Did you know that approximately 78% of the U.S. population has some type of social media account? Yet, for every Twitter handle, Facebook profile, Pinterest board, or Instagram filter, some of us haven’t quite mastered how to talk on social media – or how to best communicate to this large audience.
If you’re a business owner, marketer, communicator, or salesperson, you may be wondering how you can take advantage of power in numbers. Before you jump into the world of social media, it’s important to take a step back and think about how you really want to use these platforms. Do you want to communicate internally with your employees? Encourage peer to peer interactions? Attract new customers? Promote your brand? Whatever your answer, learning how to communicate via social media is a good place to begin. Here are a few steps you can take to get started:
- Segment employees. To put it simply, not everyone communicates the same way. Whether you break it down by department, job title, or age demographic, targeting your audience will help you get your message across more effectively.
- Identify active users. Your employees probably range from very active to not so active on social media. Reach out to your most active participants. Ask for their feedback on how the company can gain social followers—and if they’d like to help execute some of those ideas.
- Encourage sharing. By this, I mean content sharing. Pictures of employees at the office with coworkers, internal newsletters, awards, job openings—providing, posting and circulating content between employees is a great way to promote conversation and your brand. If you’re supplying content, be sure to include shareable text and links, hashtags and uploadable images.
- Be human. Be real and personal. Social media updates shouldn’t sound like they were written by a corporate-speaking robot. Transform business efforts and company values into simple, real-world language. Coming across authentically will help engage employees—and even encourage them to share more company-related information. Psst: We can help you draft content meant to be read online, like emails, tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn Pulse articles, or even text messages.
Learning how to use social media in a business setting may take some getting used to, but as it becomes more and more a part of our daily lives, it’s important to consider new ways that you can connect with employees and new audiences online. These efforts can also teach us a lot about how employees are feeling, especially about work—which could help you learn more about your company culture, work environment or even the products you offer.
So, are you ready to get social?
When I took on the title of Marketing and Communications Associate about two years ago, I didn’t realize that it would take me most of that time to figure out exactly what that meant. The question, “Do you prefer working in marketing or communications?” continued to stump me… I couldn’t decide between the two because I couldn’t distinguish between the two disciplines. You can market different communications services and products—you can even market health care benefits plans to an employee audience—but you also use communications skills when you do all of those things. Hence, my conundrum.
My responsibilities seemed to intertwine, so I set out to untangle that knot. What was the purpose of two separate departments? What was my purpose as an employee who contributed to both?
During my time here, I’ve tried to tackle some of those questions. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
• Both branches involve communicating effectively. Whether that’s to a target audience, to internal employees, or in the context of a larger strategy, communicating clearly is not limited to the communications discipline. The concept of marketing guides companies through the development of products, identifies key audiences, establishes pricing and creates and/or promotes a brand. But a communications plan is necessary to execute much of that list.
• Communications is dynamic. At a basic level, it is the practice of creating and managing the flow of information from one party to another—but that can mean many different things and involve a plethora of skill sets. In our case, we work with employers to educate, inspire and engage employees around their benefits. And, we take into consideration how we want those audiences to react to what we present to them. Are we driving employees to a new online benefits portal? Asking them to think about kicking the habit? Our goals then inform our theme and graphic approach, and how we execute our tactics.
• The end result. While marketing creates a product or service and delivers it to the market to generate revenue, communications is not always sales-focused. At its heart, the communications discipline involves bridging gaps between brands, businesses, clients, consumers, and employees, among others. So the goals vary. Ours involve meeting employees where they are to talk to them about the employee benefits they can access.
In the end, I didn’t “untangle” any knot. But I did learn to think about the differences—and similarities—between a marketing strategy and a communications strategy, and how they can help you understand that both disciplines work hand in hand.
To learn more about our practice and how we explore new ways to communicate effectively every day, take a look around our site—and check out our portfolio.
I’ve come to realize something important about the brainstorming/creative process: some ideas are more important than others.
Now, that’s different than the age old saying, “There’s no such thing as a bad idea.” What I’m suggesting is that some ideas carry more weight than others. Some propel the creative process forward, some help it change direction, and others are simply that great idea. Either way, brainstorming and acknowledging the fluidity of the creative process is the key to understanding how to develop an effective, unique communications strategy.
As you know, strategies are built upon a foundation of ideas. How do we want to communicate the implementation of a Consumer Driven Health Plan (CDHP)? How should we brand a health and wellness initiative for a retail food store chain?
There are a few different steps that lead to successful idea generation. But the catch is that they don’t always occur in the same order. This lack of linearity can help us understand this sometimes unpredictable process. Check out how I’m breaking down the creative brainstorm:
- Prepare: This is where you dive in—immerse yourself in the information, absorb relevant facts, statistics, opinions of subject matter experts. By gaining a solid foundation of background information, you’ll be better equipped to generate meaningful ideas.
- Incubate: This step is where the information you’ve gathered starts to churn. You’ll start to see how different thoughts and opinions relate to each other. It’s important not to rush it—sometimes it can take minutes, hours, weeks or even months. But you also need to work with what you’ve got, like when you’re pulled into a quick brainstorming session and you have one hour to come up with a new brand. Don’t let timing limit your ability to think outside of the box.
- Recognize the “aha” moment: As ideas begin to mature, you’ll experience an epiphany of some sort. Your thoughts come together in a way that makes sense. Although the smallest part of the creative process, this moment is often pivotal in finding one of those great ideas.
- Evaluate: This part of the process is where you decide if the “aha” moment is worth pursuing. In other words, should you ask your peers what they think? Should you seek client approval before moving forward? This step often presents a challenge because of limited time and a large amount of ideas. That’s why it’s important to take a moment to reflect and ask yourself, “Does this particular idea have merit?”
- Elaborate: Typically the final stage, this is when you will do the actual work. Whether you test the idea, work through it, or collaborate with your peers to add to it, the process of elaboration is the most tangible of the creative brainstorming steps.
I hope these stages help you to wrap your arms around the lofty creative process. Keep these steps in mind when you’re tasked with developing an idea—with your team, for a client, or for another reason entirely. And remember, whether your idea was a building block, or the “be all-end all”, your contribution to the creative process is necessary. So, don’t be afraid to jump in!
Sources: www.jamestaylor.com, www.smallbusiness.com, www.psychologydiscussion.net