When it comes to social media, personal responses make a difference

Recent social media debacles from Domino’s Pizza and Bank of America made me think about the best approach for engaging with your social media audience. We frequently discuss the importance of paying careful attention to customer feedback and responding in real-time, as remaining silent makes your business seem divested from the social space, but the responses from Domino’s and Bank of America drive home the importance of well-considered and personalized responses.

In both cases, these enterprise-level companies relied on an automated system to respond to fan comments due to the sheer volume of comments each brand receives. While this solution does cut down on staffing and maintains social activity levels, both companies were subject to the pitfalls of using a robot for social media interaction. In each case, the auto-response completely misunderstood the fans’ sentiment. As a result, both brands were damaged and, ironically, looked less engaged to their fan bases than if they had just selectively chosen to respond to fans’ posts and tweets.

Many big box hotels and resorts are faced with the same conundrum: which comments should be responded to, which should be left alone, and how to go about it? Moreover, the challenge of staffing for social media response, without any guarantee of hard ROI, is an unwelcome prospect for many hoteliers. However, the mistakes from these big brands show that the cost of hiring a few community managers to manage day-to-day engagement outweighs the damage you will do to your brand when robots fail to respond intelligently.

The same approach should apply for online reviews. TripAdvisor’s recent Trip Barometer report indicated that 68% of travelers who see a management response below a hotel review are more likely to book with that hotel versus a hotel without a response. A 2012 Forrester-TripAdvisor study similarly reported that 78% of users agree that seeing a hotel management response to reviews “makes me believe that it cares more about its guests.” While it’s clear that hotels should be actively responding to reviews, the same damage can be done when a hotel favors an automated system or copy-and-paste template over a human-generated reply. When a response is not personalized – whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or a travel review site – it negates any perception that the hotel cares about its consumers.

While many enterprise-level brands favor an automated response system over human staffing, it comes with risk to your online reputation. After all, the main purpose of social media is to humanize your brand and show personal attention. If your property is going to invest in social media, it’s better to train savvy social media managers who show good judgment, carefully respond to comments that are highly negative or positive, and preserve your reputation as an engaged, caring brand.

What We Follow Friday – July 19, 2013

On Fridays, we highlight some of the most interesting articles we’ve been reading from around the web. Articles feature news, strategies, and tools focused on marketing strategy, data mining and analytics, conjoint analysis, customer segmentation and targeting, and market response modeling, and a few others for fun. If you come across an article you think we should be reading, tweet it to us, post it to our facebook page, or leave us a comment at the bottom of the page.

This week, we’ve found some great pieces from quite a few of our favorite news sources: IBM, Forbes, and more. Enjoy!

Data Scientist: Consider the Curriculum

“Data science’s learning curve is formidable.Read More

Baselining Social Media Use in Your Organization

This article dives deeper into the second step of the ABCs of Creating an Effective Social Media Policy: baselining the current state of your social media policy and the way its being interpreted by employees. Read the article, then download our sample social media use survey as a jumping off point for your own baselining efforts.

Whether your organization already has a social media policy, or is working to develop one, baselining the current state of its social media use is critical to success. You can’t craft a solid new policy, or address failings of an existing one, if you don’t have a clear picture of what’s happening on the ground in your workplace.

Making these assessments can, and should, be done before a new policy is even issued. It’s as simple as surveying employees to find out how much they know about existing policies and how those policies are being interpreted daily. Conducting an organization-wide survey to assess social media use provides a baseline level of intelligence that’s essential for successful, beneficial policy making.

Different questions for different roles

One way to increase survey participation and ensure more robust results it to create different versions of your questionnaire targeted to different employee roles. For example, consider making one questionnaire designed for individual contributors and another designed for managers.

For individual contributors, be sure to ask questions covering all aspects of social media policy and use. This may include asking employees to describe your company’s social media policy as it relates to specific areas such as blogs or tweets, or asking them whether they’ve received any formal instruction on these policies. You also want to know whether employees are following policies. But don’t ask this question directly; few employees will admit their transgressions. Instead, ask employees specific questions about use, such as “Do you ever use mobile devices to engage in personal social media use at work?”

For managers, be sure to ask questions to uncover whether they’ve reviewed current laws relevant to business records, monitoring, and electronic data. You also want to know if managers are finding that their employees’ use of social media is impacting productivity, or creating legal problems.

Remember the goal

The goal of this process is to accurately baseline how your employees are using social media at work, not to catch specific wrongdoers. To get honest answers, assure employees of your survey’s confidentiality before it’s administered and that you will make no effort to identify individual respondents.

Conducting an employee survey of your organization’s social media use is the first step in assessing the high-risk issues a new policy should address; the effectiveness of your current policy; or areas in need of change.

Private Social Networks: Why Your Company Needs One

Uncertain about the risks associated with public platforms and how a private social network might soothe your worries?  This post provides an overview of the risks associated with public platforms and describes how private social networks (which I prefer to call private digital networks) can reduce those risks while also enhancing communication and collaboration among organizational stakeholders as part of eCornell’s Tech Tuesday series from The Denovati Group.

Public social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn can help organizations of all types enhance their marketing, public relations, and other external communication efforts, but they may not be the best choice for facilitating more private interactions.

Private social networks are also referred to as enterprise social networks, intranet 2.0s, social intranets, enterprise 2.0 platforms, social business platforms, digital communities, and similar labels. The basic idea behind them is to provide 2.0 or social media functionality within a private or secure environment, using a proprietary platform rather than one of the publicly-available social networks.

Public vs. Private Platforms

Recognizing the value of leveraging social media, organizations have been establishing and building their presence on public social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as semi-private platforms like Ning. These platforms can be very powerful for external applications like marketing, branding, and public relations, but they present a number of risks and challenges, including:

  • Sharing information about organizational stakeholders (e.g., employees, business partners, board leaders, members) without their express permission.
  • Exposing minors (a special risk for private clubs, schools, religious groups, health care and non-profit organizations). See this post for a more in-depth discussion of this risk.
  • Being held responsible for unofficial presence/activities that appear official.
  • Limited ability to monitor/control communication between staff and other stakeholders.
  • Challenges maintaining relationship boundaries.
  • Seeing things that may require taking unwelcome (but legally necessary) action.

Recognizing these risks, some organizations have attempted to create private spaces on public platforms, but there are downsides to many of these solutions as well. For example:

  • Closed Facebook groups (vs. Pages): tend to be personally oriented, which may not be appropriate for professionally-oriented interactions.
  • Closed LinkedIn groups: tend to be professionally oriented, which may not be appropriate for personally-oriented interactions. LinkedIn is also not a viable platform for organizations working with minors.
  • Private Twitter handles: tend to have a relatively low number of users, and generally only enable one-way communication between an organization and its stakeholders.
  • Private Flickr accounts and blogs: tend to present challenges in terms of driving traffic to them and promoting engagement.
  • Ning communities: create yet another account for people to manage, and the platform is not completely private.

These issues are compounded by a more general set of challenges, including:

  • Some people strongly dislike platforms like Facebook and Twitter and will refuse to set up accounts and engage on them.
  • Each platform has limited functionality, and organizations have limited control over their design and features. More importantly, they have virtually no control over – or even warning about – platform changes.
  • Privacy on public platforms like Facebook is kind of an illusion. Even if other users can’t access certain information/activity, the platform provider can – and does.
  • There is no easy way for an organization to integrate activity in the various platforms, either within a platform or across platforms.
  • Managing a presence on multiple platforms is challenging for both organizations and their stakeholders. People have different preferences for platforms and features, and are inconvenienced by having to manage multiple sign-ons.  And managing multiple platforms requires a lot of time and effort from organizational staff.
  • Trying to accommodate multiple objectives and preferences on public platforms often results in cannibalization of an organization’s digital engagement efforts. When individuals/groups carve out their own spaces on public platforms, the organization loses control. In addition, to the extent these spaces are publicly known, the organization’s brand – as well as its goals and objectives – can be compromised.

Establishing a private digital network can alleviate the risks and challenges associated with using public social media platforms for communication and collaboration among organizational stakeholders. It can also produce other benefits, including:

  • Organizations can create a digital community/space to correspond with their physical community/space(s).
  • Rather than having relevant digital interactions spread out across a variety of platforms, they can be contained in a single shared space.
  • The private digital network can be connected to the organization’s website and other digital platforms, which facilitates access and increases the likelihood of engagement. Increased digital engagement can lead to increases in other forms of engagement.
  • With its own digital network, organization-related interactions among staff and between staff and other stakeholders occur in an official, sanctioned, private environment, which helps create and maintain proper boundaries.
  • A digital network promotes better communication and collaboration by enabling people to interact in various ways (e.g., via wikis, blogs, chats, forums) in addition to direct messaging (i.e., email).
  • Private digital networks not only maximize flexibility for both individuals and organizations, they offer more control over the design and features of the digital platform through which people interact.

It’s a Question of “When” not “If”

In spite of the very real potential benefits private digital networks offer, many organizational leaders are still hesitant to pursue them, for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons offered, and counterpoints for each:

We can’t afford it

The costs of enterprise social software vary widely. In addition to large, relatively-expensive, enterprise-oriented solutions like SharePoint and Jive, there are also free (e.g., Yammer and Salesforce.com’s Chatter) and relatively low-cost (e.g., 37 Signals, Intranet Connections) solutions. Many of these products/services are designed to be “out-of-the-box” solutions, which means they require relatively little customization and can be implemented fairly quickly and without significant IT support. Social software does not have to be a budget buster.

Our people won’t use it

Time and again organization leaders have found that individuals are far more ready to use social software than they think. Managing enthusiasm has proven to be a far bigger challenge than managing resistance. In addition, a well-designed platform will be user-friendly and easy to use, which will increase both the speed and extent of adoption.

People will waste time socializing rather than working

Performance management is a leadership issue, not a technology challenge. If people want to avoid work, they’ll find a way – with or without technology. In reality, one of the biggest benefits of social software is that it can enhance efficiency and effectiveness. It can also increase engagement and boost morale in a variety of ways.

Choosing the Right Tool

As the Digital Era continues to evolve, leaders will increasingly recognize the need for their organizations to establish a social/digital presence across the privacy spectrum. Each type of platform has a role to play in achieving an organization’s goals and objectives. To wit:

  • Public spaces like Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn Company pages, Google Plus pages, and YouTube channels support externally-oriented objectives like marketing, branding, PR, and recruiting.
  • Semi-Private spaces like Ning communities, Facebook groups, and LinkedIn groups enable communication and collaboration among individuals who have shared interests (but aren’t in the same organization).
  • Private spaces promote secure, confidential, and regulated communication and collaboration among individuals who are linked by a common organizational identity/interest.

Choosing the right tool for the task (or in this case, the right social technology), should be driven by an organization’s strategy and a clear understanding of what each tool can help the organization achieve.

Click here to view the original post on the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) website and access related resources.

Three Key Characteristics of a Smart Social Media Policy

In my 17 years as a senior level HR practitioner, I’ve seen good and bad corporate policies. The only real difference between the two is that good policies are those that employees follow. Social media policies are no exception. But the most effective policies don’t just keep employees in line. They set consistent, clear, and common-sense guidelines that free employees to do their jobs better.

Here are three key characteristics that should define your social media policy:

1. It’s Clear

Your employees need to understand why the policy is needed; this doesn’t mean they have to agree with that reason. It’s unrealistic to believe people will automatically support your policies. And telling employees to follow policies “because we say so” is more likely to increase resistance rather than acceptance. Instead, the key is providing context. The best way to increase employee buy-in is to frame policies within a context to which they can relate. For example:

“Because we want to guarantee consistent external messaging by our company, only employees who have received prior training and written permission from the marketing department to blog on behalf of our company are allowed to do so.”

Good policies also are followed because they clearly spell out what’s expected from whom, and in which situations. What’s the scope of the policy, and who are the employees to which it applies? What kinds of social media activities are covered? Does the policy apply to all employees? What about contract staff? The devil is definitely in the details. If employees lack clarity around these issues, they’ll turn to making educated guesses — the very thing you’re trying to eliminate by implementing policies.

2. It’s Consistent

Research shows that our reactions to unfairness are actually hard-wired in the brain. No wonder employees, let alone toddlers, will lash out when they are being treated unfairly. Put bluntly, there’s no better way for companies to create utter disregard for policies and a lack of faith in management than to hold certain employees less accountable than others. For example, you never want to hear this from one of your employees:

“Well, I didn’t think it was a big deal to post that kind of comment on Facebook since I know my boss does it all the time on her personal blog. If she doesn’t have to get approval to do that, then why do I?”

This is why it’s critical that policies be applied consistently across all employee levels, geographic locations and functions. A lack of consistency can quickly lead to rogue behaviors. The only exception is when certain policies must be followed by specific subsets of employees due to legal or regulatory requirements. In this case, make sure all employees know who the policy applies to, and why it only applies to those people.

3. It’s Useful

Useful policies free employees to perform effectively by lowering their odds of making missteps. Your employees are some of your best brand ambassadors on social media. But if they don’t know what’s acceptable, they may shy away from this role for fear of hurting their careers due to an honest mistake. Similarly, companies that have invested significant resources in social media for collaboration and innovation will see a much larger return on that investment if employees are not afraid to use these tools.

Dealing with the “grey zone” of day-to-day operations is often the role of the line manager who is repeatedly called upon to answer questions for areas where written policies do and do not exist. But having clearly documented and easily accessible policies — especially for fast-moving issues like social media — will save both supervisor and subordinate from ever having to utter that age-old expression of horror, “If only I had known!”

Guest Post on Effortless HR Blog


Social Media Experts: Why Organizations Need Them

Many people are critical of the notion of social media experts, falsely claiming they don’t exist – and by extension implying they aren’t necessary. These criticisms, combined with the pervasiveness, low cost, and relative ease of use of social technologies, lead many people to assume (also falsely) that DIY and “give it to the intern” approaches are effective strategies for leveraging these new tools. This post counters some of the most frequent criticisms and articulates the need for social media expertise as a part of eCornell’s Tech Tuesday series from The Denovati Group.

Arguments Against Social Media Experts

In the context of new social technologies, “expert” is often perceived as a four-letter word, and many people decry the label “social media expert.” Certain critics have decided there is no such thing as a social media expert or social media expertise, offering arguments like the following to support their positions:

  • It’s too new. False. The underlying technologies have been around for almost 20 years, longer if you consider some of their digital precursors. And the core characteristics – such as user-generated content and social sharing – date back to our earliest days on the planet.
  • Things change too much and too often. That’s true, but the truth isn’t unique to this set of technologies and/or related disciplines. Professionals in many areas will quickly attest to the dynamism in their own fields, companies, and industries.
  • Only a small elite can claim expert status. If we define expert in very narrow terms as a pinnacle achievement, then yes, only a few people can claim it. But if you look up the definition of the term and rely on its denotation, you’ll find it applies to a much broader group of people. Plus, I think it’s important to recognize that it’s a relative, as well as absolute, label. I may know a lot about employment law, for example, but I would defer to a labor law attorney as an expert in the field.
  • It’s not just about the tools. Of course it’s not, but understanding how the technologies, tools, and platforms are used is critically important to success in using them. There are countless people who are “experts” in their core disciplines who would fail miserably in 2.0 spaces because of their lack of social media expertise. More on that in the next section.

Ironically, in an effort to minimize the importance of social media expertise, these critics are effectively holding social media to a higher standard than other professions, functions, and disciplines – where expertise is not only respected, but sought out. But the criticism is understandable to some degree: too many people convey false impressions of their expert status, presenting their knowledge and skills as being more comprehensive and/or in-depth than they are.

More often than not, when people make sneering references to social media experts and/or disdain the use of the term, what they’re referring to is the proliferation of charlatans in response to the dramatic growth of digital social media in the past few years. This proliferation may be unfortunate, but it’s hardly surprising and hardly unique to the Digital Era. Charlatans, swindlers, hustlers, hucksters, quacks, frauds, snake oil salesmen, and mountebanks are endemic to the human condition. It is wise to be wary of “false prophets,” but concerns about being misled shouldn’t cause organizational leaders to not seek out valuable guides to help them move forward in cyberspace.

The Need for Social Media Expertise

Regardless of whether we use the “expert” label, there are many reasons why organizations should invest in people with social media expertise:

1. The road to social media hell is paved with ignorance.

Cyberspace abounds with stories of social media failures, often by people who should have known better:

  • Experienced journalists and public relations professionals who “tweeted without thinking”
  • A CEO who set up a fake blog to disparage a competitor
  • A teacher who blogged disparagingly about her students and a principal who friended students on Facebook using a false identity
  • Community managers who fanned the flames of a Facebook attack
  • Marketers and advertisers who underestimated the social media backlash to their companies’ campaigns or actions, or who created fake social media-based commercials and/or endorsements
  • Human resources and legal professionals who developed overly-broad social media policies
  • Hiring managers who engaged in unethical practices using social media

I could go on, but the point is that contrary to many critics’ core argument, social media isn’t “just” anything. Yes, it’s a set of tools and technologies, but it’s a very powerful set that can cause significant harm if used incorrectly. As I wrote in Social Media: From Novelty to Utility:

Saying social media is “just” a communications tool is like saying a nuclear power plant is “just” a way to turn on the lights.

2. Simple doesn’t mean easy

It takes less than a minute to set up a Twitter account. And perhaps another few seconds to send the first “is this thing on?” tweet. But the simplicity of the user interface hardly ensures one’s effectiveness in using the channel. There’s a new language and norms to learn, as well as hazards and mistakes to avoid. The same is true for other public platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Flickr, and tools like blogging and wikis and videocasts and podcasts. Social media rookies regularly underestimate them, often to their own detriment.

3. Strategy trumps tactics

The ways in which an individual or organization can leverage social media are virtually limitless, but the ways in which they should leverage the technologies need to be driven by goals and objectives, industry and stakeholder characteristics, and a host of other factors, including a sophisticated understanding of whether and how social media would be more effective than traditional tools.

4. Change is hard

For most rookies – including organizational leaders – social media is threatening, intimidating and discomfiting. Bringing about the necessary changes to leverage social media successfully requires in-depth understanding of the technologies and their applications and implications, as well as the ability to translate that understanding into language lay people can understand and the ability to help them connect the dots.

5. Even when it’s your mountain to climb, having a Sherpa can help

I’ve been immersed in social media for over three years, not just as a practitioner, but as a student and teacher. I can say with confidence that it’s impossible for someone just getting started to quickly match the knowledge, skills, and understanding of someone who’s been intimately involved with new digital technologies for some time. More importantly, these “experts” can help rookies climb their learning curves more efficiently and effectively and provide guidance to increase the likelihood of success and minimize the risks of failure.

Degrees of Expertise

It’s important to recognize that there is no single definition of expertise and no “one-size-fits-all” model to leveraging that expertise. The most appropriate expert for a given purpose in a particular organization will depend on factors like the organization’s:

  • Strategic goals and objectives, both short term and longer term
  • Industry and client characteristics
  • Level  of technological sophistication
  • Financial resources
  • Employee skill levels and capacity

Rand Fishkin of Moz provides a chart that offers a nice starting point for understanding different levels of social media expertise. I would argue that we can distinguish different levels of social media professionals the same way we might professionals in other functional areas: coordinators, analysts, managers, designers, planners, strategists, and advisors. Some organizations will need to acquire or develop individuals with expertise at all these levels, whereas others will only need some of them. For some the best solution will be to bring the expertise in house; for others it will be to use one or more service providers. And of course the right solution will change over time, as technology and an organization’s circumstances and needs continue to evolve.

Click here to view the updated post on the Denovati SMART Blog.

Assemble the Social Media Policy Team

This article dives deeper into the second step of the ABCs of Creating an Effective Social Media Policy: Assembling the team of representatives to create your social media policy.

As I’ve discussed, the first step in creating a successful social media policy is to identify the key stakeholders to make part of your social media policy team. This article covers the importance of including not only your organization’s official representatives (such as your Legal Counsel, Chief Information Officer and/or the HR Director) but also those whose unofficial status as social media experts makes them invaluable resources in an undertaking such as this.

Mailroom Frank: To Include or Not?

Unlike in many of the other areas of policy development, social media’s unbreakable integration with ever-changing technologies make it essential to involve not only those with expertise in the areas of policy and compliance, but also those whose knowledge of what’s happening “out there” in terms of technological advancements in  social media platforms. In addition, while it’s not always true that having a diverse set of viewpoints results in a more effective process–think death by committee–what is true is that the likelihood of missing a potentially devastating risk is significantly decreased when people with different viewpoints evaluate that risk from multiple angles. More eyes almost always results in more perspectives. The challenge, of course, is to determine how far your organization is willing to go as it relates to including those with a different viewpoint on the team. Clearly, there’s no value in having 21-year-old Frank from the mailroom on the team–or is there? And we all know that we only need one rep from marketing on the team–or do we?

The ability to include the unofficial expertss may also be more or less difficult, depending upon your organization’s culture. Are you an inclusive culture, where the view is “All for one and one for all”? Or are you a separatist culture, where the prevailing view around roles and responsibilities might be “Good fences make for good neighbors”?

Inclusive Cultures

If inclusive, it’s important to ensure that we don’t create a social media policy team which is too large and therefore prone to decision gridlock. The key to designating people in an inclusive culture is to be able to clearly articulate why each of the individuals has been chosen. When doing so, get your explanation down to two to three sentences; any longer and people will see you as overselling, or worse, defensively justifying.

Let’s take a look at what such a statement might look like.

“In order to be both representative and move with speed, we have decided that the social media policy team should be no larger than 10 people. We’ve selected Bill from marketing to be on the team because he has both an extensive understanding of how our customers are using social media platforms as well as good competitive intelligence on what new platforms are likely to be adopted by these customers in the future.”

 Again, short, understandable, to the point.

Separatist Cultures

If our culture is more separatist, we’ll have to work a little harder to get organization buy-in to include these unofficial experts onto the social media policy team. One approach we could use is to do a simple quiz before the first meeting of our social media policy team in order to clearly point out knowledge gaps of the “official representatives.” Unless keeping up with social media trends is a full-time job for these representatives, there’s a good chance that many of them will not be as familiar with either the scope or utility of many of the newer social media platforms. This provides a great opening to introduce a handful of unofficial experts onto the team.

Even in a separatist culture, it’s important to be able to clearly articulate the reasons for an individual’s involvement. As an example:

“We’ve selected our summer intern, Katy, from IT to be on the team because of her extensive knowledge of which social media platforms Gen X and Gen Y are using. We’ve also asked her to act as a reverse mentor to the team, helping them understand how these newer platforms work as well as what older platforms people are beginning to abandon.”

Again short, understandable, to the point.

Search Engine Marketing Basics for Hospitality

Whether you search online for sushi or a penthouse suite in Las Vegas, you’ll see them: a line-up of small ads populating the shaded areas above or to the right of your search results. They don’t look like much, but if done well, these minimalist ads can entice consumers to your website and hopefully, to make a purchase. For the hospitality marketer, this tool—called search engine marketing (SEM)—should be an essential part of your digital marketing toolkit.Read More

Social Media Policy Teams

Recently, the team at eCornell asked the Director of Social Engagement for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), Curtis Midkiff, for his insights on forming social media policy teams. Curtis has also appeared in eCornell’s Ask the Expert segments for our newest certificate Social Media in HR: From Policy to Practice.

Are there particular advantages to having a social media policy team for organizations with a global reach?

Yes, because social media influences every aspect of the organization, so it’s very important that you have a team that can bring those different perspectives when you’re creating the policy, and implementing the policy. It’s good to have different perspectives because social media is viewed differently by different members of the organization. So what that team can do is make sure that the policy that you create, and the policy that you implement, takes into account all of those different perspectives. So that you have a balanced policy that’s not too far balanced, or imbalanced, on the governance side, or not too loosely balanced on the implementation side. So that you have a good balance of both that you can share with your employees.

In general, what are the main challenges in creating and managing social media policy teams?

I think the main challenge in managing these teams is mainly more so on the logistics side of it, because usually when you involve people from different departments and different areas, there are a lot of logistics challenges in terms of setting meetings, in terms of setting agenda for meetings, in terms of maintaining the working committees that you need to have, and the subcommittees you need to have. It’s more of a logistical issue than anything else, because managing these teams, they’re people who are committed to the organization, so you’re not going to have a problem with their follow-through and their commitment. It’s just that this is one additional thing that you’re probably going to add to people at the senior level of your organization, who have priorities related to their organizational goals. So it’s very important that you do what is necessary to make sure that logistically, it is very simple for these people to be involved in the team. You make it very simple in terms of how you set the meetings, you make it simple in terms of what the scope of work you’re dealing with, the issues you’re dealing with, your goals. So that way you can maximize the time that you have.

What parts of the organization must be represented on the social media policy team beyond the typical HR, IT, and legal functions?

So when you have your foundation, then that’s kind of your first tier. Your second tier, folks that definitely need to be there, you need have someone there from your communications team. This is important because there has to be a definitive difference that’s set in terms of who are the official spokespersons for social media. So most likely your media team, public relations team, public affairs team, whatever it’s called in your organization, has probably set up criteria and standards for official spokespersons. They need to be at the table when the social media policy is being created, drafted, and implemented.

Beyond those folks who form the foundation, other folks that you have on the social media policy team should simply reflect your organization and those who have key touchpoints with your constituencies. So in many cases that means representatives from your marketing team are a part of it, as well as representatives from your customer service team may be a part of it. So those parts can be determined by your business functions and who has the potential to benefit most, use social media most, or who have touchpoints with the organization.

Is there a role for unofficial participants on the social media policy team?

There is definitely a role for unofficial participants. And to define that role, it would those who have a level of expertise, or understand or influence on social networks that can provide additional perspectives or inform you on ways that can shape your policy. It’s really important in organizations because one of the things we talk about at social media is done is that it really changes the way we look at influence. Your employees have developed these social networks, and a lot of times the folks who are most influential on social networks are not always at the top of the organizational chart. It is people who are distributed throughout your organization. And it’s really great because that allows your committee that is developing the policy to really not develop this policy in a vacuum, to really develop this policy in a manner where they have taken into consideration a snapshot of what’s happening in the social media world now and also created a policy that’s flexible enough to be adapted as social media changes. And the only way you can do that is by not just limiting your planning team members to specific levels of leadership, to specific departments, but also making sure there is room on the committee, a couple of seats, for those that have exhibited expertise in social media and who can share that expertise with the rest of the team.

Can the social media policy team help manage intergenerational conflict in the organization around social media behaviors?

[With a new social media policy,] there’s going to be a generational gap, yes, because you have groups of people who are digital natives, mostly your millenials who grew up in the social media era. And you’re going to have other workers who have been within the company longer and who have operated successfully in the company without social media. So now they’re being asked to adapt what they’ve done well for so long, to a new tool that they may not be aware of. So the social media planning team can be a good leader in that respect in a couple of aspects.

First, by commissioning some sort of research as to social media use and comfort within the organization. And conducting that research in a manner to have a correlation, or to establish if there’s any correlations between a certain generation and their comfort with social media. You may find that there’s not intergenerational differences, there may be interdepartmental differences. So what the social media planning team can do is make sure that similar to, like a city council or other governing body, that there’s a chance for public comment. While they’re developing this policy it’s almost like developing legislation. Make sure there’s a chance for public comment so you can identify the potential roadblocks and the potential issues that lie beyond that room.

Twitter for Rookies

Still not certain whether you should take the Twitter plunge? Or do you consider yourself a Twitter Rookie? The best way to determine its value is to give it a try. Focus on using Twitter professionally rather than personally – including staying current with local, national, and global news. This post offers simple best practice suggestions for setting up your profile and getting started as part of eCornell’s Tech Tuesday series from The Denovati Group.

First: Why Use Twitter Professionally at All?

As far as I’m concerned, every professional can benefit from having a Twitter account. That doesn’t mean we all have to care what people are having for lunch, who the mayor of the local Home Depot is, or what celebrities are doing, thinking, or selling. It also doesn’t mean that we have to share (or overshare) the banalities of our own lives, amass hundreds or thousands of followers, or strive for a high Klout score.

Contrary to popular perception, media hype, and the passionate proclamations of early-adopters and Twitter mavens, Twitter views itself as an “information network” rather than a “social network.” Specifically, as described on the About Twitter page,

Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news about what you find interesting. Simply find the accounts you find most compelling and follow the conversations.

This description directly addresses the first item in my Twitter Worst Practices post: namely, the insidious and somewhat tyrannical assumption that all Twitter users must tweet. Reluctance to talk or share via Twitter is one of the primary reasons many later adopters are still hesitant to sign up. The reality is that Twitter is an incredibly powerful listening channel. It offers fantastic opportunities for everyone – especially busy professionals – to receive and screen a high volume of news, information and resources efficiently and effectively. It is perfectly appropriate to open a Twitter account with the intent to just listen. You never have to send a single tweet. Twitter even says so themselves:

You don’t have to build a web page to surf the web, and you don’t have to tweet to enjoy Twitter. Whether you tweet 100 times a day or never, you still have access to the voices and information surrounding all that interests you. You can contribute, or just listen in and retrieve up-to-the-second information. Visit fly.twitter.com to learn more about what’s yours to discover.


Best Practice Suggestions

Here are my best practice suggestions for setting up your profile and getting started. To keep things simple, I am going to focus on using Twitter professionally rather than personally, including staying current with local, national, and global news.

Choosing a Username (i.e., Your Handle)

  • Keep it short – 10 characters or fewer
  • Devise something that connects to your personal and/or professional identity, but be careful not to infringe on someone else’s brand
  • Make sure it won’t embarrass you, your colleagues, or your organization (i.e., no cutesy names or nicknames, no off-color humor)
  • Think about how the handle will read/sound to others, particularly when it’s viewed in all lower-case letters

Including a Picture (yes, you should have one)

  • You don’t need to restrict yourself to a headshot, but you should choose an image that accurately and appropriately reflects your professional identity
  • Make sure you have the right to use the image
  • Pick something that is both clear and attractive in a thumbnail version

Adding Your Name, Website, & Bio

  • Name: Use your real name
  • Website: If you don’t have a website to link to, link to your LinkedIn profile
  • Bio: Since you only have 160 characters, it’s okay to use key words in creating your bio rather than trying to craft a sentence. Remember to focus on your professional identity rather than your personal identity. It’s okay to include some relevant personal information, but be careful about including things that could be misperceived or might undermine your professional brand. If you have a LI headline/tagline you like, and it fits, by all means include it here.

Setting Up Mobile Access: Because tweets are like headlines, they’re extremely easy to digest and manage in small bites. That makes them perfect for what I call “interstitial time” – e.g., when you’re commuting or traveling, while waiting for someone, before you’re ready to get out of bed in the morning. To facilitate that, make sure you set your account up to send your tweets to your phone (i.e., via 40404) and/or download one of the Twitter apps to your phone and/or tablet.

Following Others

  • Accounts to target
    • Local, national, and international news sources
    • Professional and industry associations
    • Academic and research institutions, including your alma mater(s)
    • Your own organization, clients, prospects, competitors
    • Organizations you’d like to work for
    • Bloggers and thought leaders
  • Tips
    • Make sure you’re following official accounts
    • Get ideas from checking out the accounts followed by others and/or those recommended by Twitter
    • Review an account’s activity before deciding whether it’s a valuable source for you
    • If the volume of activity becomes overwhelming, find a way to dial things down by unfollowing some of the noisier and/or less valuable accounts

Restricting Followers: Assuming you don’t plan to start tweeting initially, you should make your account private by selecting the “Protect my Tweets” option. This way, no one will be able to follow you without your permission. Doing so will not affect your ability to follow others.

Building Twitter into your Schedule

  • Tune in at least once a day, for 5-15 minutes
  • Scan headlines and either follow the links to items that pique your interest or forward them to yourself via email to read later

Learning the Language and Basic Conventions

  • The best way to learn is to immerse yourself in the Twitter stream and glean meaning from the activity itself
  • Here’s a simple set of Twitter symbols and terms to get you started:
    • @ is used in front of a Twitter handle to directly reference an account; it also creates a hyperlink to their account
    • #, aka a hashtag, is a way of collecting tweets around a specific topic or theme; it also creates a hyperlink to a page of tweets that include the hashtag
    • RT = retweet (i.e., sharing someone else’s tweet)
    • MT = modified tweet (i.e., resharing someone’s tweet after modifying the text)
    • FF = Follow Friday, a way of recommending specific accounts to follow (fading practice)
  • You can also identify typical Twitter conventions by watching the activity of others, but don’t assume it’s all good – best practices are constantly evolving
  • If you see something you’re not sure about, check out the Twitter Glossary or the Twitter Basics section of the Help Center to learn more

Click here to view the original post on the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) website and access related resources.