Social Media as a Branding Tool For Both Company and Employee

Posted by: on Jan 25, 2012 | No Comments

As appeared in PRNews’ Employee Communications Guidebook Volume 3

Social media can be a powerful tool in helping to reinforce not only the company’s brand and messaging to clients and prospects but the personal brand of the employee as well. In a relationship-based environment, this is critical. The underlying foundation for success? Strong internal training in corporate themes and messaging and guidelines that create personal awareness and an individual-but proper-tone.

Begin by Establishing Your Company’s Brand Story
As Guy Kawasaki points out in his book Enchantment, companies create relationships that are deep, lasting, voluntary and mutual. The foundation for this relationship is your company’s brand story. In other words, what differentiates your company and makes it of value to others? Social media is a perfect platform for disseminating information that reflects this value proposition and, most importantly, it puts a human face on that message.

Once you have a brand story to share, it is important that every employee be able to tell the story. Employees should know the brand story, believe in it and understand how as individuals they add value to and represent that ongoing brand story as it is being written every day. And it’s imperative that you define and tell the story in a way that compels your readers to be believers. Ideally, your marketing plan, communications strategy, digital strategy and employees should all work synergistically to create an image of your company and its services in the mind of the consumer.

In high-touch businesses, social media provides a way to build the corporate brand and communicate it regularly. In online communications, the corporate brand is reinforced through the personal brand that’s created by each employee.

Counsel your employees about what’s acceptable in terms of the actual message. Let them know what you expect regarding proper tone and language.

Social Media Training Tips
Each of your employees should take turns contributing to your company’s weekly blog resident on your Web site. Each employee should also post the weekly blog to his or her Linkedln account updates. On Linkedln, it’s a good idea if employees join three to five groups and act as participants in them, enabling them to become potential influencers and hopefully a trusted, reliable source of information.

A weekly blog could be an important vehicle for your company to showcase employees’ knowledge and specialty and to facilitate action and sharing. Your objective should be to give readers a way to get to know your professionals virtually; and to spark a dialogue.
Each employee should use his or her online persona to support their relationship-building efforts. Each post, regardless of topic, should “speak” to both the firm’s and the employee’s intellectual capital, innovation, knowledge and professionalism. In order for the communications to have this intended effect, however, each employee must reflect the corporate guidelines in his or her messaging, while still letting their individuality shine through. For this to be successful, the process must be managed. This will set the stage for appropriateness and accuracy.

All Employees Must Sing From the Same Songbook
The first step is to counsel your employees on when to use online communications or when to post certain items. Without proper training, your brand message may ramble and stray from where the company intended, and could lead to rumor, misinformation and reputation fallout. Every virtual conversation should, in some way, through the topics discussed, cover the most important elements of your brand story and your specific value proposition.

Messaging must be guided from the top. The parameters you establish should make you feel comfortable empowering your employees to be brand ambassadors. Set an objective of being educational and informative, but not opinionated.

There is room for individuality of expression and flexibility with tone. All posts should sound like individuals, not like a single ghostwriter for the entire organization. Encourage individuality in each post-but up to a point. Counsel your employees about what’s acceptable in terms of the actual message.

The challenge with social media is making your post sound like you are speaking one-on-one to an old friend. Using a conversational everyday style lends credibility, by its casual nature. Additionally, remember the relating of anecdotes and personal experiences can be marketing gold, making for some very compelling business-to-customer communications.

A Consistent Review Protocol is Essential for Success
Every time an online communication goes out on behalf of the company, it should be vetted. Your goal should be to be informational, pleasant, humorous and interesting-these are the qualities to strive for in your online communications.

The end result? A casual, yet content-rich weekly communication, designed to provoke thought and most importantly, one that helps establish your professionals-and by extension, your company-as a resource that readers can turn to and trust.

By providing a process that all employees can be comfortable with and is monitored, you can position your professionals as an important extension of your company, reflecting its core knowledge, prestige and reputation. In doing so, social media becomes a powerful medium for your company and its professionals to disseminate the corporate brand story and, ultimately, to drive business.

Best Practices for Branding Through Social Media

  • Determine your brand story. What drives your value proposition? Make sure it is reflected in some way within every online post.
  • Create messaging guidelines that let your people know what they should be communicating to clients and when. You can let your people select the topics, but they should be approved by their senior managers and marketing to ensure timeliness and synergy with marketing plans.
  • Let each person’s personality shine through his or her post, but create a review process to ensure accuracy and professionalism.
  • If you do make a mistake or say something perhaps you shouldn’t have, don’t despair. Defects actually add depth of character to a company. By talking about “lessons learned”or apologizing for errors, colleagues and clients gain confidence in the brand and the ability of your team to manage In the face of adversity.
  • Make sure all corporate social media is connected and reviewed daily so you are aware of what’s being said about your company on multiple platforms. This way, any problems or criticism can be addressed immediately.
  • It may sound obvious, but remind employees to watch what they say and do on their personal sites or accounts. With ease of search and immediate connectivity, it is impossible to separate the two in terms of your employees’ image and the corporate persona you have worked so hard to create. (are should be taken to review this point with all.
  • Strike a balance In tone between casual and approachable and professional and authoritative.