This story originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of Lawn & Landscape magazine. You can view the entire issue online here.
Many companies in the green industry are beginning to embrace the idea of utilizing what is commonly referred to as an "online community manager". This could be an in-house employee, outside consultant or agency. Responsibilities can range from website development and search engine optimization (SEO) to content creation and social media management.
As time goes on, this community manager role is going to become more and more critical within our organizations. It will also become more difficult for a single person to manage as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace.
Even more importantly, the need for real-time participation will be an absolute requirement of you. The big brands of the world have learned this already. Green industry businesses will eventually have to come to grips with the idea that business is 24/7, and not 9 to 5.
Because of this, at Landscape Leadership, we advocate a team approach to managing your company’s online presence and social media.
Going solo versus building a team
There are big disadvantages to having a single person control your online activities and social media, such as:
- What happens if this person leaves the company?
- Only one voice and point-of-view is representing your business.
- Responsibilities--creating content, interacting with followers, reporting, staying current with technology, etc.--can be overwhelming for one person.
- The ever-growing need to react in real-time--no matter the day or time--will be impossible for one person to handle by him/herself.
On the flip side, there are many reasons why you should engage your employees in your online efforts. These include:
- Your customers want to do business with real people, not brands. Let them see and hear from the unique personalities within your organization.
- Empower your employees by letting them share their candid opinions and insights. If a billion dollar company like Zappos can do it so can a small business like yours. Potential employees are attracted to companies who give their people a platform to share their insight.
- You offer your followers greater value because you are including different points of view as well as various levels of expertise.
Building Your Social Media Team
Below are 11 guidelines to follow when building an internal social media team that will contribute to your company's online presence and social media efforts.
1 - Ask for help, but don't demand it
As you know, not everyone is into social media or active online. That's perfectly fine. Don't demand anything of these people. You'll only get push back.
You want enthusiastic people who are genuinely interested in social media and how it can help your business. Of course, it doesn't hurt if these folks are tech-savvy as well.
You don't need every employee on board with your efforts. Find the few who are truly interested in exploring what social media can do for your business.
2 - Set your company's organizational chart on fire
A person's position in your company, or their experience, should not be a factor in selecting your team. Why does the CEO or Vice President need to be involved if they have absolutely no interest in social media? They shouldn't. At the same time, why would you exclude someone near the bottom of your organizational chart if they truly want to help your social media efforts?
Shayne Newman, president of Yardapes in New Milford, Connecticut, recently shared with me that one of his H2B workers is a Facebook fanatic, constantly sharing images and videos of the landscape work they are doing on his personal Facebook profile. Are you kidding me? Make this guy a part of your social media team right now!
And, please, do not play the age card. That college grad or high school kid you just hired doesn't automatically qualify as a social media expert. Nor do they necessarily want to help in your efforts. On the flip side, don't underestimate or disqualify someone because they are over the age of 40 (arbitrary number, folks). Age has nothing to do with enthusiasm and the willingness to help your business.
3 - Include voices from all departments
My personal background is in landscape design and construction, so I naturally gravitate towards design/build topics. I'm not as well informed when it comes to lawn care, tree care, irrigation or a half dozen other green industry topics.
Your company can’t have gaps in the topics you cover and content you create. Having voices from each department within your company enables you to tell a complete story about your company.
At Neave Group Outdoor Solutions in Wappingers Falls, New York, we've created a team that keeps us updated on everything happening in the company from community events to seasonal maintenance considerations to unique projects they are currently working on. The Neave Group social media team gives us the information we need to tell an accurate story about the company.
4 - Clearly explain why social media is important to your company and why you want your staff to play a critical role
This can be a tough one because many business owners don't fully understand how social media positively impacts their business and bottom line. But in order to get your people fully invested in your initiatives you had better be able to sell them on why exactly you are doing this, and why you want them to play an important role.
5 - Clearly outline your objectives
Everyone within your company who is involved in your social media efforts needs to be shooting at the same target. What are the big-picture objectives and specific goals you are trying to achieve?
Is the objective to build customer loyalty or to drive direct sales? Is the objective to build brand awareness within a specific geographic area? These are three very different objectives that require unique strategies.
Your employees need to understand your social strategy and what you are trying to achieve.
6 - Give your people an incentive to participate
As I mentioned above, don't demand that your people participate on your social media team--you'll only get push-back. You want people on board who truly want to help. And when you find these folks you need to reward them. They give, you give. It's a win-win for your company.
I suggest creating a formal rewards program of some sort. We’ve put a program in place at Neave Group that provides an incentive to actively participate and keeps their team motivated, invested and informed. (Neave Group employees are rewarded for creating engaging content like blog posts as well as sharing pictures.)
7 - Give your social media team the tools to succeed
Would you send your crews out each day without the proper tools and equipment to complete the job? Of course not. Would you let an inexperienced laborer build a patio without the proper training? I hope not.
You need to give your social media team every opportunity to succeed. This means providing them with the organization, systems, training and tools they are going to need to be effective.
You can't simply ask your employees to take pictures for you, or write a blog post, or tweet for the company without giving them the proper tools and instruction. You need to enable them by making the process as frictionless as possible.
8 - Provide your team with oversight
Whether you keep it in-house, hire an independent consultant, or retain an agency, someone needs to be held responsible for providing oversight.
Remember, this is a team you’re putting together. And all successful teams have a coach roaming the sideline calling the shots. You will need one person in charge of keeping your social media program organized and running smoothly.
9 - Start small, then build upon success
Your social media team might start out with two employees managing your company Facebook Page. Then, perhaps, six months later, you add another member to the team who manages your company Twitter account. This is a great way to build your team and scale your social media efforts.
It’s best to start slow and build upon your success. Gain some momentum with one initiative (like a Facebook Page or blog) before jumping into something else.
10 - Set expectations, but let your people fail and make mistakes
We are just at the tip of the iceberg as it relates to social media. No one has this completely figured out. Let your team experiment and try out new ideas. Let them have some fun. This is how you keep them engaged.
But, at the same time, set expectations for your team. We recommend introducing a “two strike” rule for team members: One inappropriate photo or status update, not a big deal. But make the same mistake twice and you’re off the team. (I use the term “inappropriate” loosely. I’m not talking about Anthony Weiner-type photos here :-)
11 - Keep your team updated
You must maintain your team’s interest and engagement if you want your social media efforts to pay off. You need to keep them updated by sharing your successes with them. Has your website traffic increased significantly since putting together your social media team? Is your blog generating more qualified leads? This progress needs to be shared with your team.
We maintain a monthly “Leaderboard” for Neave Group’s social media team which is a tally of each team members contribution for the month. Not only does this keep the team updated, it creates competition that drives more participation.
A single person cannot effectively manage your company’s social media and online marketing efforts without strong support internally. Engage your employees in your efforts and empower them to tell a compelling story about your business.
What have you done to include your employees and staff in your social media efforts? We'd love to hear your input. Please leave your comments below.
image source: The U.S. Army
A terrific way to get your employees and staff to participate on your company's behalf is by creating an Instagram account and allowing them to share photos from their day to day work and life. Download our FREE Instagram Tip Sheet to learn how to best use this popular photo sharing app with your social media team.