Don't Learn Social Media on the Fly

6 minute read
Scott K. Wilder avatar

Social media, when properly managed, can be a direct line to customers, opening a dialogue where customers' wants, needs, praise and complaints can be heard and responded to. Then why do so few companies provide their staff with the training to successfully participate on social networks?

Employees can Handle the Truth, Management Can’t

A recent research study showed that only half of employeesfeel as if they receive the proper training to successfully participatein social networks. Contrary to what Jack Nicholson says in "A Few Good Men,"employees can handle the truth and senior management should as well.After all, how can you address your customers’ needs if you don't give them achance to speak, even if it's online?

After working with some of the largest companies in the country, it’s clear that most employees desperately want to learn how to properly conduct themselves online as well as how to reach out to unhappy customers. They want to blog well, tweet responsibly and not break any Facebook laws so they can turn their “detractors” into Net Promoters, where they will change from stating negative comments about the company to recommending it to their peers and friends.

This should not be surprising considering 40 percent of companies hesitate to let their staff engage with customers online for fear that someone might say something negative about their organization.

Most Companies want Employees to Learn Social Media on the Fly

This highlights the need to provide the proper guidelines, guardrails and guidance to help workers engage more effectively on Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks. The problem, however, is that employees usually have to learn social media on the fly and learn how to properly engage with customers through trial and error.

This is not the way to run a business.Social Media Training can help you and your coworkers engage in more constructive conversations online.

Why Is Training Important?

The Broken Window Theory:I was first introduced to this theory in 1990 when William Bratton cleaned up the streets of New York City by significantly reducing crime rates. He believed that without law enforcement, people would damage things, and if they knew they could commit these crimes without any repercussions, they would continue to break the law (and not just windows).

The same is true for un-moderated communities and social networks. So, it's important to have well-trained moderators working in your online communities and reading your blog comments. After all, it’s human nature to test authority figures.

You’ve Got the Whole World in your Hands:While everyone knows that mobile devices are increasing in popularity, people often forget that these are, what Peter Mass, ProPublica reporter calls, "potentially a gold mine of data-mining information for companies.”

The Internet Never Forgets:All you have to do is go to Waybackmachine.org and look up your company’s home page from the 1990s. If you work at Fortune 1000 company, it’s probably there; or you can start looking at your Facebook Timeline and see some pictures of yourself.

Those are just three reasons why it’s imperative for companies to develop well-thought out social media policies and training programs.

Line Between Work and Pleasure is Fuzzy

The line between online work and personal life and the content (text, photos, video) is increasingly becoming fuzzy. There are also important legal implications concerning the fact that your staff often spends time on social media platforms at work.

Learning Opportunities

This has raised a number of legal issues, for example, about who owns a company-branded social media account. Before explaining how to handle online engagement (the subject of my next post), it’s important to focus on clearly defining who owns a company’s Facebook page or Twitter account and how employees should handle themselves on these sorts of networks.

Companies need to be “old-schoolish” about setting up their branded social media channels and about establishing clear online policies. Rarely do these agreements explicitly address the following:

  • Policy and process for what happens to a social media after its administrator leaves the company.
  • How much personal information should be on a social media page; even though it’s good to list out your company moderators on a Twitter page, it might not make sense to include the employees name in the sub-branding, such as WilderWidgets, brought to you by Stan Smith.
  • Who has access to edit and change an account (I also recommend having more than one administrative owner of a page). Employees’ online behavior during and after their tenure at a company is becoming a major topic of corporate law.
  • The company’s right to access confidential information on their own social networks; Nearly 20 percent of companies report that they have investigated the posting of confidential, sensitive or private information to a social network.
  • The company’s right to terminate an employee who violates company policy; Approximately 8 percent of companies have terminated employees for organizational violations using social media.

When to Re-Tweet at a Moment’s Notice

Even though most employees want to do the right thing and post responsibly online, they are sometimes a bit too Twitter trigger-happy and re-tweet without thinking through the original source of the info or who was the original poster.

Often we don’t realize that a re-tweet by an individual can be interpreted as their company’s endorsement of the original site's policy. Therefore, it’s important to provide a link to the content-owner's site. With this, it could potentially violate copyright law, and give the content-owner publisher the rightful opportunity to pay their bills by generating another unique visitor to their site, serving up a banner ad, and/or getting a chance to sign up a new registered user.

Develop your Crap Detector

While some this might seem like common sense, every day we find well-educated and street smart, savvy people making mistakes with their online posts, videos or audio recordings.Howard Rheingold in his excellent new book, NetSmart, recommends that we use good crap detectors to help us find information we need to know and determine if it is true or not. This is something Ernest Hemingway talked about in the 1950s:“Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him.”

Image courtesy of Draw05 (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more of Scott's thoughts on customer experience:

-- You Can Never Create a Predictable, Unified Customer Experience

About the author

Scott K. Wilder

Scott K. Wilder manages Partner Economy, LLC, a new B2B Marketing and Sales consulting firm focused on leveraging data to drive actionable results and positive ROI.