“We are a customer service company that happens to fly airplanes.”
Alice Wilson, Associate Manager of Social Marketing for Southwest Airlines, hit a home run when she made this statement at Useful Social Media’s Corporate Social Media Summit last week. Southwest’s irreverent, yet customer-centric corporate culture infuses its social media activities. While policies are essential, at Southwest, one is advised to, “Follow the guidelines, but have fun!”
Policies are important, but so is trust
Addressing the issue of whether companies should allow their employees on social media networks at work, Gregg Weiss rhetorically asked if those at the summit allowed employees to use the telephone. E-mail? Fax machines? “Does your company’s security follow employees home to make sure they don’t disclose the wrong info?” asked Weiss, New York Life Insurance’s Associate VP, Social Media. Then he drove his point home. “If you don’t trust your employees, then you may not be hiring the right people.”
Weiss offered these suggestions:
- Create an employee social media policy. “It’s insane not to have one,” Weiss emphasized. The FTC has indicated that written policies will provide protection to companies from an errant social media actions by a rogue employee.
- Create programs for your sales force; in the case of New York Life, their agents. Agents are encouraged to maintain separate personal and business social media profiles.
- Get on the agenda at your company’s new hire orientation.
- Promote your corporate presence via a standard email signature used by all.
- Create internal alliances by being social and making friends. Power comes from outside of structured meetings — from lunches, article forwarding, etc.
- Listen to what is being said by your employees and stakeholders. Don’t be big brother.
- Launch internal social media and collaboration tools.
This is a great list, with important points oft ignored by many brands.
Wrangling multiple identities
Many corporations offer consumers multiple brands. Those companies need to balance individual brand identities while addressing corporate unity of purpose.
John Wolf, Senior Director, Global Public Relations at Marriott International, stated that it was incumbent upon companies to find the intersection between business objectives and what’s meaningful for customers. Marriott uses social media to address the aspirational or experiential roles its brands can play in the lives of its customers — places they want to visit, things they want to see, etc.
Facebook allows Marriott to cultivate communities differentiated by brand. As an indicator of success, 74% of Ritz Carlton fans on Facebook engage monthly with the brand’s Page.
Marriott’s matrix organization creates shared responsibilities for social media. While maintaining core brand teams to lessen the risk of homogenization, portfolio-wide expertise allows the company to do more with less.
Be wary of silence
“If the conversation stops,” observed Bert DuMars, “Your brand velocity has probably stopped, too.” He’s VP E-Business & Interactive Marketing for Newell Rubbermaid, a corporation that offers 40 brands from consumer to B2B industrial.
For consumer products, Newell Rubbermaid harnesses user submitted ratings and reviews extensively to help inspire consumer confidence. DuMars advises that companies need to do more than just stomach bad reviews, they need to react to them to the point of, in necessary, modifying products. Additional benefits of online reviews are that they can be syndicated across multiple sites and can help cut through the noise of online search.
Consumer engagement is also enhanced through the use of targeted micro sites. One example is the separate site for Sharpie users to contribute their art. Another, for MimioConnect, is a “safe” place for teachers — B2B customers — to participate without the interference of competitors or customers.
More in the final installment of this series.
Other posts in this series
Note that each has links to additional resources from presenters and participants.
Neil Glassman is principal marketing strategist at WhizBangPowWow, where he delivers malarky-free social, digital and linear media solutions. Join his conversation on Twitter or email Neil to talk about marketing or swap recipes.