I recently discussed the value of creating a social media program to a group of individuals looking to create an ambassador program for their company. The discussion focused on how to build enthusiasm as well as recommendations on how to implement. Below is what we discussed. Enjoy!
From a corporate perspective, launching a social media ambassador program means you are recognizing that not only your consumers, but also your employees drive and influence conversations - or stories -- and are wanting to tap into those conversations. The beauty of social media is that it's an ongoing dialogue not necessarily between you and one other person, but between any and all of your social network connections. And that's just it... recognizing that if you are already someone who has a social network profile, then you are someone that can easily be an extension of the corporate brand... a social media enthusiast or ambassador, if you will.
But, in order to do this, there are several key discussion points that should be in your social media ambassador toolkit:
1. Build Enthusiasm for Your Program -- You will be asking your social media ambassadors to actively participate at least 20 minutes a day... on their own time (or whatever time frame you decide). So get them excited about doing it. Select participants who have a genuine appreciation and understanding of social media. Don't forget to launch your program with a welcome letter that describes the program's overall goals and objectives, defines their roles and responsibilities, the vision of the company, and how their participation contributes to meeting those goals.
2. Use Your Personal Brand -- your social media ambassadors may or may not already understand the value of maintaining a personal brand. And, quite honestly, even though some might be more widely known more than others, if you have a name, you have a personal brand. You have ideas and thoughts that your connections already associate with you. And one of the most important recommendations I have in terms of maintaining a personal brand is to be genuine and authentic. That is, promote and drive conversation around topics that are personally meaningful to you, and that YOU believe in while also wrapping it within the goals and objectives of the company. For example, all of my connections know that I work for Verizon, and that I'm not a big fan of the iPhone. On Twitter and Facebook, my friends will post articles about the iPhone coming to Verizon and I'll respond back with posts regarding the Droid. This friendly banter drives consumer and brand awareness that sheds a completely different, and more human, light on Verizon as a whole.
3. Confer with Other Business Groups (oh, and your Social Media Council if you're fortunate enough to have one) -- there are so many organizations right now that are seeing the value of creating social media ambassador programs. It's exciting and challenging all at the same time. But, when you work together, you create what I like to call "social synergy" which allows you to leverage technologies and knowledge share so that everyone operates from the same guidelines and policies, brand templates and voice, and provides a forum for sharing trials and tribulations -- what works and what doesn't work.
4. Collaborate with Other Social Media Programs -- the entire essence of social media is the ability to leverage connections. Collaborating together means you know who exists and allows you to cross-communicate with each other, magnifying your exposure in the process. If you're on Twitter, find out who within your organization is also on Twitter and follow each other - especially those other individuals in your social media program. Develop online relationships with your team members and drive conversation to each other. If nothing else, tweet and retweet.
5. Measure Your Own ROI -- from a corporate perspective, the benefits of a social media ambassador program are often catalogued as intangible ROI because normally such programs don't contribute to the bottom line. These efforts are more humanizing than anything else, which also means they are harder to measure.
Give your ambassadors the tools and the measurement values on which you want them to report, and then build those into one consolidated report that illustrates the impact that the ambassador group as a whole has had.
On a side note, there are programs such as Radian6 that can do this for you, but the disadvantage is that your ambassadors have to be willing to provide you with their login information. I have found that when you're asking people to use their personal profiles, you get a better response when you don't ask them to also sacrifice their personal account information.
6. Training - There are several key components on which participants in a social media ambassador program should receive training:
- Brand Marketing Training - The purpose of leveraging your personal social network profiles is to act as an extension of the corporate brand. You can't be a brand ambassador if you don't know the brand. It's as simple as that. Ask Brand Marketing to present on brand voice, language and overall go-to-market messages. This will ensure that whatever you say will be in sync with what Marketing says.
- Compliance - As a participant in a social media program, it's essential that all the language, participation levels, and behaviors exhibited on behalf of the company (even on your personal social networking profiles) comply with all social media guidelines / engagement, standards of business conduct, disclosure and intellectual property policies. The saying "act first, apologize later" does not apply here. Once information gets disseminated online, chances are, it will remain there. So make sure that you know your P's and Q's through proper training.
- How to Maintain a Personal Brand -- It's essential that as someone who participates in a social media ambassador program, you receive training on how to maintain a personal brand and the proper etiquette for getting people to recognize you as someone who leads or drives conversation. Immediately springing to mind is the importance of finishing any conversation that is initiated. As a social media ambassador, it's essential to keep the conversation going ... you don't have to respond immediately -- later that evening or even the next day is perfectly acceptable.
- Social Media Tools - In order to properly measure your interaction with your connections, you will need to know how to use the available social media tools and methods for gleaning measurement from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. Additionally, there are tools that you should be made aware of that can automate or manage your responses, easing the angst of managing multiple conversations among several social networking profiles. For example, these APIs allow you to post a link or a status in one place and have it populate throughout your other accounts.
The bottom line is this... if you already have a presence in social media and you are also someone who is passionate about what you do... why NOT also become a social media ambassador? As mentioned before, the conversations are already happening and you probably already participate in them whether you actively know that or not. So, why not help guide those conversations around topics that are of personal interest to you as well as to your company? To me, that's what being a social media ambassador is all about.