Now that many Aviation companies have woken up to the fact that they can no longer simply ignore Social Networking as part of their business strategies, I am often asked what should be the right approach to get engaged. Below are the five first things a company MUST do before deciding how and when to participate.
CLAIM YOUR SOCIAL BRAND.
It is important for companies to realize that, for the most part, trademarks do not carry over to the cyber world. Just like with domain names, companies do not have a guarantee that their brand name will be available in social sites. For example, @Boeing on Twitter is NOT owned by Boeing Corporation. So the first thing to do is to claim accounts in all the main sites before they are gone. You can use namechk.com to find availability in a single search. You should probably claim the most important sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, WordPress/Blogger, and Flickr. Set-up the accounts using new email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org to maximize flexibility in the future. Grab all the main accounts even if you might not use them in the future. If a key site is not available, pick one brand for the majority of the sites and a derivative for the unavailable sites. For example “MyCompanyVideos” might be a good alternative on YouTube. Keep a central register of all your Social Media accounts with usernames, passwords and associated email accounts. Leave the accounts’ public profiles to the bear minimum until you are ready to use them.
ORGANIZE YOUR LINKEDIN UNIVERSE.
Search for your company on LinkedIn. Claim the company profile and edit it to your satisfaction. Include links to key parts of your website (i.e. careers), and review the groups that might already be related to your business. Create two official groups: MyCompany News (public group managed by your marketing folks), and MyCompany Current Employees (private group managed by HR). Leave them empty for the moment (more on that in step 4 below). Take stock of your employees already on LinkedIn and make a general quality assessment of their profiles.
ORGANIZE YOUR TWITTER UNIVERSE.
It is very likely that if you end up using Twitter, you will have multiple accounts. For example, you might use @mycompany as the main account but you would have @mycompany_jobs for career opportunities and discussions. Think about the account structure you would like to have and register the key accounts you might need. If @mycompany is available, it is unlikely that that @mycompany_anything would be taken. This is not as much to grab the actual accounts as it is to establish a nomenclature and structure for your future accounts. As with step 1 above, don’t forget to set up distinct email addresses for each account and put them in your register. Remember also that key members of your staff might have personal twitter accounts that should not be mixed in with their business activities. For example, Bill Smith might be your CEO and he might be active as a volunteer in the community. He might use @BillSmith for his private posts and you might want to create a @mycompany_CEO for his business posts. Do not create @mycompany_BillSmith because you will have to change it if/when he leaves. Instead put his name in the profile and change it when necessary. It works the same way with the associated email address which should be CEO@mycompany.com rather than BillSmith@mycompany.com. Make sure to create a @mycompany_employees account which you will use in your policy enforcement (see step 4 below). Set-up minimum profiles for each accounts and clearly indicate in the profile if these accounts are dormant to avoid any misunderstanding or judgment. Finally, set up the accounts structure in HootSuite or TweetDeck to be able to read/manage the multiple accounts in a single powerful interface.
ESTABLISH A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY.
The good news here is that most of what needs to be covered should already exist in other policies. Social Networking is really not different than email, although you might have less ability to control distribution. You need to simply remind employees that amongst others, your confidentiality, responsibility, and harassment policies fully apply to social media and will be enforced equally. In addition, you should mandate that your employees declare their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to you. This is simply to enforce your policy. You do not need access to these accounts, connect with them, or “friend” them. You just need to know that they exist. You should encourage your employees to keep their Facebook accounts locked and perhaps offer them a class on how to set that up. You should follow every employee’s Twitter accounts from your @mycompany_employees account to monitor potential breaches of policy. Employees should also be required to “like” your FaceBook page so they don’t miss important public news and announcements. Finally, you should mandate that everyone who has an account on LinkedIn join the private “MyCompany Current Employees” group for internal communication and discussions (Tip: LinkedIn has the ability to create subgroups for specific projects/departments). As an appendix, you should publish a list of all your Social Networking accounts with a clear responsible person or department associated with each.
LISTEN BEFORE YOU TALK.
After you have established all the accounts and policies listed above, it is now time to listen. DO NOT start posting “Hello World” messages on all the platforms. Each tool must be part of a coordinated Two-Way communication strategy. Be sure to set-up Google alerts for your company, products and areas of expertise. Set-up saved searches in HootSuite or TweetDeck to mine the Twitter conversations. Join a few key groups in LinkedIn and set-up weekly group email reporting. Create reporting metrics to quantify the activity you witness in each channel. Listening to the conversations that are taking place, finding out where your audience “hangs out” (including employees), and deciding what channel to use for what purpose is extremely important to developing a strong social networking presence.
After you accomplish these five steps, you can start to define your approach and goals. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try small projects. That is the best way to learn. You might want to read my post on “How to effectively combine website, blog, and Twitter?” for some ideas of how to move forward. But even if you decide to stand back for a while and just listen, at least you will be assured that a strong Social Networking foundation has been set up for your company and employees.
Do you have questions about these five steps? Are there other things you think should be added? Please leave your questions and comment below or email me directly.