If you believe the directional flow of marketing has changed and you conclude you really do need to create branded media for your small to medium business, do you know where do you start? The task can seem pretty overwhelming. Is it a blog post, a video, a tweet, a Facebook post? The list seems endless, right?

Consensus is that you need a digital marketing strategy as you approach branded media, which is true. Expanding your digital footprint doesn’t happen without a plan and consistent action. But you also need to start to think differently about what your employees are doing each day.

For instance, doesn’t it seem odd that folks who work for you are expected to answer the phone, greet customers when they walk in the door and handle customer service issues, are somehow not trustworthy enough to tweet several times a day on behalf of your brand? Do you trust them to post to the company Facebook fan page regularly? What about shoot and edit a video or write a blog post?

Training is Overrated

Falling back on the notion that we need to train our employees before we get started is overrated. Many of your employees already know most of what is required to get started with creating social engagement. What they need is ownership approval to practice, and the flexibility in their daily work agenda to have the available time to create digital content.

As an owner or department head, are you prepared to allow your employees to “play on Facebook?” Probably not, but you need to. Is some training required? Of course. However, there are enough “how to” articles and posts out there that your employees can get started on their own if given the chance.  As Jason says, “This ain’t rocket surgery.” We don’t need to over-complicate the process.

Permission to Try Things

While “play on Facebook” was meant as a joke, trying different things to build your content arsenal isn’t. For instance, in our real estate property management business our leasing folks are required to tweet several times a day from their branded Twitter account. They are required to regularly post to our Facebook fan page. They do videos and blog posts. We track their social media outreach each week, just as we look at other traditional conversion metrics. This seems rather radical to my peers in the apartment business. But it has become part of our daily routine and is a reason we no longer depend on traditional media to drive rental leads. But it all started with letting go, and allowing our employees to practice social media.

Stop Doing Something You Have Always Done

As business owners and managers, we can’t add on more tasks for employees to do without letting go of something else. We must analyze some of the crazy things we think they should be doing (that have little to no impact) to allow room for building our branded media assets. (Hint: Once you begin to view your digital footprint, your digital reach and your  branded media as an asset, its overall priority rises exponentially.)

What are you doing in your organization to expand your digital base?

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About Eric Brown

Eric Brown

Eric Brown's background is rooted in the rental and real estate industries. He founded metro Detroit’s Urbane Apartments in 2003, after serving as senior vice president for a major Midwest apartment developer. He established a proven track record of effectively repositioning existing rental properties in a way that added value for investors while enhancing the resident experience. He also established The Urbane Way, a social media marketing and PR laboratory, where innovative marketing ideas are tested.

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

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  • http://twitter.com/drbret Bret L Simmons

    Love it. We've known for decades that our employees are strong ambassadors of our business, but that matters more than ever now that many of our employees are social object factories. If we can't trust our employees to speaks about our business, that's a sign of a problem with the business, not the employees. Thanks! Bret

    • UrbaneWay

      Empower Your Employees
      Hey Bret, Your comment is spot on, it does matter more today because of the vast speed of the internet. Businesses that are in the social media game can also fire faster, as the lack of employee competency shows up quicker, and at the same time the stars rise faster.

  • Main

    Thank you ERIC BROWN for your article, your advice is a gem for everyone who wants to become a success. I want to say I really like your site. This article can be useful for active people too. It’s very impressive and I think you should expand your possibilities. For You, on my mind, will useful next information. I have my own blog too. Do not think for advertising, it’s just friendly advice. Could try using Greatiful.com – that is service for bloggers who want to gain even more success and profit. If you join this service and register your blog as a Publisher and confirm your RSS channel. Then you will get $50 on your account as a gift bonus, and from now on you will get constant profit with Greatiful. And thank you again for your very informative article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sjgosselin Susan Gosselin

    I don't say this often, but I disagree with this article. I spend a lot of time working with my clients to train them. Letting people just get out there and mess around is not an option for most companies. If you've got a small company…one that is in a low risk, low competition kind of business, yeah, you might have a point. An apartment complex is pretty low risk. But imagine you're a hospital…or a law firm…or a tech company in a brutally competitive sector. Imagine one of your employees blurts out that you're in negotiations to unroll a new product but the contracts won't be finished for a month. It could be enough to derail your whole business strategy, or give your competitors an opening they shouldn't have had.

    I think your argument also assumes that content doesn't really matter. Let people get out there and muddle through… And I have to call BS on you there. Content is king on social media. It really helps to have a calendar…so people understand what kind of things they need to be talking about, who's area is who's, and what the company is trying to accomplish.

    Now I will agree with you that it ain't terribly complicated. And some companies will need a lot more structure and policy than others. But leadership is needed and clear expectations need to be set, or you will end up with a big pile of bad ROI.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Nice push-back, Susan. I'll let Eric respond. But thanks for keeping us in

      check.

    • UrbaneWay

      Hi Susan, Hello, Disagreement is where the best of learning begins, so thanks for chiming in.

      Without seeming defensive here, if you think for one second that front line employees aren't cable of effective communication, our clients have hired the wrong employees and they should fire faster. It just makes no sense whatsoever, give your employees some rein for goodness sakes, they will surprise the heck out of you.

      I am a consultant to, but our job as consultants is overrated, and what mostly happens is the owner, or VP, or manager or whoever hired us transfers trust, and assumes because “Mr or Mrs Consultant” is on board, nothing bad is going to happen. Are we all helpful, yes of course, however with minimal training this stuff can be done in house.

      Susan, the problem is less about that folks can't figure social media out or that they will screw it up, it is about corporate bureaucracy, and the bigger the company or organization, as we all know the more that occurs. Corporations, businesses, and organizations rarely trust their employees and the higher up the food chain, where the smarter folks reside, the more that distrust occurs. Albeit, this is rather opinioated

    • Hotrockpizzami

      Content with to much manicuring is ineffective for me. I don't make friends in real life because I always use proper grammar and flawless content that has gone through a million filters. The content should match the business. I operate communication platforms on and off the internet for multiple restaurants and for a restaurant this works. To totally disregard Eric's post is silly. People expect my business to be a little rough around the edge and it works for us. Pizza is highly competitive and definitely the lively hood of someones entire family is not low risk when you talk about restauranteurs putting their life savings into a business. Just my 2 cents but what do I know I'm just a pizza expert. ;)

  • kirstenwright

    @Susan, thank you for saying everything that was running through my head as I read this!

    I get Eric's point – we don't want to stress so much that we paralyze ourselves into doing nothing. But, I would rather a company be over cautious than just jump head first regardless of the messaging. Using social media without caution is like running with the bulls in stilettos. You can do it, it's just not smart.

    • UrbaneWay

      Let Your Employees Loose on Social Media
      Hi Kristen, What do you think every retail store, restaurant, and any other business that interacts with the public does every single day. The front line employees interact, mostly absent direct supervision with customers.

      If you feel that we must use social media with caution, wouldn't that same rule, if it were valid, apply to answering the phone, sending an email, and the store clerks selling ice cream cones?

      • kirstenwright

        With the social media example, I never suggested that the manager must hover at all times. I merely believe proper training, and monitoring is important. This applies just as much in person! And, is exactly why to serve in a restaurant, they train you (I worked restaurants through college) and review you regularly. They make sure your messaging (ie: what you say when you greet customers, take orders, etc) are all on brand point, and that all servers are portraying the restaurant in the same light (if you don't, you don't last long). Same thing with any retail store. Why do you think if you visit Nordstroms, within minutes someone has approached asking if you need help? It's training. While smaller (non-chain) stores may be a little different, there is still a training process that any employer will put an employee through before placing them on the floor. That is being cautious, and it is what (hopefully) provides good customer service. Caution is needed in all areas of customer service…

  • Hotrockpizzami

    I ask the employee's their input on a lot of things and I create the content. Although we are a smaller company I think it's important to get input from the employee's like this article says they are the front line when dealing with the customers. My job here is to actually work with the employee's and help them with their interaction approach.

  • http://twitter.com/kikilitalien KiKi L'Italien

    Keep tabs on the way employees answer the phones in customer service for various companies you interact with and let me know if they are sufficiently trained. I can think of many examples where employees most definitely need extra training to do what they are doing incorrectly every day. I shudder to think of this kind of employee having any more reach than they already do. Of course, it is not always the case that an organization's customer service sucks, but it definitely happens often enough for me to pause before agreeing with this blog post. Still, I believe that a good leader shouldn't hire people they can't trust to do their jobs well. In short, I think the essence of your article is spot on, but that reality is far from the ideal.

    • UrbaneWay

      Do You Trust Your Employees
      KiKi, I certainly share your frustration with businesses and organizations that can't get past answering the phone correctly or properly greeting a customer.

      So why aren't businesses firing incompetent employees faster?

      • http://twitter.com/kikilitalien KiKi L'Italien

        Thanks for the feedback. I wish I knew. It seems like so many places are just settling for sub-par performance and I'm not sure why.

      • http://www.RestaurantWorx.com Jeffrey Summers

        Because it's not the employees who are incompetent, it's the leaders who are.

  • http://www.ventureneer.com Geri Stengel

    A good manager doesn’t have someone answering the phones or greeting the public without some training. That greeting sets the tone for your interaction with customers and you’d better be sure that your employees understand what tone you’d like them to set on Facebook. I wholeheartedly agree that employees can enliven and enrich social media content and give your company a face and a voice. But I think it would be foolhardy — did one of the comments say something about running with the bulls in stilettos? — to empower with educating them first.

  • Oziomediajobs

    Expanding employee responsibility is always a great idea with the right guidance. Social media, viral marketing, and digital marketing are all “hot” marketing avenues right now. New employees often have fresh ideas, and when given the chance, can make a great contribution to online marketing. After all, they know their area of expertise and are familiar with what people are looking for in those areas through their day to day interactions. If they can provide answers and useful information over the phone, they can do it over the web and reach a huge market at the same time.

  • http://www.searchinfluence.com/blog/ Will Scott

    Thanks for this post Eric!

    I have to tell you, it's hard. It's scary. Letting go of the reins, particularly in a small business is unnerving.

    But you're right about one thing in particular, empowering your team lets the content flow.

    Not to overly personalize, but our example is classic. I was the chief cook, bottle-washer and blogger. It was daunting. I'd go months without a post and then beat myself up about it.

    So one day, I looked around at my team and I said “Hey, I know you guys know our customers. I know you understand what we do. And I think you can write, so start blogging”.

    I have to admit, sometimes it's a little raw. Sometimes I cringe as I see run-on sentences and a little too little professionalism.

    But, then again, I get to cheer when I – surprised – find joy in one of my teammates work.

    I'm not going to say we're prolific, but we're active and my team knows their voice matters both inside our business and out in public too.

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  • Josh

    Can you share the name of your real estate property management business?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Hey Josh. Eric's company is Urbane Apartments. Their site/blog is at

      urbaneway.com (I think).

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual office assistant

    Great sharing.
    Thanks for the post and i feel 'Training is Overrated” is so true. Most of the employees know things but wait for approval.

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