Before launching any kind of social media strategy, companies need to first understand that it can be affected by anyone who receives a paycheck from them. From the CEO right down to the janitor, whether they've seen your social media strategy or not, they are involved in your social media strategy.
The janitor? Really?
Yes, the janitor! Even the cook, or the person who answers your phones, and the guy who delivers the mail to your office every day, they too can affect your social media strategy in ways you probably haven't even thought of up until this point.
You haven't thought of them because they don't participate in creating the strategy or sitting in on meetings discussing your research. But believe me, they can have a significant effect on the outcome, whether you or they realize it. This is why it's important to make sure you not only plan contingencies for your corporate social media efforts, but also put in place policies for employees and their actions on social media platforms.
Your employees are now on the web more than ever. Whether is a connection from work, home, the library or even free public wifi, just about anyone can get access to the Internet, and all of the ways to communicate with likeminded individuals who share the same passions that they do. With each passing month that goes by, all of these social media platforms continue to grow their user bases, undoubtedly some of your employees are on them and being very social.
Now do you see where I'm going?
Companies really need to take into account what their employees do in their hours away from the office. Everyone has hobbies, most people love to share their experiences about those hobbies, and these days they go online to do just that. They could be joining MySpace, Twitter or Facebook to converse with long-lost high school friends, old fishing buddies or other Girl Scout leaders. They could be avid community leaders in forums you would have never even thought existed, and in these communities, they are the authority.
The internet gives anyone a voice through these social platforms. Because of the ease of voicing opinions on social media platforms, you need to not only be prepared and plan contingencies, but actually work at getting your entire company bought into your own social media strategy.
Getting buy-in isn't easy, but most people want to do the right thing. So rather than coming down with an iron fist and demanding your employees take down their blogs, work with them to understand that their words have influence. Just because you hand your employees a paycheck doesn't mean you have ultimate authority over what they do in their off hours and it would behoove you to work with them, rather than against them. You can even discover an occasional gold mine in what your employees are doing outside the office, so wouldn't it be better to work with that gold mine?
You need to work with your employees to understand how what they do online can ultimately affect what your company is attempting to do. Even Facebook updates have an effect on how a company is perceived. Take for example the Philadelphia Eagles.
Back in March, a part time employee of the Eagles lost his job because he voiced his opinion on Facebook about the Eagles letting popular player Brian Dawkins go to the Denver Broncos. There was no discussion with the employee about this, just a phone call that he was fired. The Philadelphia media jumped on the Philadelphia Eagles organization for making poor choices and fanning the flames of fan discontent even more.
At the end of the day, the employee looks much better than the Philadelphia Eagles, especially when Dawkins makes more headlines by giving the ex-employee his guest passes to the game when Denver plays Philadelphia this year. Talk about a total miscalculation and no contingency plan!
Companies have to start thinking about setting policies in place about how their employees reference their employers on social media sites. Especially if they are negative, they must clearly spell out what the repercussions are. Your Human Resources department shouldn't be doing this alone, you'll also need the help of your online marketing and social media teams to help define these policies. Almost every employee on your payroll is going to be smart enough to understand they shouldn't be saying negative things about their employer on public forums.
Beyond the policies, the online marketing or social media team should be internally championing your efforts on the different platforms. They should be talking to all your employees about social media and perhaps how other employees can casually help out with your strategy.
By getting this type of buy-in from within your own walls, and understanding that all your employees affect your social media strategy, it only makes your strategy that much stronger and gives it a much better chance for success.