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Train Your Employees to Be Social Media Rock Stars by J-P De Clerck

Train Your Employees to Be Social Media Rock Stars by J-P De Clerck


Social Marketing : Train Your Employees to be Social Media Rock Stars

Train Your Employees to Be Social Media Rock Stars

A seemingly minor aspect of the social media marketing plan is drafting a social media policy and training your employees.

First, why do you draft such a policy?

Partially, because you can use it as a public message to share with customers, partners, etc., explaining how you commit yourself to listen to them and be an ‘open’, sharing, ‘human’ and social company that wants to engage in conversations with its customers.

By communicating it, you are in fact interacting with your customers and other people in the social and online influence sphere of your brand.

But of course social media policies also are drafted as guidelines for your employees. That might include some rules, but don’t see them as strict “laws” that suffocate your employees.

Besides, your employees use social media anyway, for personal reasons. My best experiences with brands online were not with the official representatives but with people working for these brands. Actually, I found out where they worked in their Twitter profile, after having connected with them. They were, without ever knowing it, the best ambassadors for their brand because they were real, interesting and fun. This reflected on the brand they worked for.

People define your brand

This is important because in the end your company and your brand are not what you want them to be; they are what the people within your company, in the ecosystem around your business, including obviously your customers, make it.

This is why having some kind of social media policy and social media monitoring are important: your employees are the first “faces” of an online and social brand. And a brand can not be open, social and participating if it doesn’t have that culture internally.

If you draft such a policy, you shouldn’t focus too much on what employees cannot do. On the contrary: focus on how you can help and train them. Engage them like you engage your customers because they are your customers as well!

Look at it as an incentive, a reward even. Value your employees by inviting them to participate in building your online brand, together, as a group of real people, all firmly trying to achieve a common goal.

You might think you can’t just have employees sharing information over social media about your company. At least, that’s what you want in an ideal world. But your employees will do it anyway. So motivate them to do it better by providing guidelines and including them in the training programs, another way of making them feel valued. And, yes, of course there can be some ‘rules’.

Dynamic markets, new technologies and emerging trends

Adapt your guidelines (and your training programs) as you are learning about social media marketing by doing it. You will try out new things, find things that don’t work, even make mistakes.

You will discover effects you hadn’t thought about or see flaws in the way you support your staff and train your employees or even in your policy. That’s OK, learn, adapt, improve and evolve.

Even if your social marketing strategy is perfect, your employees are trained perfectly, everybody in the company is using social media as you hope and your social media policy is water-proof, you still will have to evolve, as will your employees.

Customers change, the needs of communities change, technology changes, social media changes, everything changes and is dynamic. And there is always the next new thing.

Keep providing guidance and resources to your employees.

Since there will always be new features in social media and new tools and technologies, you might want to have someone inside or outside your company following emerging trends.

Social media training as a reward for motivated employees?

A social media policy should include a social media training program, even if you don’t actively use social media yet. After all, your customers do, so passivity is not a viable long term option.

The level and degree of training should depend from the public role of the persons in question. However, if you have employees that have experience in social media, are not in daily contacts with customers, etc. but want to play a bigger role in the social media marketing strategy of your company: why not give them a full training like your official spokespeople?

It’s a win-win because you don’t only want to value external customers, but also internal advocates AKA employees, and certainly those that show motivation and initiative. On top of that your employees acquire new skills and broader perspectives.

Of course this might also mean that once they’re trained they may be recruited to join another business, but isn’t that always a risk? It’s certainly not a good argument for not enhancing employee skills! Let’s be honest: there are many employees that learn through experience and training in a company and, once they have become experts in certain areas, decide to join a better paying company or start their own business.

That’s not a social media training issue, it’s a HR issue every company has to deal with.

So why not?

Takeaway: Your employees are using social media in any case. Don’t tell them what they can’t do. Train them and watch what they can do.


  • Profile:  Although thoroughly interested in social media marketing and interactive marketing in general, he strongly believes in email marketing and wrote several books, papers and articles about it in his native country, Belgium, where he launched and later sold the first interactive marketing site. Although not a big fan of personal branding, he decided to join our team because he feels there is still a lot of work to do in helping businesses having an integrated, customer-centric and data-driven cross-channel view. J-P’s main blog is Conversionation (warning: he can get cynical there) but he also blogs on Social Email Marketing, Social Marketing Forum, Search Cowboys, Conversion Marketing Forum and Dutch and Belgian blogs about, well, all things marketing. Seems he just can’t get enough punishment.
  • Website:  http://www.conversionation.net/blog
  • Twitter:   http://www.twitter.com/conversionation
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Your thoughts here
  1. Good outline, but Chris raises some very interesting questions. If you’re letting your employees use their personal accounts to react to something that’s being said about your company, aren’t THEY the ones that ultimately benefit, and not the brand? Sure, cool ambassadors are always welcome, but if something goes wrong with a paycheck, an inter office power struggle boils over, etc., you’ve got to remember that these are personal accounts, thereby, technically allowing employees to post/say whatever they want. Sure, they’ll do it anyway, but if they’ve cultivated a community of people interested in your brand, and are known as such, the results could be disastrous. Again, as Chris notes … things to think about when dealing with the face(s) of your company in the social media landscape.

    • Jack and Chris both raise very good points.

      Personally, I believe that you should be using branded accounts. In other words, if your company is XYZ and Jen is tweeting then she should have an account for work with is XYZJen. Or you could use our approach which is to use one main account and have people sign off tweets with initials. However the latter really isn’t going to work if you have a large number of people tweeting.

      Kind of like having business email accounts. Employees can access personal mail via the web from work, but any work correspondence goes via their work account.

      This way those accounts remain with the company even if that person leaves. Of course, personal account or biz, you lose that twitter equity if the person leaves. I’ve seen this a few times, but the main problem has been that the company didn’t fill the void quickly enough and lost their voice. One more incentive to take care of your rock stars I guess.

      As for what happens when a rock star leaves? Here’s a good post on bench depth in social media:
      http://www.theemailguide.com/social-marketing/radian6-building-a-bench-when-the-rockstar-leaves/

      Regards,
      jim

      Jim Ducharme
  2. Thanks for the great article, gave my team at Student Brands a policy for social branding, and think it will work nicely..Please carry on writing..Thanks again for the info

  3. Great Post J-P. Along the lines of this post I have questions others should think about when managing social media people who are the face of their company on twitter, Facebook, etc.

    What happens when that person leaves for greener pastures?
    Does your company feel stressed over that issue and do you have a plan-B?
    Do you feel that paying that person more money not to leave is a good idea?
    Can they be easily replaced?
    Who owns the accounts and do you have that in writing?
    What really separates the Social Masters from the Socially Inept?

    Just something to think about when dealing with social media and the scoial face(s) of your company.

  4. Love this post!
    I agree that employees are going to use social media regardless of whether companies want them to or even “allow” them to, so why not teach them to be awesome at using it.
    I’ve been doing some research on social media policies lately and I’ve found that a lot of companies do encourage employees to use social media if they want to. However, most companies also have specific trained people to deal with official company business, but how much better of an experience would it be if we could contact anyone at a company for an open and honest conversation?
    Yes, there will still need to be some rules in place, just in case, but I still love the idea of turning all your employees into social media rockstars.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    • I agree that accessibility is the most underrated and yet most powerful tool just about any company can employ. The only downside is the impact it can have on those human resources when you make everyone so accessible.

      Regards,
      jim

      Jim Ducharme
  5. Great post. I think one that should be mentioned is that the person who does the training should be well versed in the ways of social media. Often I have seen that the person who gives the training are not well schooled in the ways of social media etiquette.

    Sometimes it pays to have an outsider train people.

    Andrew

    • That’s a good point Andrew, but just how does a manager know if someone has a clue? So many social media “experts” are running around nowadays. Seems like fodder for another post to me;).

      Jim Ducharme
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