By Daniel Burrus
The new frontier of Web 2.0 is not just about informing your customers; it's about communicating with them. Today's Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the many other social media options, are all about customer engagement.
When you send your prospects or clients an email, a mailer, or a newsletter, or when you place a TV, radio, or print ad, you're informing your readers about something. Those are information age tools that still have a purpose. However, social media is about the communication age. You're attempting to create a dialogue, trying to get engagement, and hoping to elicit a response. So it's not just about talking; it's about listening. Ultimately, social media is not about the media. It's about the social -- about trying to get people talking about something important to them and to your business.
What's Your Focus?
In order to make the best business use of social media, your organization needs to pinpoint the specific message you want to put out so that all employees have a guide to follow -- so they know what direction their messages should take and how they should focus their posts. In other words, is your company's focus to increase customer service? To enhance awareness of your products or services? To boost your brand recognition? Each of these things would have a different consistent message for your employees to focus on.
For example, one insurance company uses Twitter and Facebook to let people know all the philanthropic things they are doing for the community. All the posts are about events they're sponsoring and contributions they're making. Employees know that they should post information about personal things they're doing for the community, such as volunteering at the local animal shelter or helping out with Habitat for Humanity. With a clear guideline that the social media effort is to increase philanthropic awareness, it's easy for employees to know the kinds of things they should be doing on social media sites. They have a clear focus and a unified purpose.
Another company in the retail industry uses social media to improve customer service. All their posts highlight things they're doing internally to improve the customer experience, what they're doing online to make shopping easier, and how they're handling phone inquiries to deliver a memorable shopping experience. They also regularly ask customers how they'd like the company to improve customer service. With that as the key message, all the company's employees are focused on problem solving and on making the customers happy.
Therefore, a good social media strategy and employee guidelines are far more than a list of good and bad words or topics. Instead, they need to focus on the core message your company wants to portray and then determine the best ways to spread that core message. That's why upper management needs to take the time to determine the core message and share it with all employees.
Creating the Guidelines
Creating social media guidelines for your company does not have to be difficult. Once you get clear on the core message you want to send out and the dialogue you want them to engage with, use the following tips to create guidelines that your staff can use to shape their posts around the strategy. (Note: the following suggestions are general in nature. Please adhere to your state's HR laws and seek legal counsel as needed.)