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Don’t fear the Tweeter – opening your business to social media

There was a recent discussion on one of the LinkedIn groups I’m a member of where the question was asked “who owns the responsibility for social media in your company?”

It’s an issue that we come across time and time again – understandably enough. Businesses work hard to maintain and control their public profile, and the idea of allowing free rein to any department to speak publicly for the company can give PR and marketing managers the cold sweats.

But with a little careful planning and training – and an element of trust – having a more open social media policy in your business can reap significant rewards.

Threat or opportunity

Just look at Social Media as another way of interacting with your community – apart from the technology, it’s no different to any other interaction.

There’s often a trust issue (mistrust mostly) when it comes to taking social media out of the hands of marketing or PR teams and empowering different departments.

Companies are used to their “marketing message” being centrally controlled, but in reality it never is. Your staff are sending out a marketing message every time they pick up the phone, talk to a client or supplier, drive around in a van with the company logo on it etc.

If you trust your staff to interact with clients on the phone – trust them to interact using social media.

Guidelines

You train staff to deal with face-to-face customer relations, so train them in social media relations.

Social media is a platform for communication – its not the message – and it’s
no more threatening (and just as much of an opportunity) as the telephone and email. Imagine where your business would be now if you had decided in 1993 that only the marketing team could use email!

With a bit of common sense, and the usual guidelines you’d apply to any public-facing interaction, an open social media policy can have many, many benefits for a company which far outweigh the risks.

How social media is helping charities

We’ve been talking to a number of charities and not-for-profit organisations recently about using social media to help raise awareness – and more importantly funds.

Social media – done well – is a highly effective marketing and communication tool, and for charities, perhaps more so than for most.

What’s the big appeal for charities? Well, it ticks the following boxes:

  • It can be done by volunteers (with guidance)
  • It doesn’t have to take much time
  • It requires sign-up so your message is going out to people who already buy into your aims
  • It creates engagement and discussion among supporters – helping to highlight issues
  • It’s a cost-effective way of co-ordinating and informing volunteers, fundraisers etc
  • It can generate real-time calls to action

Where it’s done well, it can generate immediate and significant rewards. We’ve mentioned elsewhere how well we feel the National Trust uses Twitter.

By using it regularly to provide useful information to followers, they have built up a significant – and loyal – enough following to enable them to use Twitter as a powerful fundraising tool.

Following the recent floods in Cumbria, a number of National Trust properties in the region were badly damaged. On the same day that the damage was being assessed, the National Trust used Twitter to launch an appeal for funds to help repair the damage.

Within just a few hours, several thousand pounds had been donated solely by their followers on Twitter.

Not all charities have the same reach as the National Trust, but all can use this as an example of how to use Twitter (and other social media) effectively.

If you give (a useful and informative social media service) then you will receive (donations and support from your followers).