You Should Forget Big Brother and Encourage Social Business

Michael Idinopulos, Chief Marketing Officer, PeopleLinx

You Should Forget Big Brother and Encourage Social Business

When the social media team at British entertainment retailer HMV decided to tweet out the details of a mass layoff, the company couldn’t stop them. According to Business Insider, HMV’s official account tweeted, “There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand.”

Not so loyal anymore.   

In situations like this, companies sometimes wish they had Big Brother-like powers over branded and personal social media accounts, but going 1984 is not a solution.  Although employees can reflect poorly on your brand, they can also create brand value through intelligent social networking. Likewise, you can further their careers and personal brands by supporting efforts on social media. The art of managing social business is to help your employees help you.

Like a 6th Grade Dance

On social media, talented professionals can look more awkward than sixth graders at a school formal. Some can’t put their suit or dress on correctly let alone ask anyone to dance.

Most LinkedIn profiles are cringe-worthy, and the social cluelessness goes all the way to the top. Last autumn my company, PeopleLinx, analyzed the LinkedIn profiles of the CMOs in the Fortune 100. We found that 10 didn’t have LinkedIn profiles at all, and four of the 100 still listed their previous company as their employer. That’s like walking into meetings and saying, “I forgot my new business cards, so take this one from my last job.”

While it’s improbable that your employees will tweet racist jokes about AIDS in Africa or diss obese PhD candidates, someone at your company has probably scared off a prospective customer.

NSA is Not the Way  

To prevent social networking disasters, companies are tempted to block social media sites or monitor every word like the NSA.

Becoming Big Brother is the wrong solution. If you block or censor your employees on social media, you’re not protecting your brand – you’re depriving your company of one of the best marketing and sales tools at your disposal. No company can afford to blackout social.

The better approach is to encourage social activity. Help employees be present and active on social, and give them the tools, training, process, and metrics to do it effectively. You can especially help in three areas:

  • Personal branding. Teach employees how to create fantastic profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. Help them find (or take) good-looking, professional photos. Make sure they know what name to use for your company and how to describe what it does. Suggest other keywords, phrases, and URLs they should include in their profiles.
  • Managed networks. Few activities inspire as much social anxiety as managing a network. Recommend criteria they should use to form connections. What companies and roles should they target? Should they connect to prospects during the buying cycle? When and how?
  • Content sharing. Some companies see 20+ click-throughs on average, every time an employee shares content. However, employees get skittish when they lack content to share, or they are worried about violating company policies. Provide a stream of interesting, relevant content approved by Marketing and Compliance for social sharing.  Curate a library of blog posts, infographics and videos that individual employees can easily select and share.

Measure and Improve

Social is a channel of communication; a means of interacting with customers, prospects, partners, and influencers as an extension of existing marketing, sales, and support processes. Thus, social needs to be measured and optimized, and three categories of metrics are important:

  • Activity metrics. How many employees participate in your social program? How many have updated their profiles? How many pieces of content have they shared? These questions will tell you whether your employees are getting in the game or not.
  • Engagement metrics. These are the usual social “vanity” metrics: Likes, comments, shares, followers, etc. They tell you if your content and employees are attracting attention on social networks.
  • Impact metrics. These metrics vary with the business and employee functions. If you’re doing social customer service, measure resolution times and customer satisfaction. For social marketing, look at click-throughs generated, and see how many click-throughs result in leads. For sales, measure how much of your pipeline and deal flow ties to prospects your team found on social networks.

The most successful companies view social networking as another opportunity to better market, sell, and deliver to their customers. Rather than snoop on employees, great companies guide, empower, and encourage them.

So forget 1984. Take your company to 2014.

About the Author

Michael Idinopulos is the Chief Marketing Officer at PeopleLinx, helping the world’s great organizations to harness the power of social business.