A study by Ning found that it only takes 20 people to create meaningful many-to-many interactions and bring an online community to a significant level of activity. The social sphere is available to companies large and small. As companies become more social, it is inevitable that employees, either representing the company or themselves, will engage in online conversations that relate to business matters. Many smart companies recognize the value of these interactions and, rather than limit this engagement, encourage and promote it. The question is: how do you effectively leverage social engagement while maintaining security and company ideals?
Determine Your Voice
First and foremost it is important to determine and lay out ground rules for the voice of your company. For some, it might be a professional and courteous tone. For others, being cutting edge and even a little controversial might be best. Be aware that both have their pros and cons; though it is true that the edgy voice can get more engagement, it is not always positive. It is helpful to create a branding document that details what the voice of the company should sound like, and try to maintain relative consistency across social channels. Note that this does not necessarily require a single voice, as we will discuss next.
Who is Talking?
Next you have to figure out who, exactly, is speaking? Some businesses opt for corporate social accounts. “XYZ Corp.” might be the name people see on Facebook, Twitter, or online forums, even though a social media employee or team is doing the talking. A better approach is to allow employees to use their own names, linked with the company in either the profile or as an add-on to the name (Kara, From XYZ Corp., for instance). Because engagement on social channels relies on human interaction, knowing more about the person doing the talking leads to more substantial conversations.
Level of Authority
Some companies allow executives up to and including the CEO represent the business socially. Again, there are two sides to this coin. Some people may appreciate the fact the high-level executives take time out of their day to engage with fans. However, does the executive “get” social media? If the executive is disingenuous or sporadic about posting, it’s probably best to hand the task to someone with more knowledge and passion for this developing niche. It is important to remember that things posted online are permanent; flippant commentary can have lasting negative consequences. Executive accounts need to follow all of the regulations present in the branding document.
There are many options for engaging online, and the importance of those engagements have grown so large that a well thought out strategy is critical. Not only does it allow for better branding and marketing, but discussions can improve customer relations and even act as a separate customer support channel. The trick is keeping the discussions informative, interesting, and above all, aligned with company policy.