So, my last post talked about the challenges faced by larger companies in maximising social media, particularly location networks. It sprang from discussion on Quora about the ownership of social media. Then I read Dave Briggs’ post ‘Doing away with social media officers’ (follow the links in it to get full value) in which he pushes back on the need for a dedicated social media function. And all this got me thinking… Like all things in life there are winners and losers and this time I think it’s the little guys that have an opportunity to steal a march.
Unburdened by the big unwieldy infrastructure that comes with large numbers and multiple premises, start-ups and small businesses have agility on their side. They have a golden opportunity to create/build a ‘social company culture’ from the centre out, using social media as an integral part of day-to-day business before the company gets too big.
I fear cries of utopian thinking! After all, entrepreneurs and small business owners are typically very busy people who are more pre-occupied with their innovation and funding their growth than aspiring to create any kind of corporate culture. And many harbour a fear of the unknown where social media is concerned. How practical is it to expect them to follow my advice? And why should they? Well, don’t shoot the messenger but as I’ve said before, the social web is here to stay. Tuning in to it is a way to future proof a business but it does require a different mindset. So, entrepreneurs and small business owners/managers, here are my 10 common sense tips to help you create a ‘social company culture’:
- If you’re not already tuned into the social web, make a start now; get comfortable and lead by example
- Get help to orientate you and understand the options – blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc – you can waste lots of time getting started on your own
- If you’re recruiting, keep social media ‘savviness’ in mind as a criteria (this applies to all recruitment – not just marketing)
- Avoid imposing social media engagement on someone who doesn’t want it – it won’t work
- Aim to have a number of people championing the cause online – preferably people from different departments (if relevant)
- Remember this stuff is personal – a corporate profile in the networks will be useful but having your colleagues post news/info/comment related to your sector and your business from their individual profiles occasionally will be invaluable
- As your business grows, don’t under-estimate the need to keep your staff happy, valued and fulfilled – inspire loyalty and they will be more reliable champions
- Keep your social media policy light touch – people need to understand the boundaries but make it too heavy handed and the voice will be stifled
- If you are big enough to have an HR function, involve them; hopefully they will never need to step in in a disciplinary capacity but they need to understand the issues and potential risks. The (social media savvy) guys at Keeping HR Simple have some useful advice for SME’s on this stuff
- Think social content, to augment what you have to offer in social networks (beyond your website) e.g. video, podcasts, presentations etc
- Don’t view the social web as the be all and end all – it needs to join up with your wider PR/marketing effort when you ramp it up but if you get it right, Social PR will evolve naturally
- Last but not least, view the social web as an opportunity for the business – it’s a valuable new business tool – not a chore
Other thoughts on creating the culture? Who is getting it right?