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Social Media: An Asset for Business Development?

21 December 2016 by National Bank

The importance of social media is growing, and more and more companies see the potential business opportunities they provide. So how do you tap into these tools, but regulate their use by employees?

Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest are just a few of the many social networks on the web. Every day, millions of people use them to share information and many businesses want to use them to promote their products and services. Here are some tips to help you master social media.

Have something to say

There is no magic formula that guarantees success. “In order to have a relevant social media presence, a company must have something to say,” says Jacques Nantel, professor in the Marketing Department at HEC Montréal and well-known retail specialist.

Organizations often make the mistake of seeing social networks as advertising platforms, posting promotional rates on their Facebook page or the details of their next inventory clearance sale.

“Just because you have a Facebook page doesn’t mean people will visit it. First, and most importantly, you have to share it with other members of your network,” Mr. Nantel adds. In online communities, sharing is key. If consumers are interested in your page and share it, they will probably share it with people who have similar interests and who, like them, are potential buyers.

“To stand out, you must have something interesting to share. You have to offer information that gets people’s attention and provide value-added content,” recommends Mr. Nantel.

A car dealer could post tips for choosing good winter tires or reducing fuel consumption. An insurer could provide advice on how to reduce the risk of a burglary while you’re on vacation. If you use social media simply as a promotional medium, you’re going to fall short.

Is it a good idea to collaborate with bloggers so they comment on your products or services in their posts? Blogs were all the rage a decade ago, but are now in decline. “The idea was to help bloggers gain popularity, so they could fund their websites with advertising. Ultimately, only a few popular bloggers ended up getting most of the attention, leaving less room for the others,” says Nantel. If you work with a specialist blogger, you may end up missing your target. Studies show that posts written by specialists have less of an impact than those written by people like ourselves. “Expert bloggers are connecting with audiences less and less. Consumers prefer relating to people they can identify with,” says Mr. Nantel.

Regulating usage

What about the use of social media by employees? Should it be regulated? Émilie Pelletier, CHRA, strategist, HR Marketing and Communications, at HRM Groupe, says that despite what people may think, we are never anonymous on social networks. “The name of the company you work for follows you everywhere!” she adds. So it’s important to develop a social media usage policy, guide, or terms and conditions, says Émilie’s colleague, Didier Dubois, CHRA, strategist, HR Marketing and Digital HR Solutions.[1]

Pierrick Bazinet, a labour lawyer and certified industrial relations counsellor (CRIA), explains that social media activity can damage relations between employees as well as the company. “An employee may criticize a coworker, client or the organization,” he says. Disciplinary action can be taken against the employee in question, ranging from a verbal warning to dismissal.

A social media usage policy could be invaluable in preventing problems. “Businesses have varying degrees of tolerance when it comes to social media usage. Some encourage it; others disallow it during work hours. However, you cannot prohibit after-hours activity, so it’s important to have rules,” says Mr. Bazinet.

A usage policy establishes employees’ rights and obligations, as well as a code of conduct. It could, for example, prohibit employees from harassing their coworkers or criticizing the employer’s products and services, and emphasize the obligation of discretion with regard to the company’s confidential information.

“When drafting the policy, employers should ask themselves three questions: What behaviour do I want to avoid? What behaviour do I want to encourage? And what behaviour represents a risk?” advises Mr. Dubois.

Raising awareness and educating employees about the policy is essential because errors can be made in good faith.

Mr. Dubois also mentions that tools like Facebook enable younger generations to stay in touch with their network. “With this is mind, companies should not ban social media, but regulate it to make sure it is used appropriately. These networks are invaluable for resolving problems, sharing expertise, recruiting, and more,” points out Émilie Pelletier

[1]Émilie Pelletier and Didier Dubois along with Katherine Poirier, authored the book Comment bâtir votre politique d’utilisation des médias sociaux [How to develop a social media usage policy], published by Editions Yvon Blais in 2011.

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