In the past two weeks, I’ve been asked a version of the same question about four times. The questions came from decision-makers at three companies/brands and one advertising agency. The question was generally this one:
Why on Earth would we allow our employees to openly represent us online?
Yes, all you social media purists out there, there are still non-Kool-aid drinkers amongst us. In fact, 90 percent of the world is still old school about marketing and communications. Keep on Kumbaya-ing with your “l love your blog” crowd. The rest of us will do the hard work.
While the answer to that question varies by client, environment and more, I generally answer it with, “If you are afraid of what your employees will say about you online, then your problem is not your employees, it’s you. Hire smarter.” There are nuances, though. Employees don’t have to be “official” spokespeople and so on. But, generally speaking, people with the “can’t do that” attitude are afraid of their hires, not the principal.
To give you an example of what empowering your employees might look like, I need only show you this chalk board from Java Brewing Company in downtown Louisville. Jamie, Ashley, Suemi, Arielle and Laura work for the company. As patrons enter, they are introduced to their baristas.
If you ask any of them a hard question, they’ll answer, “Let me check with my manager.” If you complain about the quality of your coffee, they apologize and give you a new cup or extend an offer for you to talk to the manager. If you ask them something they don’t know, they even say, “I don’t know.”
My guess is that if they are asked those same questions on Facebook, they’ll say the same things.
Jamie, Ashley, Suemi, Arielle and Laura aren’t just baristas. They are community managers. Just without computers.
More importantly, though, Java Brewing Company proactively introduces them to you, tells you a few things they like and what their favorite drink is. This gives you suggestions on what to order, but also comfortable topics to use in conversation with the baristas as you get to know them.
I want to ask Jamie how she got to Louisville from Spartanburg, S.C., and how she likes being a Duke fan in a state that appreciates Duke as much as it does Kim Jong Il. It’s an ice-breaker, and entree to further conversation. And immediately makes me think I’m doing business with someone I know, not just some company that takes my money.
This humanizes Java Brewing Company.
So think about how you would react to buying coffee from such a place if you “knew” the staff, had talking points to strike up conversations (Not even about their company, just random, life-fulfilling conversations.) and saw it as more than just a store where you spend money for a cup-a-joe.
Then tell me about your company’s baristas.