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These days people have new powers. Not that kind. I mean on the Web. We can create websites and post messages to the world with the click of a button. Blogs, social networking sites and Twitter - all make it easy. But this power comes with new responsibilities, especially when it comes to the workplace.
Organizations often monitor what is said about them in the media and control every message that comes from the company. But these days blogs and social networking sites mean that companies can't keep up - the media has become social. New ways to understand and react to what's being said online are new needed. That's why organizations are beginning to encourage employees to understand and be a part of online conversations. Consider this:
Chair Hero had made quality chairs for twenty years. Recently something happened: one of their chair models was defective and people were falling down. Soon enough, blogs, social networking sites and Twitter were all writing about their defective chairs. Within two days, they were overwhelmed.
The company started to panic. What could they do? What will work in this new world?
At first, they wrote press releases and posted information on their website. It helped a little, but they could see the conversations were happening elsewhere. They felt powerless, like they had lost control.
A potential solution to this problem requires a new way of thinking about company communication. These days, customers want more than just another press release - they want to have an honest conversation with someone from the company - often outside the company website.
To make these conversations productive and reduce the risks, companies need to have a few things in place:
1. Official accounts on popular social media sites
2. A way to monitor what's being said about them, using services like Google Alerts or Twitter Search
3. Guidelines that give employees clear direction
Let's look at how this works. Silas recently went through Chair Hero's training sessions on using social media. It's now a part of his job to identify and respond to people talking about the company online. Before responding to a recent blog post, Silas goes through a quick checklist:
He asks himself, Does this need a response? In this case, Yes - he can offer valuable information.
Is he the right person? Yes - He knows the facts.
Does he know the culture? Yes - he knows the blog and what's been said before
So, Silas decides to get involved. Following the guidelines at his company, he introduces himself as a company representative and provides a short disclaimer. He's careful to speak in the first person and focuses on the subject and not the person. His goal is to be personable, respectful and never angry. In this case, he may just need to provide a link to clear up the issue and an offer to help in the future. Before posting it, he quickly makes sure no confidential info has been shared. The next day, Silas receives a quick "thank you", and an added benefit - his response will now be seen by others - and even appear in search results.
Silas was able to take a risky situation and turn it into an informative message - without taking the rest of the company's valuable time. He added value and built trust with customers - and that's the main role of employees using social media, whether is a crisis like a defective chair model, every day customer support or just sharing information.
The web is too wide for a company to control every communication. But a company can understand the growing influence of social media, and create an environment where employees are empowered to participate and build trust with their customers.
What it teaches
This video reviews how social media sites like blogs, Twitter and Facebook are changing how companies think about external communication. It includes points on:
- How social media sites are making organizations rethink external communication
- How one company confronts a crisis - and learns how social media can help
- The role of empowering employees to participate
- The role of policies and guidelines in social media participation