In his recent blog post “How to avoid having your social media team becoming a “social switchboard”, my good colleague @AndrewGrill makes a good case on the dangers of adding a filtering (switching) layer of social media people between employees and the world around them – similar to the phone switchboards of days gone by.
So far so good.
But, extending the switchboard analogy, for direct dial to work well, everybody needs to have a phone that can be reached directly, they have to know how to use it, how to speak and call in a professional way and to know what they may or may not say as representatives of the organization.
Bypassing the switchboard without enabling the employees to handle direct dialing may result in substandard responses or maybe even in some major commercial or reputational hazards.
“Direct dial” translates, in our digitally connected world of today, into “Enabled and Empowered Employees”
Many times, I have compared social media marketing with the way rock bands tend to work. Traditional marketing is all about companies communicating with non-customers to turn them into customers. Rock bands play for their fans and leave it to them to communicate with non-fans to turn them into new fans. This is also the fundamental formula for successful social media marketing. But, to extend that analogy too, when the fans approach, they don’t want to speak with the band manager. They want the band members. Just like customers approaching your company don’t want to be “switchboarded” by your social media team. They want to get in touch with the folks who know things for real, from experience, the experts.
Jon Iwata said it very well already in 2010:
Your best social media marketing is made by engaged customers and engaged, enabled and empowered employees.
So, to make it work well, you need:
- A social communications policy coupled with thorough training of employees (include online security and respect for copyright while you’re at it)
- Communications professionals who coach the experts instead of insisting of themselves being the voice of the company
- For your foremost experts, it doesn’t hurt with some analytical support to help them improve their communications, to be made aware of which influencers to engage with and where there are relevant discussions going on
- And, as usual when I’m involved, a social intranet where they can get backed up by shared knowledge and easy-to-reach experts is of great help too. It sure will speed up answering the tricky questions.
Replacing the old telephone switchboard with a social media filtering and forwarding team is no good. Automatically channeling them to identified experts who aren’t on board is not much better (but a little). You need to attend to both sides of this equation to get the full value.