As Morgan* and I walked this morning this theme started to riff. It's not necessarily a new one for me. I've always said your social media, your customer service, your marketing starts with those in your organization. Maybe, what's new is the conciseness in this one sentence:
Employee engagement is your social media engine.
If you never turn that engine on, it will never run. If you never turn your employees on, ignite their passions and incite and inspire their ideas, you can rest assured they will in turn do the same with your customers and prospects, vendors and partners.
The extent to which you allow your members to create a social organization, where they have vested interests in participating, where they are recognized and rewarded for their participation, where they can take ownership of the organization they create is the extent to which your customers will be inspired and incited, rewarded and recognized to do the same. By whom? By those employees whose engagement, passion and energy, now ignited becomes infectious, engaging, inspiring, exhilarating.
It's natural. That's the power of social media. It's social. We're social creatures. All we need are barriers to be removed. We'll do the rest.
Your social media engine runs as fast and smooth, and delivers the results that your employee engagement culture delivers. Every company has an employee engagement culture. Granted, most companies today have a culture where employee engagement is recognized by its lack. On average, about 30% of employees are actively engaged, emotionally and intellectually, with their work. 10-12% are actively disengaged, that means they actively subvert the efforts of those around them. The rest are just doing time.
And likewise, every company has a customer culture best described as indifferent. A few companies have a high percentage of customer vigilantes, e.g. U.S. airlines come to mind. And a few, Apple and Zappos and others have a customer culture marked by loyalty and passion, testimonials and customer evangelists (Thank you, Ben and Jackie).
Ok. This is all kinda nice and rhetorical. Show me the money, you say. Fine. I will. Thank you for asking.
Big companies, Fortune 500 companies, are putting the brakes on social media. That's right. Maybe they're too big to fail, but they're not too big to stop listening to their customers. And that comes on the heels of no longer listening to their employees, hence the layoffs that helped generate our recession. Fortune 500 companies are mature, by definition. Mature companies are more interested in maximizing efficiencies, less interested in innovation and new products and even less in the conversations, messy and difficult, that spawn those innovations and new products that open up new markets and generate revenue from new sources. As the author of this article, Why Big Corporations are Putting the Brakes on Social Media, wrote:
...very large companies like those ranked among the Fortune 500, have the most to lose by adding a fifth "P," Participation, to their traditional marketing mix of Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Inherently risk averse and overly protective of their market positioning, corporate leaders have far too many lawyers and others spinning cautionary tales laden with drastic potential outcomes as a result of directly engaging their customers and prospects in full view of one another.
But, wait, smaller companies, ahem....fast growing companies use social media more. The same study cited in the above article also revealed that:
the annual Inc. 500 listing of American's fastest-growing companies -- host twice as many blogs than their bigger, better-known brethren. And 71 percent of Inc. 500-listed companies have Facebook pages, while 59 percent use Twitter on a regular basis.
As I wrote earlier, your organization is already transparent. The conversations and culture you have internally is the same your members create with their external audience. Has to be. There's no way you demoralize your frontline employees and then expect them to inspire their counterparts, customers, to develop loyalty and increase their purchases. And yet, so many companies try to do that. At the same time, create an exciting and engaging culture and your frontline employees enthusiasm will translate into an exciting and engaging conversation with their counterparts - customers. That's regardless if you use twitter, facebook, youtube, yelp, blogs, microblogs, pinterest, tumblr, posterous, flickr....or just a cup of coffee.
The conversations allowed within your organization are the conversations that take place outside your organization. Outside your organization are conversations among your customers, prospects, vendors and partners, investors...about your organization. The catalyst for their comments about your organization are the conversations - ideas, feedback, performance, support, passion, energy, failures, policies, manuals, tools and technologies, recognition and rewards - that first occur among your employees and then are shared outside.
Employee engagement is your social media engine.
Rev it up.
* Morgan is our 107-lb (last week), 11-month old, Malamute we rescued. Here's a peek: