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Employees Are Also Brand Ambassadors, Not Just the Executives

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Pinstripe has seen, all too often, the mistakes people make when posting on social media. Everyone makes mistakes. We get it. Some mistakes are minor, like the usual typos and a forgotten word or two, while others take on a whole other dimension that can cause a firestorm of negative feedback. Then, even worse, it goes viral.

For the most part, these mistakes are somewhat ridiculous. However in some circumstances, they can have negative consequences for nearly everyone connected. Unfortunately, the individual’s employer could be attached to their profile, and in turn cause customer backlash.

Employee handbooks have whole sections devoted to these issues. Plus, more companies are adopting them. So, why don’t companies turn something that’s perceived as negative into a positive? Encouraging employees to post the great things about the company can have a huge advantage in the social media race.

In the Past…

Bad things said about a company or it’s employees were talked about among family and friends and were rarely found in the papers, which only had a regional effect. However, because of technology, the word-of-mouth systems of old have taken on a whole new meaning. So has the phrase “spreads like wildfire.” Anything posted on social media has the potential to do this. There are so many social media outlets today that monitoring them in order to defend a company’s reputation has turned into a growing industry.

Education and Training

The trick isn’t monitoring, it’s educating. This goes beyond company policies on proper etiquette. Think about creating a brand ambassador program to educate and train employees on how to accentuate the company’s marketing efforts. Instead of having a neutral social media policy with do’s and do not’s, you are creating a positive force of brand ambassadors.

Below are some very basic steps to setting up your employees as brand ambassadors. The possibility of a substantial return on this investment could exceed your expectations.

  1. Communicate the Plan

Informing employees about expectations and repercussions will let them know exactly what the company’s vision is and how social media can highlight the company in positive ways. GE’s brand ambassador plan is a great example of how a company can increase customer engagement through employee engagement.

  1. Provide Guidelines

Your employee handbook should already have social media policies against inappropriate posts. So, they need to know what they should post. Examples are an easy way to answer questions about content before they’re asked.

  1. Permission and Content

You’ll need to reassure them that there are no repercussions for posting positive info and pictures. A little trust will go a long way. To help them along, you can have hashtags available and URLs for quick access on a company page.

Maintaining a Positive Reputation

When employees post good things about their workplace and services, people will take notice. This is especially true when bad things happen and the company goes into crisis management mode. If an overwhelming amount of positive information is out there, then that leaves very little for negativity to thrive on. A positive reputation is easier to uphold in the social arena, and employees as brand ambassadors are a great way to achieve and maintain it.

Join the Social Media Party

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There are several reasons social media attracts the enthusiastic interest of marketing professionals. First and foremost, its where you find huge audiences—literally billions of people. Additionally, you can target populations based on demographics as well as individual interests. Social media campaigns aren’t difficult to carry out, either; tweeting or posting a Facebook message doesn’t require tons of technical expertise. It’s also relatively inexpensive; you won’t need a giant marketing budget to effectively promote your messaging.

Interactivity and immediacy of social media also makes it a very attractive marketing option for businesses. You’ll know when a message has been received by your audience and you can also get a feel for the reaction through “likes” and shares or comments. Best of all, when you succeed in getting consumers to carry your message for you, it becomes highly credible in the estimation of their friends and family.

So, social media marketing makes sense … but what specifically do you want to accomplish? Think of it as going to a party.

Mingle (brand awareness) – You’ve seen wallflowers at a party—maybe you’re one of them—who stands off alone or at best interacts with a very few people. They arrive and leave with barely a ripple. Social media is an easy way for your company to stand apart from the background.

Make a good impression (public relations) – You’re telling people about yourself—getting them to enjoy your company (pun intended). But just as importantly, you’re showing interest in the other guests and letting them know you share their thoughts and concerns.

Let others show you around (create advocates) – If you’re an interesting party guest, others will want to introduce you as someone who can help them with an issue or who is simply a fun person to meet. Be the in-demand guest!

Get a real feel for the room (market research) – If there’s one thing you can say about social media, it’s unfiltered; people have no hesitancy about saying what they think. Such market research is invaluable in helping you develop and position new products, solutions or services.

Meet people you’ll be glad to know (lead generation) – It’s always great to turn strangers into friends—especially the lifelong variety. That doesn’t happen by sitting alone, at home. Think of every person you meet on social media as a potential customer, and the value of marketing here becomes obvious.

Online Reputation Management Refresher

For many years, we have helped brands build and maintain their online reputations. The key has been consistency and doing a few things well, as opposed to trying to do everything poorly. Taking control of your online reputation is more important today than it has ever been. The amount of people relying on the internet for research and reviews continues to grow every year.

It’s no longer acceptable for your business to have no reviews or testimonials. If your company is having problems getting online reviews, just ask clients. And keep asking because 90% of the people in a large survey use the internet for research on products and services and 88% of them trust positive online reviews, treating them like personal recommendations.

The Bad Review

In 2014, over 2/3 of the people in a large survey said that they base their purchasing decisions on online reviews. Negative reviews can turn away 22% to 70% of a company’s potential business, depending upon how many bad reviews show up in the search results.

The process to address bad reviews has not changed. All negative comments should be addressed quickly and directly. Communicate with the reviewer, if possible, to rectify the situation or find some common ground. Then, write a blog about how these problems were addressed.

Dealing with Social Media

Social media faux pas still top the list for most frequent and destructive actions to reputations. Last year, the recently fallen YouTube vlogger, Kian Lawley, made racist comments which forced Fox and other companies to pull the plug on all of his film and television projects. The same thing can happen to small and midsize companies, which is why protocols need to be in place for all social media marketing.

Once the News Hears About It…

Over the years, news and entertainment media have increased their coverage of social media activity—from the President’s quixotic tweets to sports and television stars. Social media has become newsworthy, especially when it’s negative.

No one is immune to this trend. Even worse is when mistakes go viral, like the epic social media fail for a store in northern Minnesota, because local media outlets cover local businesses and someone, anyone can pick the story up and share it.

Everything Contributes, Not Just Social Media

Reputation management has a good mix of everything. Social media is a large part of that reputation, but it isn’t the only thing that matters. Keeping content fresh and up-to-date is also important. Businesses can go back and erase negative or outdated posts. This includes website content, like blogs, articles and case studies.

It’s also important to follow websites that post client and customer reviews. Many will have a policy for retracting negative reviews. All of this is part of a reputation maintenance plan, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In some cases, you may need a bit more help with smoothing over your bad review or a publicly smeared reputation. In these situations, Pinstripe Marketing can help! Contact us for assistance.

 

 

 

 

Social Media Messaging for Businesses: Peanuts Had It Right!

social media messaging_news“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” Quote by Linus, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. About a half century ago, via his Peanuts characters, Charles Schultz shared the wise admonition above. Yet everywhere we turn today, public figures are falling all over themselves to express opinions on these topics. (Instead of Great Pumpkin, substitute “ideological causes.”) Increasingly, it’s a behavior also infecting high profile CEOs and large corporations. Owners and executives leading small and midsize companies may be wondering if they too need to get onboard with this trend by using social media to take a stand regarding “issues of the day.”

Well, we would never tell anyone to act against conscience, or to remain silent in the face of blatant wrongs, but as Linus suggested—all in all—there’s probably not much upside for business leaders to take sides in today’s polarized social climate.

Think. If you express an opinion, your customers and prospects will either agree with you, won’t agree with you, or simply won’t care about the issue. At that, you might see the best possible outcome as win, lose, and tie. However, that’s being overly optimistic.

Unless your work is directly linked to one of Linus’s forbidden topics (examples: religious leader, politician, special-interest lobbyist), it’s highly unlikely that your social commentary is the reason anyone wants to do business with you. As we’ve written previously, a company’s value proposition is almost always going to address one of five customers concerns: price, convenience, service, identity and quality/value. Of these, your public pronouncements on various topics only have a chance of fitting in with “identity.” That’s not nothing, but for all practical purposes it isn’t much.

Remember, your value proposition needs to be central to your brand image. For instance, consider which would be more effective in building a customer base for a law office: a strong stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or a vow to protect your clients’ legal interests. Or what if you provide IT managed services? Which would boost your brand most, a promise of a worry-free computer network, or your stand on abortion?

No, we can’t say your positions on controversial topics won’t appeal to some small segment of the public. According to a report from Sprout Social, 39% of people do appreciate brands that are “politically correct” in their social network communications. But one person’s PC may be regarded by others as counter-productive nonsense. We all tend to live in comfortable bubbles, but outside our immediate circles, we’ll find there are people—even large populations—who feel very differently about things. (If we are prepared to listen, we might even learn their stances are occasionally well reasoned.) For every person that says, “Right on!” there may be one or more taking issue with you and they may they be willing to simply “agree to disagree.” Increasingly, polarization is causing us to see ideological differences as “bad for the country” or even a personal threat (Pew Research Center Report). You could end up being the target of an organized protest!

But let’s say you’re lucky enough to break even between the with-you and the against-you crowds. What about those who don’t care about the topic at all … or have become sick of hearing about it? The same Sprout Social survey found that 71% of consumers find “talking politics” to be annoying. That’s hardly surprising since customers are typically more interested in doing business with companies that focus on solving their problems. “Annoying” doesn’t increase market share.

So, instead of politics, religion or your personal Great Pumpkin, what statements might better resonate with customers and prospects? How about honesty (86%), friendliness (83%), helpfulness (78%), and funny (72%). (Check out the interesting article in Forbes on the Sprout Social report for more insights.)

Yes, there are some “safe” positions you can take in your social media communications, or that you may express in your marketing communications (e.g. “we love puppies” and “happy Mother’s Day!”). But your messaging only reaches your target audiences so often. When it does get through, make sure it’s relevant to why your customers may need you.

East-West Shrine Game is next week!

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We are in full swing with one of our most heartwarming clients, the East-West Shrine Game. This is the longest running college all-star football game in the country, and it benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children. We cherish this client! Tickets are $15 and the game is at Tropicana Field on Saturday, January 20, kickoff time at 3pm. Get your tickets here.

Check out our case study video with some great Shrine Game, practice, and hospital visit footage.

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