More than likely, your company or organization is up to its eyeballs in social marketing. Facebook Offers, Twitter Ads and the like can sell a lot of stuff. My closet, pantry and junk drawer are evidence that the “you-must-have-this-now-because-all-your-friends-Like-it” approach works. Even Customer Service has jumped on board, and I, for one, am thrilled when I can quickly resolve a service issue with a simple tweet. But let’s not forget that social media is first and foremost about communication, not simply selling or servicing. It’s about connecting people and ideas through engaging, authentic conversation. Sound familiar, corporate communicators? So how should corporate communications use social media?
Admittedly, traditional corporate communications often lacks the sizzle of the sales tactics employed by social marketers, but we’re experts when it comes to telling stories that unite people and move them to a desired belief or behavior. There are a number of ways corporate communicators can put social media to work.
Amplify your internal messages
Your company’s employees are your most natural, built-in audience. Seeding reminders about your social media activities in your internal communications channels is one way to quickly grow your following. No mixed messages, though: make sure your social media content echoes the same themes you’re emphasizing internally. Elements of your vision, values and operating principles are easily incorporated into your social media content, further underscoring their importance with employees, not to mention educating the public on what your company is all about. Of course, not every internal message will be appropriate to share publicly, so choose wisely those topics that will inspire, engage and enhance pride with all of your followers.
Reach the hard-to-reach
Take advantage of our obsession with smart phones and reach front-line and field workers – anyone who doesn’t sit at a computer all day – where they already are: mobile social networks. Keep employees in distant locales in touch with the corporate headquarters, and vice versa, by sharing local award celebrations, safety milestones, socially responsible activities and other news of interest. At the same time, you’ll open up a virtual passport that may expand your followers’ perspective on your company’s operations.
Humanize a faceless entity
How often have you wondered what it would be like to work at your favorite companies? Follow the lead of respected employers, like Dallas-based Container Store, and give fans a glimpse with behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram. Shine a six-second spotlight on your employees and introduce your followers to the people who make the company what it is with a series of Vine videos. Your current employees will appreciate the attention and prospective employees will picture themselves fitting right in.
Photos and video rule the social web; most business leaders travel. Pair the two and you’ll expand your executives’ visibility while offering a glimpse into their perspective on the business and the world at large. On Google Plus, a Hangout with an executive or in-house expert can take the form of an informative webinar, interactive Q&A session or even a press conference. Wise use of your senior management on social media can build the company’s credibility by showing that its leaders are credible in the business and industry.
When a Kimberly-Clark employee battling brain cancer set his sights on winning a spot in the Kona Ironman Triathlon, the company rallied followers on Facebook to vote in the video contest. How about dialing up participation in (and visibility for) your company’s United Way campaign by offering incentives for employees to post or tweet from the festivities with your hashtag, or inviting your interns to create videos expounding on their successful summer projects? This digital paying-it-forward may not speak to the company’s bottom line, but it will speak to the heart of those who follow you.
Your turn: How are you using social media for corporate communications? What ideas would you share?
Shana Sallaska is a journalist turned corporate communicator with experience in the consumer goods, energy and financial industries. She recently joined Energy Future Holdings as senior web and social media manager, and shares her love of dogs as a social media volunteer for Dallas Companion Animal Project. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.