8 Tips for Training Social Media Marketers

social media how toDoes your business have a plan for bringing on social media marketers?

Are you wondering how to work with experts outside the company while maintaining a consistent brand experience?

Before you jump in headfirst or turn over the social media reins , check out the following eight tips to make sure your employees or contractors correctly represent your company.

#1: Create a Social Style Guide

Agreeing on a style for outward-facing content helps solidify your company’s identity and character, and is the starting point of good social media employee training, because it puts all agents on the same page. Perhaps the biggest hurdle in creating a style guide is to define your company’s voice.

If you’re working business to business in, say, the medical field, you’ll likely want to employ a professional voice. But if you’re working with freelance web developers who spend a good chunk of time every day on FailBlog, you can relax and crack some jokes. The point is to know your audience and have agents create content with your audience in mind.

#2: Define Social Goals

When creating your style guide, keep your goals in mind. What are you looking for from your presence on Facebook?

  • Do you want to get users talking?
  • Do you want their feedback so you can build a better product?
  • Do you want them to advertise your brand for you by sharing your content?

Once you establish your goals, you can amend your style guide accordingly.

If your goal is to increase fan interaction, have agents create wall posts that are interesting to the community and ask engaging questions. If your goal is to seed your email list, create an incentive (like a giveaway) for signing up, and have your agents regularly announce the prizes and winners on the wall.

rue 21 engaging

rue21's engaging, community-relevant status update garners hundreds of likes and comments.

#3: Set Parameters and Grant Freedom

No two people are the same, meaning that no two social media agents will write the same way. Having a style guide that defines voice doesn’t mean that you need to build a bank of terms and phrases for your employees to copy and paste, effectively turning them into bland robot parrots.

With your company’s overall voice outlined in your style guide, encourage your agents to be creative. To add depth to your company’s presence, have agents sign off on wall posts with their first names or departments.

#4: Have a Probationary Period

Practice makes perfect, and that truth certainly holds in the world of social media. A probationary period in which new agents respond to wall posts but first submit their responses to a superior prior to posting is a great way to get agents up to speed. With direction and edits from the higher-ups, new agents will become accustomed to your brand’s style and voice quickly.

#5: Mandate Social Frequency

You wouldn’t leave a phone ringing indefinitely in your office. It’s poor customer service. For the same reason, don’t leave wall posts on your Facebook page unanswered. Unanswered wall posts are far worse than an unanswered phone call, because the customer’s request or question is out there for the world to see—with a time stamp on it. Don’t let your page’s visitors get the impression you don’t care about your customers.

Make it policy for your social media agents to engage on your Facebook wall frequently—addressing all questions and concerns posted. The great thing is that this works both ways. Because your Facebook wall is public, you’ll experience increased customer loyalty when they see that your agents respond to all requests promptly.

bose customer service

Bose demonstrates phenomenal customer service, answering a question posed on their wall within minutes.

#6: Team Up

Once your employees pass through the initial probationary period, it still isn’t a good idea to have just one person responsible for your social media presence. Teams with two or more can moderate, edit and sharpen each other, giving you a refined, robust presence. Often it’s a good idea to have one person who’s more social media–savvy and another with a traditional marketing background.

The social media expert can keep the marketing professional in line with social media practices, while the marketing professional can make sure your brand’s reputation and message are upheld. If content hasn’t had at least two sets of eyes on it, don’t let it go public.

#7: Take Cues From the Pros

If your company is making its first foray into social media, take a look at a dozen or so of your top competitors and a few brands that do things right, like Starbucks or Coca-Cola. Take the good, leave the bad and add in your company’s unique voice. Formulating your approach as a team will take care of the training process for everyone, all at once.

#8: Prepare to Answer Anything

Whether you like it or not, your Facebook wall is a catch-all for praise, requests, demands, complaints, threats and everything in between. Make sure your social media team is ready to answer every wall post, even the disparaging ones, and is able to do so with respect and kindness.

Outline a procedure for agents dealing with irate fans. But don’t just prepare for the negative; be ready to capitalize on positive feedback by incorporating it in marketing materials or a “reviews” section on your page or website.

new egg complaint

This complaint should probably have been directed to website personnel, but Newegg's social media agents respond promptly and respectfully.

What do you think? What do you do to prepare employees to represent your brand on social media? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Jim Belosic

Jim Belosic is the CEO of ShortStack, a self-service software that allows businesses to create engaging campaigns for social, web and mobile. Other posts by »




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  • couponmama0921

    This post was awesome and very timely.  I just picked up a client who wants me to manage their social media account but has no knowledge about social media or the goals to set forth.  I will definitely send this article for them to read.  Thank you.

  • http://www.sji-inc.com/ Beth M. Wood

    I’ve posted on this same topic, and agree with all of your suggestions – but there is much debate (both internally and among other organizations) with your #3.  I am the social voice of our agency, and write all blogs and tweets, but do consult our owner who has a much more vast marketing background than myself.  However…every post and tweet that I write for our agency is written from the “we” perspective.  My name, the word “I” never show up.  In your opinion, shat is the disadvantage of NOT using your name/personality in posts for your company?  
    On another note… here are my thoughts on preparing employees to speak on behalf of the company socially… http://www.sji-inc-blog.com/?p=167

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  • http://intesols.com.au/ Moin Shaikh

    Thanks Jim, as a social media agent, we are following some tips you mentioned here. But special thanks for the point # 3 and 4. These are some of excellent tips that could enhance client’s confidence in its social media representative and can make it business work for fans. I have one question here: as an active social media agent, i many times found that client do not have time to respond to questions on wall and sometimes it is not under our hand to answer the question because it is somewhat more technical that only client can understand. And as you said leaving a question unanswered is worsen than ringing phone as the world will see it with timestamp, so in this case what do you suggest? Shall client be intimated by social media agent to answer such question which is unanswered since long? or what should be the step?

  • http://www.morethanpepper.com/ Tom@morethanpepepr

    never get enought sm marketing tips, thanks

  • http://pageonerent.com/ Frank Schwarz

    Awesome post. We were just talking to a client about this same thing. I’ve given them the link to this. Thanks!

  • http://www.brandboost.co.uk/ Danny Blair

    No mention of a social media policy. The rules of engagement, the do’s and don’t of social media engagement on behalf of the company. A contract between the company and the social media champions within the organisation. It should agreed and signed by everyone involved in providing social media services on behalf of the company and It should be numero uno!

  • http://www.improveyouronlinemarketing.com Jo Dodds

    I particularly like #3 and #6, which are also part of why I think it’s hard to completely outsource social media marketing effectively. The people speaking on behalf of your company need to be sufficiently immersed in the business to be able to be flexible and creative whilst keeping on brand.

  • http://www.improveyouronlinemarketing.com Jo Dodds

    Whoops, meant to say, great post too Beth!

  • http://www.petezafra.com Pj Zafra

    Love it guys! Awesome post! Thanks for sharing. I love the tips and tricks you’ve shared here. Some are very unique. :)

  • Protea Digital

    Thank You!  I really agree with #6.  It is amazing the different perspectives that can be brought to social media this way.  But unless something is really controversial, I wonder if at least two people need to check every post.  I would be concerned that could take away depth and individuality from each post.

    -Evan

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  • Gadamo

    The response in item 8 sounds like a canned auto-response. It could have been the response to any post. I think that’s a great way to kill your SM goals.

  • CB

    @ Beth M. Wood, my organization also uses the “we’ moniker. As an arts organization we ask our artistic or technical team to answer questions here and there, but for the most part we aim to speak as a unified whole and that can range from answering questions about ticket sales to how a prop is used. Having a small team work to filter all the information makes the voice of the organization much more consistent than having multiple people from different departments answer questions. I see it as a matter of streamlining efforts for both time efficiency and keeping content relevant and strategic.  

  • http://jeffkorhan.com Jeff Korhan

    Jim – I like number 5 …. A LOT!  Not mandating SM updating is like putting your car on cruise control and falling asleep at the wheel. :)

  • Devra

    Your article was perfect timing for us at ETSIS Hats we are just now looking and interviewing someone to take over  our day to day social media-although as the CEO/owner I always feel that it is extremely important to work closely with whomever is working with such an important area of our marketing. We have seen amazing results following the guidelines that Amy Potterfield outlined in her last webinar-Much Aloha, Devra

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  • Patricia

    How about some help on hiring a social media/SEO consultant.  I have interviewed (at length) 3 people- all of whom have different approaches and charge different prices, but are all still expensive for a small company.  The question is not whether my business can afford to do this, but can we afford not to.  Since this is obviously not my area of expertise, I am stymied.  Thanks.

  • http://www.sji-inc.com/ Beth M. Wood

    Patricia:  If you are a small company with a strict budget, how about looking at a college student – a Junior or Senior majoring in Marketing will have had some background/learning in social media, and will be looking or an internship – especially one that could lead to a full-time position upon graduating.

  • Susan J. Stein

    Al.alden hospital…that is where industry specialization comes into play…we have marketing managers that specialize in law, medical, restaurants, spas, real estate, and other professional services…they know the answers and are cross trained to meet personality/ style objectives!

  • Jodene

    Thank you for this article! I have really started to focus on my social media marketing and have learned quite a lot. Before, I was just dabbling getting used to it. And after reading this article….I’ve learned more. I love it. I have found that for me, I need to schedule time to sit down and set aside time to give attention to all of my social media accounts. If I don’t, I may not get to it consistently which just looks horrible!
    I may need to read this one a 2nd time.
    Jodene

  • JocelMR

    This is a great article.  Though, like some others, I tend to use the pronoun ‘we’ when posting on company pages as the message is from the company and not an individual.

  • http://callboxinc.com/ Judy Caroll

    Those are great suggestions Jim, thanks for sharing.  If we don’t set goals, it’s just like that we are in a supermarket without any idea what we want to buy there.  Not only is this a waste of time, but this will also cause us to spend a lot of time and energy doing non-constructive activities.  Having a goal enables us to focus and see what needs to be accomplished.  

  • Sarah Bauer

    Task-driven social media management ensures that you make the most of your social media marketer investment. With contests, email newsletter sign-up quotas, and goals for customer engagement, you can be assured that your marketer is using his or her time effectively for your business. 

    Thanks for the additional advice!

    Cheers,
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • Jacco Vlastuin

    Nice post!

  • http://www.logocontestreviews.com/99designs-review/ 99designs Reviews

    Nice guidance and suggestions for making a strong ability skills on social media. Thanks

  • http://www.IfSimply.com/ Keith Griffis

    This is a great summary of how to work with outside consultants. Many of my customers are looking for direction, so I have a similar guide that I offer them. As a consultant I recommend you address these topics early in your sales process to ease their common fears.

    On a side note, this content makes a great whitepaper for those lookin to work with a social media consultant or manager. This can then generate leads for your social media company.

    Be sure to also plug in with whomever does their email marketing (if not you) and website copy as you should be tying goals and objectives together and cross-pollinating content.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Thanks,
    Keith

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  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Great points Al-Ameen!  

    I have a suggestion on the issue of what to do when a client doesn’t take the time to answer questions on their own social profiles.  Ask for your client to create a “catalogue” of articles, frequently asked questions or something online addressing the most common topics.  Keep an easy to reference list on hand and respond with this when you can. Not only can this come in very handy for you, but if it creates a dialogue, then your clients should appreciate any feedback you give them about what you find you need but don’t have.Also, ask for the names people and places to easily reach them so you can refer others to reach out there. This might be a second choice solution, but it should get people to understand where the business responsibility lies.

  • http://intesols.com.au/ Moin Shaikh

    Thank you :)

  • http://www.cloudkeyseo.com/ Eric

    smart and useful information – the Facebook fan page has arrived.

  • http://www.mcordova.com/ Michael Cordova

    These are great suggestions. It is astounding how far social media has come to light in these recent years. Virtually every company has a facebook account. I saw that even eSurance has a facebook fan page. I definitely agree with number 5. It is always beneficial to build a relationship with one’s consumer.

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    Thanks, Keith! You bring up some great points- if you’re an agency doing work for a client, and you’re going to be taking up the social media duties, make sure you have a discussion about voice!

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    Hi Beth, since there’s no hard-and-fast rule for this, I wouldn’t say you’re at a disadvantage by using “we” and not signing off as an individual. That’s the path a lot of companies take. But social media is exactly that – it’s social. So having a personal sign off does personalize your company. 

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  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    That’s a great question- sometimes the question posed on the Wall is too technical for a social media rep to answer. When that happens on my company’s Wall I encourage my social media reps to acknowledge the question, but then ask the fan to submit a support ticket so that the question can receive the attention it deserves.

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    I agree, Jo! Having a social media team that’s a part of your company is optimal. 

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    Hi Patricia, I think Beth has some great advice. A college intern who has grown up with social media will understand the basic practices and principles. With the right guidance from you as to how you want your company represented, it could be a great deal for both you and the intern. 

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    Hi Evan, getting two sets of eyes on a Wall post doesn’t necessarily mean one person creates and then another edits. If you’re worried about losing depth between social media reps, have them look over each other’s content, and then make suggestions. Then the original author can keep his or her voice.  

  • http://www.shortstack.com/ Jim Belosic

    That’s a great point, Jodene. Having a good social media presence does require a commitment, and sometimes scheduling time for yourself is the best way to make sure you give your social media presence the attention it requires. 

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  • http://intesols.com.au/ Moin Shaikh

    Thank you Jim, would definitely implement this suggestion.

  • http://www.webpartnergroup.com/website-design Website Design Austin

    Very sensible and workable tips. Often, businesses just assign one of their employees who seems to be internet and social network savvy. It pays to train social media marketers. Results are more satisfactory.

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  • http://www.i95dev.com/ecommerce-magento Henry Louis

    In the list, I think the most important would be defining your social goals – without which the other things might fall flat.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/KendraFowler24 Kendra Fowler

    Great Post! Prepare to answer anything – This is something which everybody needs to put into action. the example that you had illustrated was very good in driving home the message. Who knows, those who had disliked the services may even come back because of the way of interactions.

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  • markhammond

    Thanks for all the great tips. Our Magicbuz team is always looking for new ideas

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  • http://liveonpage.com/ Dr. Joe Schaefer

    Making the shift form Skill to Scale is difficult and your comments are very helpful. The process advice from authors like Michael Gerber are also useful to those of us wanting to bring staff on to do what we are currently doing.

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  • http://blog.tianakai.com/ Tiana Kai

    Great points on “prepare to answer anything”. It’s funny how wacky some fan posts can be!

    I work with an assistant which makes my life easier and allows me to focus more on strategy and overarching tactics and long term plans, which is more fun for me!

  • http://blog.tianakai.com/ Tiana Kai

    Great points on “prepare to answer anything”. It’s funny how wacky some fan posts can be!

    I work with an assistant which makes my life easier and allows me to focus more on strategy and overarching tactics and long term plans, which is more fun for me!







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