Is your brand in the hands of your employee bloggers and twitterers?

Posted on May 25, 2012

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The session on Social Media at the Reputation in Oil Gas & Mining conference opened with the observation made by one commentator recently that employees should spend an hour a day on each social media channel they are active on. As the speaker pointed out, if you are on LinkedIn, twitter, Facebook, instagram and pinterest then this means you’re unlikely to start work until around 3pm in the afternoon.

It’s all an over-exaggeration, but perhaps this is why there are far too many senior executives that see social media as a waste of time. Undoubtedly, quotes like this don’t help.

But today social media is not about being a Comms controlled channel. To be authentic the business and the people within it have to own the social media. Authenticity is key, and as one commentator at the conference expertly pointed out, now social media is here you don’t own your brand – it’s not what you say about it, it’s what others say about it!

This has huge implications for the social media strategy. Terrifying, one conference delegate said. You need to decide where you want to be. Don’t just be everywhere. Not only is it impossible to manage and scatter gun, but it makes listening that much harder. Because you do have to listen. If you are going to use social media then it is not all about broadcasting. It’s about scanning the channels, listening to what others have to say and joining in the conversation. It’s not another advertising channel.

And this is why employees can be so good. By all means introduce a social media policy that clamps down on activity, but be aware that the pressure on the centre to listen to all those conversations happening in social spaces will be immense. Why have one pair of eyes and one voice when you can have thousands.

And that begs the question as to what the social media policy should be. Far too many of these start with the “don’ts”. Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t think of saying that, do this and you’re fired, do that and you’re on a written warning, it goes on and on. We shouldn’t be surprised if at the end of reading a social media policy an employee feels inclined to never ever mention the brand they work for.

Social media policy need to start with phrases like this – “if you inclined to do so then we’d love you to talk about the company you work for. Go for it! We trust you. After all, if our customers see us saying positive and honest things about the work we’re doing then they are much more likely to buy from us and that has to be good for everyone that works here! Ok, so there are a few technical things, but rule 1 is common sense prevails.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we started our policies with do’s rather than don’ts? Of course you can link through to the technical bits, but the first action surely has to be one of encouragement.

This is something that will, in my view, eventually be forced on most companies. The social media activity of the employer and employees will very soon affect the employer brand reputation. We here a lot about digital natives and digital immigrants – the digital natives will just expect this soon. They’ll shy away from a business that isn’t attuned with the way they naturally work.

So, that’s why I’m a happy employee – free to blog!

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