To start off with, a definition for ‘social’ is needed. Social can be described as ‘interaction’, with each other or the environment around us – either voluntarily or involuntarily. People enjoy engaging with others and like to feel included. This is why we form communities. So you might be asking why this is relevant for construction marketers and B2B companies. The answer is that social media is simply another platform through which we can interact with others and become more ‘social’. The aim of this post is to find out what makes a company more social than another.
I like Scott Gould’s definition of social media; he describes it as ‘trackable word of mouth’. This really captures the essence of social media, which essentially comprises of various online conversations taking place on a public platform. Positive word of mouth is known to be one of the most powerful marketing tools because people trust peer recommendations more than advertisements. So being able to track and measure this online word of mouth must be one of the greatest opportunities that social media has to offer us. If this is the case, why are so many businesses not embracing it and even worse, blocking it from their offices completely?!
Allowing employees to use social media
Many employees are banned from using social media at work which seems ridiculous to me. Managers are afraid of losing control and worry that employees will use social media as a time wasting tool. But to be honest everyone needs a mental break from work, so conversing on social media sites is not so different from surfing the web, checking personal emails or taking regular coffee/tea breaks. Managers need to realise that employees are powerful assets because they know your products and services inside out, therefore making them perfect brand advocates. Every individual has different people and companies in their social network, giving you access to a new set of business prospects. If utilised properly, smart companies can harness this marketing opportunity and encourage employees to use social media for lead generation. However, a strategy needs to be in place so that the brand reputation is upheld and time is spent purposefully and productively.
Letting employees share how great it is to work for your company can also be good for business and serves as positive reputation management. Social networking tools allow employees to create an ‘expertise profile’ for themselves where they can demonstrate their knowledge on a number of topics. These profiles can be used to answer questions or solve problems that you might have in-house or to solve other company’s issues and thereby prove your skills. A simple tweet or blog post could receive several replies with useful advice and information – for free. Some employees might be really passionate about social networking and instead of stifling them, use their knowledge and passion to ask for advice about what they have learned about existing or new sites that could improve the company’s social media presence.
Essentially I think trust is the key. If managers can trust employees to answer the phone, write emails and represent their company at events, then why can’t they trust them to do the same on social networking sites? Besides, what kind of a message would you be sending to clients, who you encourage to spend time and money on social media, if you block usage for employees? Does this not reinforce the notion that those networking sites are time wasting tools that have no place in business, which is obviously not the case!
The new digital technologies allow for more business transparency which could be a reason that some constructions companies are not fully embracing social platforms. By putting your brand/company online and writing blogs, tweets, status updates or comments, you are opening up room for external critique and scrutiny of your company and its values. You can no longer hide behind written mission statements and promises of corporate social responsibility- you actually have to act on them and prove to your prospects that you are not ‘all talk and no action’. The availability of videos and being able to distribute them easily on social networking sites, allows companies to share what they are doing and give people an insight into their company and the people that work for you –thereby humanising your business and putting faces to names.
Here is an infographic I found that illustrates how social media can be used by the different company departments.
Being social is essentially not just a communication method but instead it is a deep-rooted behaviour. We are programmed to connect with others and feel like we are part of a group, a community, a network. Companies need to understand and accept the changes that digital technologies have provided. The essence of wanting to interact is still the same; it is just on a greater scale and visible to millions across the globe. The problem is that many corporate cultures are resistant to change. But change is inevitable and therefore companies need to either adapt or get left behind. Communicating through social media is not a marketing campaign; it is an on-going business commitment.
A new measure should be explored, namely ROE (return on engagement). Are you getting anything in return for your online conversations? Does your engagement with others lead to business prospects? Are you providing value to your online connections/followers/prospects? If yes, then continue doing so on the various platforms that are appropriate for your company. But make sure you are not constantly talking about yourself and your services. You know what it is like to have a face-to-face conversation with someone who only talks about themselves – it is exhausting isn’t it! Well the same rules apply online; be creative, be engaging and most importantly be relevant!
Now for the tricky part, how social is your company and what will you do to become more sociable? Do you think being social might be hurting your business, would you prefer less access to information, less visibility online, less interaction? Do you think the construction industry can do without Social Media in any form?
Please let us know your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below. Personally I love a good debate…