Social media and social networking are both about connecting people.
Without people and their personal relationship information, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter would be reduced to…well…MySpace. A barren wasteland full of bots and spam. When I mention people, I’m not just talking about your customers, prospective customers, bloggers, tweeters, and professional contacts on LinkedIn. I’m also talking about your employees.
You know, those great folks who know your products and services inside and out, have a vested interest in the success of your company, and have built the personal relationships with your client base. The ones who sell your products, identify new ways to do business, and ensure that the day-to-day operations of your business continue. The ones who you trust with your intellectual property, operational know-how, and the “secret sauce” that makes your company unique. Those people.
It befuddles me that there are still social media ostriches out there that STILL don’t trust their employees to engage in social media. Sure, there are case studies like the Facebook fairy and the “Cisco offered me a job” guy, but those folks really are the exception to the rule and, eventually, they probably would have been weeded out of your company for something idiotic, even if social media didn’t exist. I understand that social media is scary and there are still a lot of unknowns, but if you’re going to trust an employee to develop your latest product or stand in front of a prospect and pitch your services, why wouldn’t you trust them to use social media appropriately?
Recently, Apple’s social media policies were leaked to the public and their contents were startling. For a company that is supposed to be in touch with their customer base, Apple’s social media policies are alarmingly restrictive. It explained a lot to me, though. Recently, I have been having issues with my iPad. I upgraded to iOS 5 and it turned my iPad 1 into a giant crashing brick. It’s an understatement that I was irritated, since the tablet has been rock-solid since I purchased it and Apple’s gleaming reputation for quality is what convinced me to spend $600. Fool me once, shame on you.
But the most egregious error on Apple’s part is the fact that they provide product forums, but don’t allow their employees to participate or comment. So…the people who have a strong understanding of the products, technical issues, and solutions aren’t allowed to help their customers. Social. Media. Fail.
The section of their policies that states:
Staff are not permitted to post messages or commentary on any Mac or Apple related websites; whether they identify themselves as Apple employees or not.
just makes me shake my head. Apple employees are not allowed to help their customers on any of the Apple or Mac sites. What?!?
The leaking of these social media policies also explained why my post detailing my issues with the iPad and iOS 5 was deleted from the Apple support forums. Why bother leaving the issue live if no one from Apple is allowed to comment. That would just look bad, right? Right. You know what looks worse, Apple? Deleting my post!
So, as you develop the social media policies for your organization ask yourself. How can I leverage my employees to best serve my customers. Take hints from companies like Zappos and Dell. Find ways to leverage their talent and experience. Let them help your customers.
Don’t be Apple.
Engage your employees. Let them help. Let them be your company ambassadors. Train them. Listen to them. Learn from them. Challenge Them.
In the end, you’ll be amazed at what your employees can do in the social space.