Confusion reigns in the world of workplace social media concerning online criticism of the workplace. How far can an employee go in complaining about his or her work conditions, the boss, fellow workers, cafeteria food, etc? And how much should an employer tolerate? And where does the law draw the line?

There have been many complaints to the National Labor Relations Board of late about how far businesses can go as far as their social media policies are concerned. Most social media policies that are presented to the Board are overly broad, according to a Board spokesman. These policies say you can’t criticize or disparage the company in any way on social media. However, that is not true under the law. The Board says federal law permits employees to talk with co-workers about their jobs and working conditions without reprisal—whether that takes place around the water cooler or on Facebook or Twitter.

There needs to be more open communication between corporations and employees concerning company policy on social media to avoid running afoul of the law.

You’re in business because you have to make a living. That’s what you do. Keeping up with it is a full time job. But you keep hearing about social media marketing, getting your business out there on the web, on a blog site, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, you name it. You have the information that you want out there on the web, but it takes time to sit down and write a piece of copy, proof read it and post it on all those social media sites. And ‘they’ tell you to do this on a regular basis to keep your site fresh, dynamic, so folks will visit often, learn about what you do and buy into your service or product. But where are you supposed to find the time to do this? Well, your worries are over because that’s OUR business. We gather the information from you, write, edit, proofread and post it daily, weekly, monthly or however often you want it out there. Call us. We have time.

Buick’s “Quest for the Keys”

Buick is using social media in their coming promotion of their new car lineup, called “Quest For The Keys”. They will push Regal, Enclave, LaCrosse and Verano in a scavenger hunt that offers clues on Facebook and Twitter for the first three weeks on the hunt then concludes with a day of offline scavenger hunting.

What makes this promotion unusual is that Buick will incorporate the use of multiple location based services for the campaign. People will be able to use Facebook Places, Forsquare, or Gowalla in their hunt.

The program will begin in the next few months in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, and Austin, Texas.

GM’s Social Media Marketing

General Motors has recently hired “Big Fuel” to do it’s social media marketing. “Big Fuel” is a New York based marketing agency. That means they are about to make a major push in social media promotion. Keep and eye out for it and let us know when you come in contact with it.

Businesses need to develop a plan for their social media.

Plan A Dialogue

You need to create a long term strategy for you social media dialogue. What are you going to say and when are you going to say it? This dialogue can focus on special events or seasons. Different businesses have different seasons. A jewelry store needs to focus most of its effort on seasonal events, like Valentines Day and Christmas, and also focus on special events, like promotional event put on by a diamond vendor. Then something like a monthly newsletter can keep visitors coming back on a regular basis.

Make Regular Responses

Once your social media tools are in place, make sure they are being monitored. This can happen with someone checking for responses to your Web 2.0 resources like Facebook and Twitter. The ideal way to keep these monitored is to do it through a smart phone that will be with someone 24/7. Otherwise, make sure the social media tools are checked on a regular basis.

Encourage Two Way Communications

The key reason for using interactive social media is to get information from your clientele. Encourage them to participate. One neat example is what Clorox did at Christmas time. The offered a $1 donation to the Red Cross for each click through to the Red Cross website.

Here’s their message:

Clorox Last chance to give the gift that saves the day. For every click-thru to the American Red Cross Holiday Gift Catalog, Clorox will donate $1 to the Red Cross, up to $10,000. Find a link to the Red Cross Holiday Gift Catalog on the “Clorox Home” tab of our Facebook page. Then, simply click on the “Start Helping” button.

There are many other ways to get participation on your social media. What methods do you use?

Businesses More Inundated With Email

I build and manage several websites for small businesses. More and more of them are getting inundated with email messages that they don’t want to receive. But, these are not necessarily coming from “spam” sources. They are coming from vendors and other business contacts. At some point businesses are going to give up on their email because the benefits received are not worth the cost of the time required to receive and review all their messages.

Huck Huckabee

by Huck Huckabee

What They Want to Receive

Better filter systems are being developed everyday. But hackers and email “experts” are able to overcome most of these over time. At some point business owners and managers are going to find a way to receive what they want to receive. Facebook, and other “approved contact” services, can do just that.

A New Frame of Mind

Internet contacts are starting to be viewed from a different perspective.

If you are my business associate, I will approve you as a friend on Facebook. If you send me a bunch of stuff that I don’t want, then I will remove you.

This frame of mind will make the message sender think twice about the value he puts in his message and how much “junk” he is sending out. That would save money and time.

According to Borrell Associates, from Williamsburg, VA, marketers will spent over $38 billon on social media advertising and promotions by 2015. That could get it closer to being the primary media means for business in the future. Marketers need to master social media or they could have a hard time finding work.

  1. Engage your current customers with social media. There are ample sources of social media. What you use will depend on your business and your clientele. LinkedIn has forums that can cover a wide range of topics or can be very specific. The same goes for blogs. YouTube can show video of a specific use for a product and get comments or suggestions from current users.  Research various tools to see what works best for your business.
  2. Generate qualified leads. Research by the Social Media Examiner, a web-zine, reported that 52% of their survey respondents had used social media in obtaining qualified leads. Friends of friends can connect with your business through common contacts. Customers looking for specific goods and services can search the social media for businesses that can meet their needs. Make sure they can find you in social media.
  3. Minimize negative word of mouth. Social media is in the control of the customer, not the business. Most businesses have some dissatisfied customers. Some of those dissatisfied customers will spread information related to their dissatisfaction by one of the most effective promotion tools ever known – word of mouth! And the power of word of mouth is multiplying as social media grows. Several tools are available, such as TweetDeck, that notify you when someone is talking about your business. From there a business can take action to minimize the damage done by such customers.
  4. Capitalize on positive word of mouth. Maximize the impact of positive word of mouth. Expand the conversations and ask for suggestions on how to improve your services. You can get some really good ideas from your customers.

What social media tools does your business use? How are you using them.

Just like a business plan or a marketing plan, businesses that use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and other social media resources need to develop a social media plan. That plan should include what resources you will use, what value you will create with them, and how you will grow your following.

Determine What Resources Are Of Value

Different resources attract different participants. While Facebook will be interacting with an individual often sitting at a PC, individuals using Foresquare are normally on the road with a mobile device. Some users will use only one means, but many will use both. And while a business needs to tweak for each resource, it needs to keep it’s general message consistent.

Create Service And Value

Too many businesses want to just post something on their social media resources and then leave it alone. That’s the wrong approach. Businesses need act. They need to do something that will benefit the persons they are corresponding with. Anything from a tutorial on how to use a product to a request for the completion of a survey can get social media participants to act. And when they act, you know you have created value for them.

Interaction With Customers Requires Authority

In many cases when you hire someone to interact with a customer you need to grant them authority. This is especially the case in social media. Social media often entails one to one contact between your representative and your customer. That representative needs to have some authority to make decisions that will be representative of the company. This increases the value of your social media site to your customer.

Grow Your Following

In most cases businesses are out to increase their customers. Social media can enhance this effort by growing a business’s connections. To do this a firm must make use of it’s current connections to gain new ones. One way to do this is to create content that goes viral. Do or create something that your current following will tell others about.

Change Your Plan

Just like your business plan, your social media plan should always be changing. Competition, market conditions, and many other factors that are regularly changing influence the company mission. And when that mission changes, so do the plans.