helping brands make perfect sense of social media, from IAB UK’s social media council

By Simon Preece, Senior Consultant, RMM

If 2010 saw organisations really getting to grips with social media for marketing, 2011 might be the year we see them using social media for internal collaboration as the norm.

Successes and failures – but most importantly, experimentation – saw our awareness of what social media can do for organisations become increasingly sophisticated. Smart organisations are beginning to realise that social media can and should be a benefit for employees as well as customers.

But getting employees to be ‘more social’ isn’t just about how comfortable they are with using @ replies on Twitter – it requires a fundamental shift in how they perceive sharing knowledge in the workplace.

An oft-cited US example is IBM, which has taken the conscious decision not to have a corporate blog – instead empowering employees to drive interactions with customers and help shape the brand online. A decentralised approach has also boosted internal collaboration and knowledge sharing, with 100,000 employees making use of internal blogs to share internal expertise.

Nationwide deployed social media technologies across a number of departments, using Yammer to help redefine the way it interacts with employees. Specifically, the organisation uses Yammer to allow employees to send messages to colleagues or teams either online or via mobile. Within ten months, Nationwide had more than 8,500 employees using Yammer, ensuring knowledge and ideas are shared rather than siloed.

While not all organisations will be so technology-focused, these are good examples of getting the workforce to ‘buy into’ social media. Involving employees right at the start is key, rather than imposing rules of engagement pre-defined by those at the top of the organisation.

That isn’t to say there shouldn’t be some pre-determined guidance – rather, organisations should enable employees to feed in their own knowledge about social media best practice. Providing clear starter guidelines and specific, practical examples of how social media can help in employees’ day-to-day jobs will be helpful, but organisations should also assume these will change. Kodak prefaces its online tips for employees in social media simply with: ‘Feel free to edit to suit your needs’.

For businesses exploring this area, getting employees who are already keen to champion social media on board and enthusiastic will help reassure anyone who is feeling uncertain. This kind of grass-roots persuasion will help give employees the guidance and confidence they need to get fully involved with social media.

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