Deploying Volunteer Marketing Armies with Internal Social Media

Guest post by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, inspired by their new book The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social.

To harvest all of the interesting and important happenings around your company, create an internal social media system.

No one person in your company knows everything. Whether you’re a small organization or a multinational corporation, there are successes and failures, special moments, and stories occurring and being created every minute of every day. Powering your external engagement efforts with an internal social media program helps you collect and distribute as much of that information as possible.

This internal news wire enables employees to co-create a living history of the organization, and that helps shape the proactive messaging you’ll distribute across the social web. It also provides the alert and action infrastructure necessary if the company needs to mobilize instantly in an urgent, real-time scenario.

Share as much as you can via the internal social media system, even the things that might seem minor or unimportant. One person’s ‘‘whatever’’ is another person’s ‘‘a-ha!’’ moment or golden tidbit of information.

Information Democracy

Just like your social participation, updates can and should be created from all corners of the organization: minutes from your social media team meetings; new account wins (and losses) from the sales team; new initiatives from marketing; new hires, promotions, and departures from HR; competitor updates; finance and legal updates; new product or service offerings; and especially, customer stories and questions (with answers!) from the customer service department.

Perhaps your company isn’t large enough to have departments and divisions. That’s not an obstacle. Give all of your people access to a central communications hub or tool, give them a few guidelines, and turn on the internal storytelling faucet. You’ll be amazed at the great information that’s been sitting untapped in people’s heads or filing cabinets.

Internal Social Media via Yammer

Off Madison Ave, an integrated marketing agency in Tempe, Arizona, uses internal social media via Yammer (akin to an internal version of Twitter and Facebook) to gather and spread information about client successes, minute-by-minute in-office happenings (this reduces e-mail volume significantly), and relevant industry updates.

Here’s a sample of postings:

‘‘Carol has arrived with a delicious assortment of Dunkin Donuts. They’re in the client kitchen while supplies last.’’

‘‘Don’t let the kids see this . . . a website that creates a font from your own handwriting for free. http://fontcapture.com’’

‘‘Joseph and Michelle both celebrate three years with the agency today. Congratulations!’’

‘‘Email industry blogs announced today that Responsys is buying Smith- Harmon, the email design agency we often go up against in competitions.’’

‘‘We are looking for one more golfer this Saturday to participate in the Waste Not, Inc. golf tournament that our client Massage Envy is helping
put on . . . golfing at NIGHT. You know you want to!’’ ‘

‘We won the Pier 1 email makeover competition! 86% more clicks. 25%
more sales than the other participants.’’

Is it a semi-random collection of information? Absolutely. But by making this type of bite-sized content available to everyone in the organization, patterns are uncovered, culture is built, and more and more employees become comfortable in their knowledge of the company and its goings-on. And that comfort level manifests itself in increased participation in social media.

Moving External: The Message of the Day

Once they’re ready to begin communicating externally, you can help your employees – your volunteer marketing army – spread relevant information about your company to their own social graphs by employing a Message of the Day strategy.

The Message of the Day concept stems from Michael Deaver’s work as the craftsman of Ronald Reagan’s message program. A small cross-functional team within your organization should meet every day at 4:55 for five minutes to sift through the content collected via your internal social media system, and determine what might be legitimately interesting to your customers.

Out of that meeting should stem the Message of the Day for tomorrow. The Message of the Day isn’t necessarily about the company. Maybe it’s about your industry. Maybe it’s a customer story. Maybe it’s a photo of your company karaoke outing.

Disseminate the Message of the Day to all social media–active employees first thing every morning. You can do this via the messaging option within your internal social media system or via a daily, dedicated e-mail or text message. Note that you might have a Message of the Every Other Day or Message of the Week, depending on your company’s size and information flow.

Information Optimization

The Message of the Day should be 125 characters or less to accommodate retweets on Twitter, including, if applicable, a shortened URL, preferably set up to be tracked via bit.ly or a similar service.

Once receiving the Message of the Day, employees should be free to modify it to fit their own style and social participation (you may want to provide Message of the Day visuals when appropriate for employees active in Flickr and Facebook). If it doesn’t feel authentic, if it doesn’t feel like something they would actually say in real life, they should be encouraged to ignore the message for that day.

This easy-to-use system gives voice to your volunteer marketing army, providing them relevant, interesting information about the company that they can spread using their own social capital.

This post on the Off Madison Ave Yammer channel could be rephrased as a Message of the Day:
‘‘We’re the champs! Off Madison Ave beat out 3 companies in an email design contest for Pier 1 Imports.”

This is how your key message soon reaches far beyond your ‘‘official’’ social media outposts.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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  • http://www.LLsocial.com Josh Davis

    Good article.

    In my work with corporate clients (especially in the B2B) space, I firmly believe that doing internal social media is best way to start a culture of sharing information.

    For companies that have spent millions on branding, there is generally too much fear of social media mistakes to have them jump into external social media right away. But once they start sharing internally, they obtain two key advantages. They start to create a culture of sharing, and they can quickly identify people in their organization who would be good conversationalist and advocates for their brand.

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  • http://twitter.com/gerardocastano Gerardo Castano

    This is a great idea on easing a reluctant company into using new media with baby steps. There just seems to be so many good things about this idea. I especially like how disparate groups of employees can all stay relevant to the company and assist in achieving everything that they can help with, which is usually more than they know.
    Thank you for writing this!!

  • Anonymous

    Good post. Thanks for sharing! :)

  • @snube

    I love this post! The concept is very simple but also in my opinion very good to achieve a more open and transparant company, more conversation with (potential) customers and more natural company branding through social media. OK, maybe not all of this will be achieved through this concept, but small steps like these are in my opinion necessary within large corporations. I myself work at a bank in the Netherlands and experience the difficulties that come with becoming a more ‘social’ company, in the broadest sense. Thanks for the post!

    Sander Nube
    @snube (tweets in Dutch)

  • Vicco

    I thought about this… and now I confirm it… it is a great idea and Yammer works really well! Thank you very much. Great article!

  • CH08HC

    Such a simple idea, but with so many great possibilities.

  • http://twitter.com/be3d Ian Greenleigh

    This is why I see a huge opportunity for seemingly-boring things like email signatures to be enriched with dynamic content. Think about how many emails a company of even 20 employees send out every day. Seems like wasted real estate to me if there’s no marketing content there to support current messaging. Yes, there are vendors to fill this need, but they approach it from the disclaimers angle and are built as tools of liability reduction, not marketing. What else besides emails can we apply this thinking to?

  • http://www.microsourcing.com/ MicroSourcing

    Information democracy can increase efficiency. In cases when an employee or executive takes a long leave, and information is needed, operations won’t stall.

  • RL COMM l Social Media Expert

    Great post and advices.. In this aspects of business..communication and proper monitoring is the best key in a company to prosper and by using some tools mention in you blog. Thank you!!

  • http://twitter.com/pathfindernig Yinka Olaito

    This is good. i think the cross-channel factors and application will help organization become better in this age of information democracy. but the challenge is the ability to merge the two seamlessly

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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