One of my first blog posts discussed getting started with social media. In that blog, I talked about my interview with Phil Gomes of Edelman and how companies are using social news release templates, RSS and blogs to kick-off programs. However, the more I personally engage in social media and communicate with my “friends” in different web communities, the more I see a critical way of thinking that must be applied before any external social media marketing program should begin . At this point, I’m not sure that every company using social media tools externally is applying the same knowledge internally to engage their employees.
There’s a big difference between people hearing about social media and those that really understand and engage in social media. When PR people and marketers are social networking, they take off their marketing hats to become peers who join in the dialogue – instead of simply focusing on the latest tools and trends in developing short term buzz. But, it even goes beyond the PR and communications department in a company. Social media allows every person and every department to become a member of the PR team. It’s very important that the people on the inside of the company understand what and how the brand markets on the outside. For example, companies including UPS, eBay and Cisco use social media for internal communications to inform employees, and at the same time their employees learn, embrace and use these tools daily.
I think it’s critical for companies to educate their employees about the social media programs and tools that they are using for external marketing programs. The only way to do this is to actually make the tools and social media applications available within your company. You may be surprised (through a quick poll or questionnaire of your employees and executives) how very little your internal marketing evangelists know. But, there’s such an easy fix. That’s why Cisco has internal TV station where streaming video is always used to inform employees and a “Facebook” type of application lets employees build profiles so that you know more about a person than just a name, title and extension number.
Sure, you can skip the internal education and engagement and go right to social marketing with you external audiences. However, your own employees are the folks who know the most about your company and its products/services. With that said, their personal engagement and ability to take social media from an internal platform to the external world will provide your brand with so many more meaningful conversations. It’s worth it to take the time to educate and engage from within.