Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The “Other” Social Media Policy – the One in the Personnel Manual

Much has been written by social media and marketing experts (this blogger included) advising companies to “look before they leap,” or in other words, “create a social media plan before jumping into social media.” While some companies follow this recommendation, some do not. The results for not following this recommendation can be dismal: few followers on Twitter, few fans on Facebook, few subscribers on YouTube, and few followers on LinkedIn. However, when a company’s marketing team or senior management team write a detailed social media plan and adapt it to its customers and prospects, the results can be impressive: increasing number of followers and fans on all social media sites and excellent conversations with customers and prospects - all leading to increased sales.

However, there is another social media policy that doesn’t get as much attention. This “other” policy defines “social media” for a company. Does it only refer to family photos on Facebook? Does it only refer to videos on YouTube? Does it only refer to business connections on LinkedIn? Does it only refer to 140-character quips on “The Twitter,” as Betty White calls it? Employees need to know.

Employees also need to know if any social networking sites can be accessed during office hours. If access is allowed, employees need to know the amount of time they may spend and on which sites as well as from which equipment access is allowed. Due to security concerns, it may not be wise for a company’s IT department to allow access from laptops and mobile devices.

Employees also need to know if the company owns their social networking accounts. For instance, if employees use LinkedIn strictly for sales leads, the question arises if the company owns those contacts or the employee owns the contacts. To address this issue, an employee might create two accounts (one personal and one for the company) or use a personal email address instead of a business email address to access his or her account.

Since specific employees may be involved with social media as part of their job for your company, as social media managers, they need training as to the company’s “official voice.” How do you want your tweets to sound, your Facebook posts to read, etc.? Do you want to use an informal manner of speech, lots of abbreviations, lots of contractions, etc.? Training is critical so that there is a consistent voice for your company – and consistency helps your brand. Some Twitter examples include @Best Buy and @StaplesTweets and @ComcastCares.

And what are the ramifications for employees if they do not follow the social media policy? The details must be written out and explained to new employees and existing employees as social media marketing and social networking evolve. So, does your company have a social media policy in its personnel manual?

Note: If you would like to read some good policies, here is a link to 150+ policies.

Note: I wrote a related post in 2009: Before you jump into social media, ask who speaks for you.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

When Do You Send Emails to Customers?

Does your company follow the industry standard approach when it comes to sending emails to customers, whether your company is B2B or B2C? This means that on Tuesday or Wednesdays, you finalize your email message, your distribution software or vendor, and click send. But do mid-week, late morning, and early afternoon emails generate the highest read rates, click-thru’s, and responses?

A recent AOL survey reported that 62% of respondents checked their work email over the weekend, which raises the question, “Are Saturdays or Sundays better days to send business emails?” While this is an interesting idea for marketers, many Americans wish to better manage their work-life balance, but with gadget overload, this is becoming more and more difficult. If businesses add more emails to the mix, there will be no “off switch,” and employers will expect all employees to be available 24/7/365.

Here’s a sample of for-profit and non-profit email arrival (all are Pacific time):
• Ford’s emails arrive on Wednesdays at 7:30am
• Staples’ emails arrive on Wednesdays at 2:30am
• The Daily Grill’s emails arrive on Thursdays at 9:05am
• PF Changs China Bistro’s emails arrive on Thursdays at 10:15am
• Cheesecake Factory’s emails arrive on Wednesdays at 6:30am
• Brandweek’s emails arrive daily at 7am
• Harvard Business Review’s emails arrive daily at 5am
• Disney’s emails arrive on Fridays at 12:15 am
• Starwood Hotel’s emails arrive Wednesdays at 8:30am
• Kimpton Hotels’ emails arrive on Wednesdays at 6:45 am
• Joe de Vivre Hotels emails arrive on Wednesdays at 7:15am
• Canine Companions for Independence’s emails arrive on Wednesdays at 10am
• World Wildlife Fund’s emails arrive on Fridays at 3am

While the majority of this email sampling arrive mid-week, would I prefer to read 100-200 emails over the weekend as opposed to during the week? Here’s a better idea, would I just prefer to decrease the number of emails that I receive by 100-200 a week? Since that option is not realistically possible (unless I change email addresses), email messages will continue to arrive at a myriad of times on every day of the week – with the hope of standing out so I take notice and take action.

What about you? Are you reconsidering when to send your company’s emails?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Are your marketing and sales teams at odds?

Savvy business experts describe marketing and sales teams as two ends of the same book, but that doesn’t mean that they know how to work together effectively. More often than not, neither the marketing team nor the sales team understands what the other is doing, and what’s worse, why.

So that we are all on the same page, here are the basic definitions:

MARKETING = the business function responsible for messaging and strategy by which companies create interest (or buzz) in products or services – the marketing umbrella can and often includes brand strategies, competitive positioning strategies, collateral (newsletters, annual reports, flyers, etc.), email marketing, direct marketing, advertising, public relations and media outreach, market research, special events and tradeshows, partnerships, websites and webinars, and social media

SALES = the activity of selling products or services in return for money

According to Wikipedia, “Marketing and sales differ greatly, but have the same goal. Marketing improves the selling environment and plays a very important role in sales. If the marketing department generates a list of potential customers, that can benefit sales. A marketing department in an organization has the goal increasing the number of interactions between potential customers and the organization.”

Due to the advent and continuing evolution of social media combined with effective brand marketing, customers have assumed more power in the buying process and often direct the conversation. But sales and marketing teams must be in alignment for products and services to sell. Here are some useful resources.

Creating Customer Evangelists
How Loyal Customers Become A Volunteer Sales Force
By Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba
c. 2007

The Referral Engine
Training Your Business to Market Itself
By John Jantsch
c. 2010

The Profit Maximization Paradox
Cracking the Marketing/Sales Alignment Code
By Glen Peterson
c. 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing
By Andy Sernovitz
c. 2009

Sales and Marketing the Six Sigma Way
By Michael Webb and Tom Gorman
c. 2006

Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance
By Paul W. Farris, Neil T. Bendle, Phillip E. Pfeifer, and David J. Reibstein
c. 2010

Marketing ROI: The Path to Campaign, Customer, and Corporate Profitability
By James D. Lenskold
c. 2003

Measuring Marketing
103 Key Metrics Every Marketer Needs
By John Davis
c. 2006

Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web
By Brian Solis
c. 2010

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
By Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
c. 2008

Six Pixels of Separation
Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone.
By Mitch Joel
c. 2009

What secrets does your business use to align your marketing and sales teams or departments?