships, generate new ideas faster, identify expertise, and enable a more effective workforce,” she said in a recent Forbes article by Dan Schawbel.

But where do you start?

If you get anything out of this post, let it be this: It’s OK to start slow. The point is, you have to start. If you want to achieve anything Carter said in the above quote, action needs to be taken beyond creating a Facebook page.

So, to start:

Develop solid social media guidelines and policies for company-wide adoption. Ideally, your company should have clear guidelines for both customers AND employees. With set rules in place for how people should be conducting themselves, there’s no room for debate if you have to remove a comment, block a user or — heaven forbid — fire someone. If you’re just dipping your toes into the social media pool, this site is a great place to peruse for policy inspiration.

Teach employees how to logically “separate” professional from personal. You can’t tell employees how to conduct their personal lives, but you can ask them to exercise a little common sense when it comes to what they share via social media. For instance, if your organization helps people stop abusing drugs and alcohol, your employees shouldn’t be posting photos of themselves on Facebook doing keg stands. At the same time, employees should be aware of their options: Facebook, for instance, allows users to customize who sees what on their profiles, and it’s not unheard of for people to maintain different Twitter handles for different pursuits. For more guidance, check out this article from Geek Girls Guide. It’s a a couple of years old but its sentiments still ring true.

Encourage employees to talk about what they’re up to at work via social media. Part of becoming a social business means letting go of the notion that using social media kills productivity. If your employees are just playing Bejeweled all day, that’s one thing — but if they’re using social media productively during the work day, they’re building awareness of your brand, responding to customer feedback, and hopefully driving in sales. Some of your more savvy employees already know how to seamlessly incorporate professional social media use into their daily routine. Others really have to remember to think about it. Be patient with these people, and encourage them to learn from other employees who get it right.

Teach employees best practices for interacting with customers via social media. This is mostly common sense: If someone asks a question, answer it. If they need help, help them. Just don’t do it three days from now. Social media has narrowed the acceptable response time down to minutes. So if an employee takes a day to respond to a question posed via social media, they’d better apologize for that before answering. And then, the answer better be great — after all, the customer waited a day for it. Further, employees should not engage in fruitless debate, or worse, become combative with customers online. If a customer is out of line, let your guidelines/policies dictate how to deal with it.

Help them consolidate a little of their time. We touched upon social media automation in an earlier blog post, and the sentiments are worth revisiting. Employees are busy, and they can’t necessarily chain themselves to a social network all day. In these cases, encourage a good mix of pre-scheduled posts and tweets and real-time interaction. Help them prioritize (a direct comment or message, for example, should be handled right away), and teach them how to use free social dashboards like TweetDeck or HootSuite. Better yet, choose a social dashboard that allows you to create “teams” that constantly monitor and interact from one place (HootSuite has a feature like this, but it requires a paid subscription).

Measure the impacts of all of the above. Social media activity can and should be measured by your business or organization. How else can you justify the use of such tools to the powers that be? Take it from seasoned marketer and social strategist Mark Schaefer: Social media is NOT FREE. The time and effort put into social media by each and every employee — including YOU — should be assessed and then adjusted as appropriate. If you know in your heart how beneficial social media can be to your business, then you have to be able to prove it.

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About Christine Geraci

Social Media Specialist and blogger. Mom. Wife. Journalist. Political junkie. Formidable cook. Solid addition to any music trivia team.

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