Recently, a friend of mine asked me a question that has become a very common topic of interest for businesses, small and big alike. I got an e-mail saying that he was interested in the "best practices for putting out guidelines/codes of conduct for employees using social media." After some thought, this is what we have come up with.
There are quite a few things you might want to take into consideration when drafting guidelines for employees. Usually when it comes to larger companies, you want employees to be well aware of how they endorse you. They might think it's okay to represent your brand or logo by making it their "profile picture," or by posting a status about the company. This should only be done in good fashion if it is a company-wide way to get your name out. If that is the case, there should be prior notification via meetings or e-mail, announcing that the company would like employees to post about a specific event or announcement.
Unless you are using employees as a part of a marketing campaign, pictures and logos should not be represented as a profile picture-- simply because of this: I believe Marlboro had this problem years ago when an employee made the Marlboro logo his profile picture, and then had obscene statuses on his profile-- which depicts the company in bad light. They need to remember at all times that they represent YOU!
You might want to consider having all employees have some sort of privacy enabled, and give a seminar on how to use the privacy settings on Facebook. While this can protect them in many ways, this can also protect your company in the future. Especially, with new changes coming to Facebook and Twitter, it would be wise to make settings on personal profiles that allow the user to accept or decline tags where their name is mentioned.
If your company has a crisis team enabled somewhere (there should be at least some small department or code that says if a crisis is happening, here's who speaks to the media, here's what we do, etc), you should make sure this team is well aware of how Facebook and Twitter can be used to your advantage should a crisis appear. Whether the crisis is good (i.e. your company becomes recognized as one of the best for 2012), or the crisis is bad (i.e. your company is under fire because someone has been embezzling money), your crisis plan should implement social media. Taking full responsibility in the light of social media is a great way to gain the public's trust, and keep a good reputation. For more on crisis communications, click here.
Holding annual or bi-annual seminars on social media should be implemented, and employees should be well aware of their role on the internet. Many people tend to easily forget that anyone can see pictures, posts, and personal information if privacy settings are not enabled. This should not discourage anyone from using social media, but instead, should encourage people to be aware of how to use it-- especially when the reputation of your company could be at risk.
With the holidays coming up, internet sales are going to increase dramatically. As people search for the perfect gift for their friends and family, this is the perfect time to take advantage of all of this consumer excitement. Promoting your business towards the end of the year can help you meet those sales goals that you may have missed in months past. Offering holiday specials are one way to drive more customers in, but social media can give you the boost to let more potential customers know about your product in a quicker fashion.
You want your business's name to stick in consumer's minds, and one way to do that is to frequently update your Facebook and Twitter accounts. For instance, many companies might offer special deals to those who "like" their Facebook page, or for those who comment on a specific status. Being creative and flexible with your strategy will set you apart from the rest; staying in contact with your customer's will enable you to create relationships that will last long after the holiday season. Make sure to keep your client's informed about new products and special discounts, and you are bound to make an impression on them that will drive them back to your business. Check out these tips from Sam Cannon of the E-commerce Times. (Click here to see the full article).
Brands that are already active on Twitter and Facebook will have the most success leveraging social campaigns over the holidays due to their built-in fan base and followers, but brand marketers should not overlook the opportunities that exist within location-based applications such as Foursquare, Gowalla and even Facebook's new "Deals" feature.
Many retailers are already generating revenue by posting daily offers that can be redeemed locally. Adding location-based promotions is an effective way to drive in-store traffic and creates another touch point for consumer engagement.
Finding that perfect gift for someone can be a challenge, and shoppers oftentimes will turn to gift cards as a last resort. As an alternative, consider a new twist on the "wish list" feature on most leading e-commerce sites.
The first step is to make the experience of building the wish list more engaging for the user. For example, instead of calling it a wish list, get creative. If your target audience is made up of music fans, launch a poster or album cover creator -- something that will resonate with consumers and be seen as less of a chore to assemble.
The most important element here, however, is making the wish list easy to share across Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites. Enable individual items to be shared with Facebook friends for feedback or one-off "wishes."
Some of the most effective retail marketing campaigns are those that create truly personal connections with consumers. Great examples are those digital experiences that enable shoppers to try things on virtually -- clothes, hairstyles, makeup -- making the consumer part of the brand.
In order to maximize these experiences, take them a couple steps further. After a consumer interacts with the promotion, give them the tools they need to easily share their experience with friends in their social networks so they can join the fun too. Don't forget an enticing follow-up offer to seal the deal -- a promotional code, coupon or other offer that will turn these branded experiences into sales.
Retailers have been extremely successful using social media to broadcast time-sensitive deals as a way to reward their loyal customer base.
Post-holiday, these deal feeds are a great way to clear out the inevitable stack of returned merchandise. So, consider using your brand's Twitter feed (or creating a new one) as an auction mechanism for the post-holiday returns.
It goes without saying that retailers should try to make the holiday shopping experience as stress-free as possible. So when using social media channels to communicate with your customers, be sure to clearly articulate the value.
Be clear about what role each of your social community efforts is supposed to play -- both internally and with your fans and followers. If it's to answer gift questions, then do that only. If there is another effort to address availability of gifts, make sure your team understands that.
Anticipate that if you create the impression or expectation that your social environment can help with holiday shopping, then customer expectations for you to deliver on that promise will likely be higher than at almost any other time of the year.
Reverse Social Marketing: Crisis Management
Much of the social media world is still being figured out. The best approach to understanding how exactly this works is knowing that what you are dealing with is two-way communication. We are past the days of brochures and billboards, comment cards and customer complaint files. The future of social media holds the possibilities of websites, blogs, and real-time updates, but that comes with the horror of complaints being filed right on your website for all to see-- and it all boils down to how you react. So what should you do if you get a bad review? Let's say someone came to your Facebook and posted a bad review on your wall on how bad your customer service is, or someone with a huge following on twitter made a tweet about how much they dislike your company? How do you respond? Addison Clark Online would like to offer a few tips on how to handle public relations when things go wrong.
1. Do not point fingers.
Blaming someone else will make you look bad; no matter if it is your fault, your brother's fault, or completely out of your hands, do not do it! It is YOUR company, so regardless of the issue, the best way to handle this crisis is to take responsibility and own up. Take for instance the case of Johnson and Johnson when their Tylenol bottles were tampered with. (For more info. check out this site). In short, seven people were found dead after taking extra-strength Tylenol. The bottles had been tampered with and deadly cyanide had been inserted into the pills. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming the person(s) who had done the tampering, Johnson and Johnson assumed responsibility and removed the product off of the shelves in a massive recall. The public's safety came first, and J&J risked their own profit to ensure that no one else would be hurt by their product. Their reputation was saved and they have continued to prosper since this tragic incident.
2. Silence is your enemy!
Some people think they if they do not respond to a bad review, it will go away-- wrong! In a world where media is available at the click of a button, videos can go viral within an hour. Let's analyze the Domino's pizza crisis where two of their employees put up a "fake" video of them mishandling food, including putting cheese up their nose and violating multiple health-code standards. (Check out this article). The video spread fast, and resulted in the two employees being charged with felonies and being fired. But what about the reputation of the company? They faced millions of appalled customers, and a multimedia frenzy was quickly backing them into a corner. It took Domino's pizza a few days to respond, and even then, their apologies seemed a bit phony and they kept repeating that the video was supposedly a joke. Maybe if they had responded immediately, the video could have been removed, as well as the two employees, and Domino's could have saved their reputation by appearing more sincere and concerned about their customers. Instead, they are still working to recover from this abomination.
3. Have a Crisis team ready at all times!
A crisis does not always have to be considered a bad thing. This past Spring, VCU put their name on the map as their Men's Basketball team entered the Final Four. Nationwide, people were wondering who the Rams are. VCU had to go into crisis mode; this was an event that could help them potentially reach an entirely new audience, so why not use it to their benefit? Commercials had to be made by advertising departments, centering on VCU basketball and al l of the great things that the school is known for. Let's be serious, some of the first few commercials weren't all that great. The school's website also took a hit. VCU's website received over 11 million hits that Sunday night after beating Kansas, and donations hit over $250,000. VCU's crisis team definitely had to be prepared to work around the clock! Having a plan for a crisis never hurt anyone-- it's inevitable that a crisis will happen(whether it be good or bad), but being prepared will be your best defense.
Making the Most of Social Blogging for Your Business
Inc.: Tips for Using Social Blogging to Grow Your Business
For this month's blog, we have scoured the World Wide Web to locate the best tips for a business utilizing social blogging. Thanks to Inc.com, we found 5 great tips all in one place! From a start up business to an established firm, everyone can use social blogging to generate brand awareness. Interacting with your customers has shown to generate more than just impressions on your Facebook page; it in turn shows a boost in revenue. Accurately reaching your customers via social media has the ability to increase your visibility, drive traffic to your company's website, and improve your search engine results.
1. Encourage interaction and feedback. Your company can benefit from valuable feedback through comments and suggestions. Do a call for action in your posts. You can also gain insight about your audience using Q&A, bookmarking icons, link builder, word tracker, Google Adwords and so on. Make it easy for your readers to share posts. Encourage them to share tips and personal experiences with using your products or services. Just make sure you are on hand to respond to any comments, says Richards. Failing to do this is a sign that you don't respect or care about your audience.
2. Share experience and information. Social blogging is often used to share experiences in addition to business ideas and concepts. Always seek unique opportunities to share your ideas and offerings with not only your readers, but their associates as well, which will eventually bring in more prospects. Announce upcoming events, awards, and other news. But do it in a conversational tone. Hopefully, your target audience will retweet or share your story. Don't overlook Tunmblr, which is popular in the microblogging realm. Users can post text, photos, quotes, links, dialogues, audio, video, slideshows and "Tumble" other posts. Tumblr provides the option of custom domains. You can auto-syndicate to Facebook and Twitter. Users can track stats with Google Analytics.
3. Link back to your website. Make sure everything you do is somehow tied back in to your company website. Use RSS feeds so your main site always has fresh content, which improves search engine rankings, says Martin. Use your Twitter account to build links to your blog. Use tags and keywords that make your posts more searchable. Google Keyword Tools is a great device, adds Martin.
4. Keep it fresh and mix it up. Frequent one note updates can be a major turn off for say Facebook fans, while Twitter followers are more accustomed to frequent posts. Try to mix it up. Spark up conversation with the help of images and videos. Marketing experts suggest businesses update their audiences on a regular basis but only if there's something new, informative and interesting to say. Even if you need to repeat an update to promote a current offer or a call to action for a project, put a new twist on it each time.
5. Use a personal touch. Having your employees or even the president post updates can help revolutionize how your business communicates with your customers and associates. Take Bill Marriott, chairman and CEO of Marriott International, he is one of the most famous corporate bloggers worldwide. His "Marriott On The Move" interactive weekly posts has won the site loyal fans. You can follow his updates on Twitter @Billmarriott. Marriott's personal involvement has had a far-reaching impact within the company. Since first launching their CEO's blog, the company has continued to grow in the social media sphere by adding more blogs, several different Twitter feeds and even its own online community for Marriott Rewards members.
You may or may not have seen these bar code-like, one-dimensional designs, but they are rapidly growing in usage. Products, brochures, newspapers, magazines, and even store windows are making room for the QR code. This month we'd like to tackle the 411 about these codes and how they may be beneficial to you and your business!
What is this is QR code business? Quick Response codes (QR codes) are similar to the typical bar code we are all used to seeing on most every product. Unlike this new addition to the bar code family, typical bar codes track price and inventory. The QR code, on the other hand, has the ability to hold much more information. With a quick scan a QR code can drive traffic to your website, Facebook page, and so much more. With the use of an iPhone, Android, or any camera-ready Smartphone the code will direct you to the digital content on the web. Even better there are FREE applications like Scanlife that can be downloaded to your phone to read QR codes. Another function, which Andrew and Jeff absolutely love, the code can hold contact information, which is directly placed into your phone book when scanned.
Where do these codes go? With the versatility of QR codes, they can be placed almost anywhere!! If you'd like to drive traffic to your website a code can be placed on fliers, brochures, receipts, name tags, store windows, or even the side of a truck! United Airlines is one of the many major airlines that now use these QR codes as a digital boarding pass. With the ability to store contact information or your web address the back of your business card is a great place to start. The placement possibilities are endless; I've even seen them on t-shirts.
Why use them? With a number of sites that generate these for FREE, there is no reason not to jump on the bandwagon (a trendy bandwagon at that). While generating the code via sites like qrcode.kaywa.com you simply enter the appropriate data, maybe spice it up with some color and BAM, easy access for your customers.
People, to my dismay, are not mind readers. That being said, if you don't tell, show, sing, or ask people to find you on your favorite social media platforms-- they won't. Here are 6 easy ways to show off your social and increase your social media traffic.
1.) Your Email Signature,
You know that target market you're always looking for to join you online? You probably just sent them an email and they have no idea you are social.
Sincerely, Another Missed Opportunity
Did somebody say opportunity? Yes! Just thinking about how many e-mails you and your employees send out a day should be enough to get you giddy inside. For a simple explanation of how to and pictures, here is a link to help you upgrade your signature.
Food for thought. Erica Lamberta, an amazing marketing professional at Virginia Commonwealth Univerisity, suggests in addition to adding the links to your signature also encouraging your pen pal to join you on your social network. Before your signature, list the benefits of joining your group and ask them to join. For example,"For more interesting articles about how social media can help your business and updates about ACO, join us on our Facebook page www.facebook.com./addisonclarkonline."
2.) Business Cards
Move over watermark, social media icons are the new hottest thing to put on your business card. If you don't have it on your business card already and are not planning on getting more soon, that's okay. Place a sticker on the back of your card asking your new friends to join your social platforms. Did somebody say creative opportunity? How fun! Give your friends more to look at than a picture of social media icon. Write something funny or persuasive as to why they should join your social scene.
3.) Signs in Store
Let your customers know you're online and want to be a part of their life! Little signs by the register and hanging in your window are perfect places for you to show off your social.
4.) On your Website!
Displaying social media icons on your website is like adding milk to your cereal. It's all part of a well balanced social media campaign! This is the most popular way to get the word out and allow your fans to stay connected.
5.) Get the word out in your Newsletters.
If your company sends out a newsletter, list your social networks there too. Newsletters are great for introducing your social networks. Explain how these networks will benefit your customers and ask them to join.
6.) Just talk about it.
Easy. People make stronger connections in person which will lead to more action. Break into conversation by mentioning an interesting article you posted that you think they might find interesting. An approach like this will help offer a compelling reason as to why they should visit your social networks.
We want your ideas for how to increase social media traffic too! Please add yours below and tell us your thoughts :)
Here are some tips to help you get started...
1. People like talking to people not computers, so relax and be yourself.
Think of some of your best business relationships. What make them so great? Chances are you have something else in common with them besides business (e.g. your children go to the same school, they're a Cubs fan too). Getting to know your customers and allowing them to get to know you will strengthen your relationships with them.
2. Engage them!
You can talk about your business and other things that people can relate to as well. The key is to engage your customers to talk to you. For example, John owns a bike shop and he posts, "Just put new tires on and they feel great!" His fans might read this and think about if they need new tires or ask John what kind of tires he recommends. For starters, try asking your customers a question or talking about hot topics in your industry to engage them.
3. Give them information.
Social media gives you the opportunity to keep your customers updated about what's new with you and your advice. You are now a resource to them. Bring value to your company's social media sites by providing your customers with insights about your company and your industry. Breaking news they should know about? Let them know, they'll thank you for it!
4. It's not a sales pitch.
Postings on Facebook and Twitter are like a stream of casual conversations. If you post a huge advertisement in the middle of these conversations, your post might be deemed as just another annoying advertisement. Let's be honest though, we do want to increase our sales and that's why we're doing social media... right? Well consider this, a recent study found that 78% of people will take a friend's recommendation while only 14% of people would trust an advertisement.
5. Start connecting and create awareness.
Tell your friends and customers about your new Facebook and Twitter pages and ask them to join! Once they join, other people in their network will become aware of your business's page too. The more people the merrier, so spread the word!