By Heather Lutze
As many companies have already discovered, having a business presence in social-media communities such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can have a positive impact on their bottom line. Being able to connect with customers and prospects to build loyalty and community goes a long way in todays world, and social-media marketing is changing the way customer relations takes place.
One of the questions businesses ask when implementing their social-media strategy is, Do we open this up to the company? Some argue that allowing employees to access social-media sites during the day will result in a productivity drain. They often encourage businesses to put website filters in place and ban it altogether.
However, Australian scientists at the University of Melbourne recently published an interesting study that found when employees take time to visit websites of personal interest, it provides them a mental break and actually increases their ability to concentrate. The scientists documented a 9 percent increase in productivity among their subjects. As they explained, The activity helps keep the mind fresh and helps put you in a better place when you come back to working on a topic.
In addition, people dont work 100 percent of the time on what theyre assigned. They do other things such as get a snack, go to the restroom, talk to coworkers, surf the Web, etc. Essentially, theyre already giving themselves some diversion. The question is whether you want to offer a suitable distraction or let employees choose their own. Clearly, giving staff an acceptable pastime is the way to go, especially if doing so helps the companys revenue.
With that said, you cant simply allow everyone to post to the companys social-media sites arbitrarily. You need to establish rules of engagement. The following suggestions will help.
Put Everything in Writing
Detail what is and isnt allowed to happen on your social-media sites. For example, you may want to specify such things as not sharing proprietary or client information, keeping all posts positive, not divulging salary or benefit information, and not revealing any corporate intelligence.
What you allow or disallow is up to you and your specific company culture. Some companies decide they will talk about clients and customers (with the customers permission), while others feel talking about customers invites competitors to try and steal them. The main point for everyone to remember is if you wouldnt post the information on your company website, dont post it on a social-media site.
Make it clear in the document that if employees break any of the rules outlined, their job is in jeopardy. Additionally, reveal whether human resources is monitoring the e-mails, posts and tweets. Have each employee sign off on the social-media rules and place a copy in the employee file.
Rather than let everyone jump in feet first, start by forming a social-media committee. Send out an invitation to your staff for people to join the committee, but make sure they know its optional. Those who come to that meeting will be the best people to represent you on the Internet. Work with them to help clarify the rules of engagement and define your companys purpose for being on social-media sites. Then allow these people to become social-media advocates for your company. After a few weeks, have them report back to you on whats going well, what theyve learned, and whats not working.
After creating a policy or implementing adjustments based on their feedback, open social media to other employees until you have everyone on the sites who wants to be there. If someone doesnt want to tweet, blog or make Facebook posts, thats OK. Forcing people to be your social-media voice will backfire and cause more harm than good.
Consider IT and Other Staffing Needs
When implementing social-media access company wide, your information-technology considerations are critical. Youre opening your company outside your corporate firewall. Make sure youre protecting your companys assets before opening those portals.
Additionally, while social-media posts can be a rewarding part of peoples day, you will eventually need a full-time staff member to oversee your social-media activities. In fact, within the next two years, every company with more than $2 million in revenue should plan to have a full-time social-media position. Big companies already have such dedicated positions in place. Take your cue from them and start planning now.
Implement Your Policy From the Top
Your companys top-level executives need to be willing to dive into the companys social-media activities as well. If your employees see the CEO is on Facebook, posting tweets on Twitter, blogging regularly and having fun doing it, your employees will embrace social media as well. No matter what the companys size, structure or culture, the use of social media needs to work its way down.
The Way of the Future
Contrary to what some people may think, social media, especially for business, is not a fad. It may morph and change over time, but its certainly not going away. Companies that embrace it now and get employees involved will be the ones to reap the most rewards. Set up your social-media guidelines and gradually phase it into your operations. Not only will employees productivity increase, so will your companys bottom line.
Heather Lutze has spent the last 10 years as CEO of The Findability Group, formerly Lutze Consulting, a search-engine marketing firm that works with companies to attain maximum Internet exposure. A nationally recognized speaker, shes the author of The FindAbility Formula: The Easy, Non-Technical Approach to Search Engine Marketing. For more information, visit www.findabilitygroup.com .