Not many would disagree with the fact that effective communication increases employee engagement and retention.  However, with social media, participation and business value are often at odds because of disparity between effective and ineffective communicators.

Let’s face it:  the social in social media can make or break a firm’s brand and customer relationships.  Those who are ineffective communicators are most likely the first ones to say social media is a waste of time – and the first ones to damage your brand.

According to a recent Towers Watson 2009/2010 Communication ROI Study Report: Capitalizing on Effective Communication:

Despite the increased use of social media, companies are still struggling to measure the return on their investment in these tools. Highly effective communicators are more likely than the least effective communicators to report their social media tools are cost-effective (37 percent vs. 14 percent).

Now, there have been many a social media folk who emphasize the organic benefits of social media – including me.  In fact, according to our own recent social media survey of HR suppliers, of which 93% say they participate, the top five social media activities in which companies engage are:

  • Sharing other’s content and news
  • Sharing original content and news
  • Networking
  • Relationship building
  • Listening and learning

Marketing and selling products and services were further down on the list.  Given these activities, companies need to ask themselves who can best represent them online. Do they let anyone and everyone who volunteer become front-line evangelists for the company when it comes to social media marketing.

The reality is no.  However, I’m not suggesting that you squelch participation online – goodness no.  Everyone who wants to participate can and should.  However, there are plenty of social media guidelines available today to share with your employees (just search for “social media guidelines” and you’ll see).

For example:

Personal responsibility is number one – participants who engage in social media are not just representing themselves; they are now the face of the company.  Facilitating quality communication is key, and that responsibility rests with the leadership of the company.

Speaking of leadership taking the lead, another look at our survey reveals the following breakdown by role of who participates:

  • CEO/President/Business Owner – 56%
  • VP/Director/Manager – 60%
  • Human Resources – 19%
  • Recruiters – 16%
  • Marketing – 74%
  • PR – 38%
  • Sales – 49%
  • Customer Service – 14%
  • Other (everybody else) – 10%

It makes sense to me that the majority of the participants include:

a)     Leaders,

b)     Those focused on growing the company (management, marketing, PR, sales), and

c)      (More than likely) those who are good communicators.

Of the 7% of HR suppliers who told us they did not participate in social media (remember, 93% said they did), over half of those said because they saw no business value.

Really?  No business value in communicating and relationship building with customers, prospects and influencers?

Really.

If your company isn’t investing and participating in social media, then it’s doing more harm to itself than good.  Facilitating better internal and external communication within your organization and without is the core tenant of social media and the new millennia of customer service.

I think it’s time for a social media communication intervention.  Gather around my comrades, we’ve got relationships to build and businesses to grow.

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