Marketing's Social Media Sin of Omission
The Internet is filled with articles, discussions, and blogs on how managers should “market” to employees. We are told the best ways to motivate them. We discuss the best ways to communicate with them. We blog on how to “engage” them.
What is fascinating to me is that, for the most part, all these discussions, expositions, and explorations of the subject assume a completely internal world view. We want to motivate them to work harder and be more productive. We want to communicate the company’s financial objectives and (in today’s economy) the need for cost-cutting. And we want to “engage” them in actively achieving these cost-cutting and financial objectives.
The communications aspect of all this is, of course, HR’s job, with more or less senior management support and action (usually in the form of a speech or a “To All Employees” memo).
But search the literature as you will, you find very few discussions of making employees partners in a company’s external marketing campaign to the customers and prospects.
One exception is a little viewed article from 2009 by Augie Ray. His position is that “the careless and irresponsible actions of individual employees have been shared with millions of consumers, harming the organization’s reputation, moving the brand off message, distracting leadership, requiring urgent PR response, and forcing organizational reconsideration of management processes.”
Even customer service reps usually have to pick up marketing’s message by osmosis. After all, their job isn’t to engage with customers. It’s to answer their questions or handle their complaints – and get them off the line. In fact, they are often timed on how long it takes them to do it. If they can up-sell, fine; but do it fast!
And I would contend that this over-all situation amounts to a marketing sin of omission.
While we spend our time trying to create an effective social media presence, while we hire SEO firms and “social media marketing managers,” we cheerfully ignore a tremendous social media marketing asset: employees. But this asset needs to be cultivated and informed about marketing.
Employees exist outside of the four walls of their workplace. Many of them (probably most of the younger workers) have personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. Most of them are on their Facebook pages daily, and many of them tweet often. All of them have people they influence – who have people they influence in turn. That is the marketing power of social media, particularly Facebook.
Talk about a missed opportunity…
Even Christine Geraci’s excellent blog on using employees to go viral misses a key point. It is not enough to have a “social media strategy” or a “road map for employee participation.”
Marketers spend no time ensuring that overall strategy, carefully crafted messages, product positioning, competitive positioning, or any other “marketing” function is conveyed to employees with anything like the care it lavishes on external communications mechanisms.
We leave it to HR to communicate with employees. Ray even goes on to suggest that since employees are on social media, potential employees should be personality tested by HR to ensure “they fit the brand,” that they be selected for “key social communications roles” in case they “become a viral media star.” And so on.
This is silly, of course, carrying the need for employees to be marketing-aware to ludicrous lengths.
Rather, let’s look at real life in a real world business context: Most employees are inherently loyal. They want to believe that they are working for a good company, with good products and services they can be proud of.
How many employees are there in your company? Five? Fifty? Five thousand? Every one of these people is a potential spokesperson for your company and your products/services.
Doesn’t it make sense to ensure that they speak with the same voice we are working so hard to create on company web sites and blogs, on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter?
HR can’t do this. Human resources people are not marketers. It is not their job to be fluent in the company’s marketing strategy. It is not their job to craft messages that resonate with customers and prospects. Personality testing won’t do this. Spending the time and energy to find employees who “fit the brand” won’t do this; and it certainly won’t help as brands evolve, new products are developed, and strategies change.
But it is marketing’s job to lay out the key messages, strategy, and perceived market opportunities so that all employees understand them. And it is marketing’s opportunity to leverage employee loyalty and pride into the social media marketplace. Not everyone will join the marketing campaign, of course. But doesn’t it make sense to arm them if they do choose to join the fray? Leaving that to someone else is a potentially costly sin of omission.