I think any employer who is looking for advice on where to stand on the social media debate should look no further than the wireless industry.
From my perspective, this is an industry which has embraced social media in a very healthy way. If you want to find out anything about wireless networking or mobility, there is almost certainly a blog, Facebook page, YouTube Channel, podcast, or twitter conversation going on about that very subject right now. What's neat about all of these information sources and discussions is that they are being created by a mixture of vendor employees, VAR employees, consultants, and administrators. So what, right?
Well I'll tell you so what: All of these people are managing to participate because their employers understand the importance of being part of the conversation. If you aren't part of the conversation, then how would people possibly know what you've got to say?
Here are a few things I think the wireless industry does very well when it comes to social media:
- Open-mindedness. It always amazes me when I see multiple competitors having an open discussion, about wireless technology, that sticks to the merits of the technology and isn't continually beaten down by marketing spins and bias. Yes, everyone has a degree of bias in their words but that doesn't mean we can't listen to what others have to say.
- Promoting Others. To me, this is even more important that being open-minded. The wireless industry does a great job of making sure that your important message is delivered to the masses. To me, the key word in social media is social. Help others get their message out, and they will help you get yours out. I love that my industry has embraced this idea.
Right about now, employers might be saying: That's great, but what's in it for me? Here are few ways you can benefit from allowing your employees to join the conversation; and it doesn't have to be as an offical rep. for your company:
- Reputation. Your companies reputation in the industry improves dramatically if you have employees who are highly respected and well known.
- Lead Generation. While not the primary driver for social media, you can gain leads from social media that you wouldn't have gained otherwise.
- Thought Leadership. We're talking about the Internet! If someone wants to know something, they will find it online. Do you want them the get the information from a competitor, or from you? The choice is yours.
- Employee Satisfaction. Help your employees build their personal brand and they will be much more satisfied. As a side benefit, this also feeds into the reputation point above.
I'm sure I could ramble on and on about this but I think that is enough for now. My point to employers is, you owe it to yourselves to find a way to let, at least some, of you employees join the conversation. Done properly, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
I used to believe that a company would benefit most by allowing employees to focus on creating content for the corporate site and other new media channels. Now, I've come to realize that the real benefits come when a company empowers employees to build up their personal brands. Instead of having one social media outlet for your organization, it's like creating a positive reputation funnel, made up of your employees, that channels directly back to your company. What are your thoughts on this perspective or anything else that I've included in this post?