Success with Social *Engagement* Media depends on the elimination of Sideways Energy. After you’ve established your game plan, selected the Social Media platforms you’ll have presence on, and identified the resource(s) that will manage your presence week-to-week, the most common challenge and obstruction to success is Sideways Energy by the people managing and updating content on your social media.

Sideways Energy are all the little distractions you come across while you’re managing Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. Online to post or publish some new content that should take 15 minutes, and one hour later you’ve watched J-Lo’s latest video, read a few blog posts, and generally invested more time than expected with little return.

Instead, focus energy on Attraction work; effort that will positively affect your ability to make money, acquire new customers, better communicate with your customer base, and improve visibility and organic search results online. The chart to the right highlights the typical behaviors that are social media attractions or social media distractions.

The attractions are the things you do in Social *Engagement* Media that are good for your business. In other words, they’re the things that can help you grow your sales and revenues over time. The distractions are the things that may be fun, but don’t help you grow your sales and revenues.

While some best practices can be observed to prevent Sideways Energy at an individual level, as a business there are other things you can and should do to establish repeatable process for identifying and disciplining Sideways Energy. Eliminating Sideways Energy completely is extremely difficult and there is a point of diminishing return in trying to eliminate it 100%. But once out of control, Sideways Energy can overwhelm Social Media efforts, leading to an inability to achieve goals and objectives or at a larger scale could be a drag on an entire team’s productivity.

The Rules of the Road Across the Org

Any corporate/business entity must have an Employee Social Media Usage Policy in place. Most readers’ firms most likely have something in place today to establish expectations for employee use of Social Media sites during normal business hours. Many probably copied or cloned one from another company to get something implemented quickly. This typically results in little actual training or coaching from management for employees, and no clarity about the business needs driving the policy itself. This lack of cross-functional understanding can sometimes lead to sticky situations where Sideways Energy surfaces in the workforce.

These general Social Media policy documents are typically constructed to govern how employees use Social Media for their own personal use (not directly business related) on company assets (computers, Internet Connectivity, business network(s), etc.). And like it or not, the lines between an employee’s personal digital identity on Social Media sites and their work responsibilities continue to blur. In point of fact, many employees are Tweeting, posting on Facebook, posting on LinkedIn, etc. related to their work, and in many cases communicating with customers using these sites via their personal accounts. So these policies are important but must be realistic.

Even when an employee is not directly responsible for updating or managing the company’s Social Media sites, management will be exposed to applying the company’s Social Media acceptable use policy related to Sideways Energy by employees across the organization. Leadership must size these types of risks and invest in training, education, continuity planning, legal guidance, etc. to ensure that management and employees are on the same page about Social Media acceptable use, application of policies (particularly in relation to possible disciplinary action, employee reviews, etc.) and the benefits to everyone involved.

And since some leadership personnel tend to misunderstand the value of Social Media as a communication tool, there may need to be a higher priority assigned to address these internal policies and practices.

Preventing Sideways Energy for Company Social Media Management

Most organizations have not taken the time to create, or at the very least update, job descriptions for employees who are directly responsible for maintaining the company’s social media sites, assuming you have a full-time or part-time employee handling this for your organization. These documents can and should contain references to the acceptable (Attraction) work items and unacceptable (Distraction) behaviors related to Sideways Energy, so team members know the rules of the road. And most importantly, I recommend you involve the team member in crafting this content; do not simply dictate the rules on day one. Seek employee feedback before finalizing and filing the job description(s) in their personnel file(s).

Other companies will attempt to out source content creation and management of the communications that occur on social media sites. While leveraging vendors and experts is a great idea, beware outsourcing everything (i.e. content creation, posting, graphic design, customer communications on sites, etc.) which has already proven to have lasting negative consequences in extreme situations; there have been well-publicized examples of derogatory posts by firms managing social media for companies like Chrysler (and other heavy weights). Ultimately, these relationships still require you to establish the ground rules for acceptable use, depending on what your social media goals are. Vendors should be held to a similar standard that internal employees are held to, when possible.

Best Practices in the Pilot’s Chair

And if you are the individual updating content online for Social Media, constantly tempted to go “Sideways”, here are a few ideas from the trenches:

Stream of Consciousness Syndrome: the fundamental challenge to updating content online and (particularly) keeping abreast of your company’s reputation online, is you (dear reader) will be exposed to “stream of consciousness” content that James Joyce himself couldn’t have imagined… as you navigate you must discipline yourself to not bounce off topic. There are many ways to stay focused, but since you will observe content that may be worthwhile to you as a business professional or personally, jot a note on paper about something you want to come back to later, or after work. Copy and paste links, posts, or info into a document you can pick up at a later date. Don’t give in, fight the good fight.

Denial is not your Friend: admit it if you waste time bouncing to unrelated sites, links, posts, blogs, etc. Think like a business owner and ask yourself if you were paying someone to do this job (essentially taking money from your own paycheck and giving it to someone else to do part of your job for you), would the amount of time you just spent reading the non-essential blog be money well spent? And if you answered yes, and you just agreed to “virtually” pay for more than 15 minutes of time, you’re wrong (tough love);

Establish patterns: “I’ll do Facebook from 10 – 11 (post something new, respond to status updates, etc.) on Tuesdays and Thursday”, “Twitter from 11 – 12 daily”, etc. Your time allocation should DIRECTLY match the results the BUSINESS gets from a given social media presence. Working in a repeatable, scheduled manner provides a tangible stopping point that helps avoids deep dives down the Rabbit Hole of Social Media;

Seek Cross-functional Feedback: interact regularly with marketing, advertising, customer service, management, leadership (C-Level execs), etc to seek feedback about the company’s social media presence, successes, missed opportunities, areas for improvement, etc. Some of the most insightful and helpful information (for those that manage Social Media day-to-day) comes from ad-hoc sessions about what you’ve been doing, observing, experiencing, etc. for the company. Share customer feedback, insight and ideas you garner from social media with the appropriate cross-functional team members to illicit their feedback, and to further define the company’s social media goals.

Social Media

Document Progress: invest time regularly in documenting social media work and presence, ideally in the company’s WIKI. The WIKI is the cross-functional tool your company should be using to share visibility about social media presence (where the company is visible online), social media goals and objectives, content creation, etc. Here are a few examples of how to leverage your WIKI cross-functionally:

Create actionable documentation about each social media profile/site your company creates. Below I’ve included a screen shot of a page from our WIKI where we’ve documented some basic info about our company Facebook page. There are many reasons to do this, including:

Business Continuity: if the individual responsible for creating, managing and updating the site leaves your employment, you know how to access the site and what’s been done to date. You can work a review of this content into the standard employee review process each quarter to inspect what you expect;

Cross-functional Collaboration: for empowered, savvy employees (the A Players we all want) a collaboration tool is crucial to ensure visibility across the enterprise. You could configure the WIKI documentation about a Facebook page to allow certain users Read-only access, while others could add new content to engage about business needs related to a given social media presence. Take a look at the screen shot below of our WIKI page. See the call out (red circle) on the right-hand side? Notice the yellow note about the $50 Advertising Credit? Perfect example of cross-functional collaboration… while setting up a hosting instance at GoDaddy for an internal project, IT received this info from GoDaddy, and they’ve updated the page to notify our Social Media Coordinator about the available advertising credit. #kickass;

Single source of Truth: the WIKI page about each social media presence should document WHY the company needs to be there, how you intend to measure success with the presence (i.e. increasing Follows vs. Increasing Friend count, etc.), and WHO in the organization is on-point to maintain the social media content. These are just the basics though. Remember to store actionable information, not just pages and pages of information;

Creating of this type of documentation should be part of the job description for the individual in charge of Social *Engagement* Media at your company. If documentation is not a priority, make sure leadership understands the risks involved: accidentally creating an internal expert on Social Media you can’t replace or live without, and where sometimes people don’t know exactly what they do month-to-month.

One final example of actionable documentation related to Social Media efforts. One of our best practices is to capture and communicate competitive analysis information to our sales and marketing team. If we are online one day doing some Reputation Management related work for our brand, and we stumble across some information about one of our competitors that our sales team can leverage to win business, or information that our Product Manager should know about related to the competitor’s products, we do not just dump it in an email and click send. This would result in actionable information becoming trapped in our email application/database; while this isn’t a terrible problem to have, we instead store this info in our WIKI, and we’ve found that our company (and future employees) can leverage it in a much more meaningful way!

So we’ll navigate in the WIKI to the page(s) about competitor X, and capture the actionable information we found online there. Then we’ll notify the appropriate team members about the new info in our WIKI so they can act on it accordingly. The sales, marketing and Product Management folks can then go digest that info and take further action as they see fit. This scenario is a great example of acting on the “Attraction” side of the scale (the Sideways Energy graphic above) for Social Media!

Empower your team members by educating, coaching and training them related to Sideways Energy leaks to create a more focused and effective organization that can achieve the Social *Engagement* Media goals you’ve set! And if you need assistance or guidance related to Social *Engagement* Media e-autobusiness can help! Contact us any time at (866) 230-0368 to discuss how e-auto can help your organization implement a more effective Social *Engagement* Media strategy today.