Social media has come a long way in the last five years. It was once used to kill time and entertain, but the social Web is now deeply ingrained in the day-to-day operations of businesses large and small.
Communications is no exception. It’s one of the primary functions of social media in the corporate environment. Instead of relying on outdated bulletin boards and impersonal memos, tech-savvy executives are now using online tools to communicate more quickly, personally and effectively.
Here are seven strategies for implementing social media communication in your company.
1. Establish clear ownership
One of the biggest problems companies have when implementing social media at the corporate level is that no one department has clear ownership of it. Who’s responsible? Is it marketing, HR, senior management, or perhaps a newly anointed person/department? There is no one “right” answer, but the old saying applies: When it’s everyone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility.
When different departments run a company’s social presence, it invariably falls short of its full potential. Each week sees the birth of new “initiatives” and experiments rather than the continuation of one solid direction or approach. As a result, social media fails to become the rich communication channel it has the potential to be. Pick one person or department to be in charge, and give him or her authority over the channel.
2. Protected Twitter accounts
One of the quickest ways to immediately leverage social media for corporate communications is Twitter. But there’s a twist: Established businesses shouldn’t sign up for the same public Twitter accounts that individuals use. Rather, executives will want to use what’s known as a “protected” Twitter account.
A protected Twitter account is one where only approved followers (employees and colleagues in this case) can see your tweets. Once established, you can use your protected Twitter account to share anything of company importance: memos, reminders, event invitations, etc. You can even go a step further and establish protected Twitter accounts for each department. This way, staffers get tweets that are pointed and relevant to their job duties without getting overwhelmed by things outside their purview.
3. Internal company blog
If you aren’t ready to experiment with Twitter and RSS yet—or even if you are—a much simpler way to bring social media into your communications program is to set up an internal company blog. This is distinct from any customer-facing blog you might have. Rather than publishing PR stories about the company, your internal blog is meant to convey information that’s meaningful to employees and executives.
A major plus of an internal blog is that you can let employees comment on each post— and then pay attention to what they say. This is a priceless form of feedback; encourage people to share their thoughts freely and candidly on company blog posts. Furthermore, use these responses to drive initiatives or employee programs based on what you learn.
4. Bring social media reports to regular meetings
For some companies, social media—whether in the form of blogs, Twitter, RSS or Facebook—is an island unto itself, a hermetically sealed, backroom “experiment” that no one else in the company interacts with or hears about. This is a mistake! The whole point of corporate social media is to improve communication and performance throughout the company.
Whoever is in charge of corporate social media should bring reports to regular company meetings and contribute insights based on what he or she is learning. This can be employee tweets, blog comments, shared stories, etc. This is literally anything that sheds light on how the company can change or improve in some meaningful way.
5. Obtain executive buy-In
Social media will not go very far in a corporate setting without buy-in from top executives. Without this key support, whoever is in charge of social media will constantly fight an uphill battle and will struggle to make suggestions or changes on the basis of an initiative only they (or a few junior managers) support. Left to continue this way, your social media communications program will stall and stagnate.
Don’t make this mistake. From Day One, let it be known that everyone from the CEO down is fully behind the social media initiative, both in spirit and in terms of resources allocated. Only then will the company embrace social media as a lasting fixture instead of a passing fad.
6. Not for entry-level employees
Finally, social media is not suited for entry-level employees or interns. Whoever is responsible for the initiative should be, if not a senior executive, someone with a long history at your organization. It should be someone who thoroughly understands the organization’s culture and has interacted with all the various departments.
This is essential, because the entire organization must be on board. If one or two departments are not committed to social communications and refuse to participate, the entire initiative has failed. Moreover, the job of running and monitoring your internal social media channels is comprehensive—someone fresh out of college or with only a few months’ experience at the company will probably be overwhelmed.
Mitch Thompson is a freelance writer who specializes in personal finances and small business. This article originally ran on Corporate Eye.