For three years or so savvy companies and organizations have been experimenting with how to become a social brand.
As we approach the end of 2010 and head into the New Year, these savvy companies are realizing that the front end is not enough: unless you actually become a social business you can’t be a social brand.
Could this be why some companies have been ambivalent about open, social engagement?
David Armano of Edelman thinks so – in his excellent presentation on SlideShare he says many firms are not ready for social media. He shows why this is the case and what you need to do internally to get ready for external social media engagement.
Social Media touches much more than just the external facing parts of your company – HR, IT, CRM, Risk Management and legal need to understand what it is and why it is important to engage. They also need to know how to engage. Armano makes the point that in the past PR agencies used to offer companies media training, but now that has to include social media training. Every employee is a potential spokesperson.
One book that could help organizations make this change internally is Terms of Engagement by Dick Axelrod. Although the book was not written for social media the principles certainly apply:
1. Widen the circle of involvement: The old model of “keeping the smart markets out and the smart employees in ” (Cluetrain Manifesto) is no longer working. Your customers and stakeholders want to talk to your employees. It is going to require training and development, and the use of new social tools, but it is possible for everyone in the organization to be a voice and an ambassador for the business. Breaking down the firewalls between your employees and your market will result in the most exciting conversation you’ve ever had.
2. Connect people to each other and to ideas: The more people can connect and share information, the faster they learn. You don’t have to constantly reinvent wheels. Tools like blogs, feeds, IM, services like Yammer, wikis and social networks should be an integral part of your intranet.
3. Create communities for action: Social networks have clearly demonstrated the value of connecting people, improving their communication, and how that results in stronger relationships and trust. This is obviously something we strive for with our external audiences, but it is just as important internally. Your employees will be happier, more productive and smarter when you give them the opportunity to create communities around their work activities.
4. Be open and democratic: Crowd-sourcing is being used very effectively by Dell and Starbucks. Imagine doing the same thing internally, like Best Buy has done. Let your people contribute ideas and have a say. Be a little more democratic in your business operations. Look what happened when Microsoft trusted Robert Scoble, someone who was not an executive or a trained PR/marketing person, to start their Channel 9 blogging initiative.
Instead of focusing only on how to improve your external social media engagement, look at how you can create a truly social business. If you apply these principles the social brand part will follow naturally.