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Social Media Best Practices

Posts Tagged ‘Brand Awareness

Socializing Your Employees: How to help your employees be better online business ambassadors

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Best Buy has their employees engage in Twitter streams. IBM and Intel are encouraging blog participation. Big business is embracing social media in a big way. So what does this mean for you as a small business owner? How can you leverage your best assets–your employees– to spread the word about your brand without damaging the reputation of your business?

Whether you like it or not, your employees are engaged in social media activities tied to your business. If they have a LinkedIn professional profile or include work history on their Facebook page, they’re already representing your business online. While this might be of concern, there are advantages by having more feet on the ground spreading the message of your brand.

For example, your employees can leverage their social graph by Tweeting your blog posts, answer questions related to your business on Quora, or connect to the right decision makers on LinkedIn.

Communicate Expectations 

Imagine social media is at a cocktail party and your employees are there with current and prospective clients. What do you want your employees to say, and how can you use this medium to generate more business? Adrian Dayton, a social media consultant from Buffalo, NY, suggests encouraging those employees who are already good networkers to be more active, and emphasize the importance of relevancy. “Make sure your employees post comments people want to read.”

He advises having a transparent discussion with your employees about how everyone should behave online. Develop a working consensus on best practices, including how to act, where your business should participate, and what information should be conveyed back to you. Think of it almost like a storefront; how your employees behave in front of customers should be an example of how they should approach the digital environment.

Jaime Gracia, owner of Seville Government Consulting in Washington, DC, suggests taking it a step further by formalizing your expectations. He says that when an employee is identified as working for your organization it’s important to “set policies on how employees use social media and how they reference their employers on social sites.” You may want to create a best practices guide for your employees to reference.

In taking a look around the web, here are some helpful tips used by the world’s leading brands that can apply to any size business:

  • Be a good listener: Don’t sell your product, understand the needs of the community and provide value.
  • Respect the opinions of others and engage in a professional manner: Comes down to the golden rule, treat others how you want to be treated.
  • When in doubt, do not post: If you have reservations about what you’re writing, hold off and secure approval.
  • Be responsive and follow up quickly: Think of social media as real-time conversations, make sure you’re not only proactive, but respond back in a timely manner (within a few hours if possible).
  • Admit mistakes and be the first to respond to them: Because the Internet xis permanent, it’s best not to spin information. Admit you’re wrong; the community will respect you for this.
  • Always identify who you are and the company you represent: If you’re speaking on behalf of your employer make sure you acknowledge who you are, your role, and what your company does. This helps gain legitimacy in the conversation.
  • Stick with your area of expertise and provide a unique individual perspective: Comment only on issues you have the knowledge to speak Remember social media is about people, not companies.
  • Give credit where credit is due: Remember to protect confidential and proprietary information. It’s important to cite other sources, but also be cognizant of information that should not be released externally.

Getting Started 

Social media can be overwhelming for a small business owner, let alone their employees. Start small by encouraging your employees to tweet or share company blog posts and press releases. Another idea is to have employees connect with each other on social networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter; that way you’re growing your sphere of influence. Set up team discussions related to this topic. Remember, social media shouldn’t just fall to you.

Don’t ask yourself whether it’s wise to have employees use social media, but ask about the risks for not participating. How is your competition taking advantage? What potential customers are you missing? How will potential customers understand what you’re about if they don’t know who’s working for you?

Derek Reese is a social media advocate who works with a variety of businesses on implementing their integrated marketing solutions, as well as consulting on social media best practices. Find him on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

The First Rule of Social Media

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I’ve been pondering over the last few weeks as to why Facebook is the king of social media. With 400 MM+ members and 50% of membership active everyday, it’s a massive force. So why has Facebook succeeded where others failed? I reason it’s because THE SITE WORKS! Not only is Facebook the place where my friends are, has an open API that allows me to bring together other social networks (WordPress, Foursquare, Trip-It), but I’ve been impressed on how consistently the site performs. Not a groundbreaking analogy but very plausible.

Here’s why:

Being on the road, I’ve used many forms of social media, including Trip-It, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Twitter, Hootsuite to create a cross-network campaign to alert business connections and my friends about my travels. Facebook is the only site that has consistently worked.

Foursquare

I like the concept of location based networks, plus the badges are fun to earn. However, I’ve had numerous challenges checking into locations that weren’t in big cities or via WiFi. In fact, I’d estimate that I’ve only been able to check-in about 50% of the time, the other 50% I’ve either experienced error messages, site throttling or the inability to pinpoint my location.

Twitter

Twitter has become an important media tool to amplify a message to a larger group (such as this blog post). The site works well with other networks. For example, if I’m at a major venue or city, I can bring my Foursquare feed (on a case-by-case basis) out to a larger network on Twitter. However, I’ve been seeing Twitter over-capacity frequently.

Trip-It

Trip-It is an easy to use traveler application that works very well with both Facebook and LinkedIn. I can easily alert my connections of my whereabouts in Europe. While the service has been very helpful, I’ve found there’s no way to tether city-to-city. Currently, my status shows I’ve traveled over 100K miles, when most likely I’ve traveled 7 or 8 thousand.

In my opinion, each one of these sites is going through the usual growing pains that come with massive growth. As they mature, I hope these issues will be resolved.

What the Hospitality Industry Can Learn from Hostels

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Like many experienced career professionals, I’m hitting the road this summer. (according to Hostelworld, the 30+ crowd makes up 20% of their bookings). In my case, it’s to learn how Europe is approaching social media. Due to limited funds and the need for interaction with other travelers, I’ve chosen to stay in hostels for the majority of my trip.

If you’re not familiar with hostels, they’re typically a dumbed down version of a Motel 6 where you bunk with other travelers in your room. The advantage is they’re low-cost and have resources needed for backpackers (storage, internet, breakfast).

In the last decade we’ve witnessed numerous improvements to our lives including DVR, Smart Phones, Social Networks. I’m also pleasantly surprised that hostels have improved as well. Here’s how:

1- Reservations are completely automated

During my last tour in Europe (Summer 2001), I relied on Lonely Planet and Let’s Go Europe guide books to find accommodations. It’s no small challenge when you’re trying to find a hostel in Paris around Bastille Day (I wound up calling 40 places to find a bed, though it’s the spark that got me interested in sales). Since guides only come out on a yearly or bi-yearly basis, it was a challenge to find updated properties. The good news is this has changed and services such as Hostelworld, Hostelsclub or Hostelz are search engines to find rooms, even for last minute accommodations.

2- Reviews are in Real Time

These sites make it easy for members to share their experiences and rate hostels in almost real time. I can see numerous reviews on potential hostels from the last few weeks. Because they ask for feedback, I can see numerous reviews for potential hostels from the last few weeks. After each one of my stays I receive a short survey e-mail.

3- Strong Integration with Social Networks

According to Aisling White of Hostelworld, since their audience is on Facebook/Twitter they need to be there as an organization and have taken steps to fully integrate with these sites. What’s different is they don’t focus on the hostel, but rather the destination where members can share/discuss/collaborate. So it’s taking the environment of a hostel to the virtual world. Best yet it’s forming a community of like-minded people (i.e., if I see someone heading to X destination, I can establish a relationship, seek advice, or even travel with that person). The goal is not to push content out, but pull information in so their members can share experiences.

4- Strong FREE or low cost WiFi networks

What’s often a challenge during my hotel stays (note this does not apply to Four Points or Courtyard) is reliable internet access, even when you have to pay. Each hostel (no matter how dingy) has quick and reliable internet access.

So what can the hospitality industry learn?

When I’m looking for better accommodations or just need a break from the hostel thing, I turn to sites such as Kayak, Fly.com, Expedia, Orbitz. What I find challenging is reliable reviews and venue information. For example, I recently booked a hotel in Amsterdam. When researching venues I found some reviews dating back to 2001. Also, I couldn’t find where the location was near (points of interest, metro). These sites might want to take a page from the hostel industry by being more open and transparent. Allow for third party resources (external reviews) and focus on the destination, not just the property.

Also, sites such as Hostelworld and Hostelz are platform agnostic. They realize the social game is changing rapidly as their audience migrates to new sites such as Gowalla and Foursquare, as well as mobile devices

Benefits of paying attention to hostel marketing strategy

There’s a few reasons why the hospitality industry (not just hotels, but airlines/restaurants), need to pay attention to how hostels are approaching social media

1- They’re directly engaged with young travelers (18-24) (future customers)

2- People in hostels tend not to be leisure travelers but in it for the long-hall

3- Highly educated (Most have university students or have degrees)

In conclusion, it’s a great time to be traveling and with resources like these, it makes it easier.

Thanks for reading!