It's a big task getting employees to see that their tweets and Facebook status updates can be marketing tools for their companies. But for the past three years that's the message Jason Seiden, CEO of Chicago branding agency Ajax Workforce Marketing, has been spreading.
Seiden is on a mission to get individuals to leverage social media in a way that's good for business, creating what he calls a "profersonal" (a hybrid of personal and professional) profile. We sat down with him to learn more.
How has social media changed the way employees represent their companies to the outside world?
In the past, an executive would talk formally about company business only after having been media-trained. Today, with social media, every employee is a spokesperson for the company. With that, companies need their employees to be on-message on social media.
Why is this important for each employee?
Individuals have what I call the "Friday-night problem." You go out and someone asks you what you do. You hear yourself answer that question, and you want to cringe as you see that person's eyes glaze over. Social media has made that problem a 24/7 issue. We solve that by providing professionals with storytelling skills that can help them answer that question better and--where it gets good for a company--we help them deliver the message.
How does this work?
Our first step is to help companies translate their brand message to a social-media-ready version. For example, if you worked at Nike, you wouldn't tell your friends to "Just do it," but you're going to have a conversation that gets to those same principles. Through our web app, employees fill out a Mad Libs-like questionnaire that touches on what they do, what their goals are and who they serve in their work, reminding them of why they like working at the company. From there, we help employees create "personal elevator pitches" that combine their professional strengths and their employer's mission. We automatically convert these pitches into optimized LinkedIn profiles and social media identities.
Why is a "profersonal" profile so important?
It doesn't work to separate work and life anymore. We're friends with our co-workers. We go and get our buddy's job once he leaves a company. You can have the same network for all your social media--meeting on LinkedIn to talk business and sharing funny stories on Facebook.
How should entrepreneurs approach social media?
By being genuine. When you talk to your employees, articulate what your company stands for and what you hope customers, clients and stakeholders will get from the company. Then, encourage employees to make that story part of their own.
After all, they're giving you 80 hours a week, so consider this something they can get back.
How useful is LinkedIn for startups?
Encourage your team to look at a client's LinkedIn profile before a meeting, and make it part of the conversation. Be sure everyone's LinkedIn profile is polished and on-message. After all, LinkedIn is a pitch for your company that's open 24/7.
Lambeth Hochwald is a freelance journalist, whose stories have appeared in magazines such as Coastal Living, O The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple and Redbook. She is also an adjunct professor at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.