Most employees will already be familiar with social networking from using sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but are you making the most of their skills to market your business online? Kate Horstead finds out how to get staff using social media to your benefit
Many small-business owners now use social networking to market their firm online for minimal costs. But, largely due to lack of time, few make the most of all the opportunities it can offer.
“A lot of small firms use social media to network and get referrals,” says Andrew Rayner, co-founder of internet marketing agency, e-mphasis. “However, they could also use it to monitor their brand, maximise website visits, generate sales or set themselves up as experts in a particular industry.”
You might not realise it, but your employees may already have many of the skills you need to use social networking effectively. However, it is important you provide them with the right direction otherwise the time they spend using social media won’t be effective and may even damage your reputation.
Start by finding out what existing social media skills your staff have. “Employees may already have a useful network of contacts and be familiar with particular sites,” points out Rayner. “However, allowing them to mix their personal and business profiles inappropriately could be damaging to your brand ― for example, if they are communicating informally with friends.
“Ask staff to set up new profiles or nominate a social media champion from your existing staff to set up and manage a business profile,” he adds.
Rayner believes that employees need to be given clear objectives — such as monitoring customer feedback — but he says businesses should avoid restricting them with a formal social media policy.
“Staff should be able to use their experience of social media to define your firm’s style and approach, as personality is important in social networking,” stresses Rayner. “But having objectives will enable staff to identify relevant contacts and give out the right information.”
Not all employees will have sufficient expertise in social networking — in which case you may want to provide basic training. But bear in mind a day’s external workshop on using social media typically costs between £250 and £500 per person.
“Employers should understand the skills their staff already possess and guide them towards engaging in a style that matches their business image,” advises Rayner.
It is essential that any time that employees spend using social media at work has value for your business. “Depending on your objective, you should regularly review the speed of the firm’s response to customers, or use analytics to monitor how many people click through to your website,” advises Rayner.
“Even if it isn’t effective for staff to spend much time on social media, they should have a presence there so they can monitor risks to your firm’s reputation or take advantage of any PR opportunities,” he concludes.
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