Social Media Middlemen: The Missing Link Between Brands and Consumers

Are you just one lonely person preaching/spreading your company message via Social Media? Does every one in your company know what your are doing? Tom has outlined a couple steps on getting your middlemen setup to leverage your marketing strategy.

Next time you’re out running some errands, give this simple experiment a try.  Visit a national company that you know has a strong social media presence, and then ask an employee or two about some social tools. Is the clerk at the register familiar with any incentives for Foursquare check-ins? Can the teller help you with your iPhone app? Does the waiter know what Yelpers think? Does the sales woman know about the discount you just saw tweeted?

If your experience is similar to mine, then all too often you’ll be met with a reply of “What’s that?” or “I’m not really sure.”  I once told a hotel receptionist that I was the mayor, only to be asked “Oh really?  Is this your first time staying with us?”

So why the disconnect? Because almost all of the advice that corporations receive is how their brand can leverage the unprecedented opportunity to interact directly with consumers.

But most consumers still talk to real people more than branded accounts and pages – they interact with brands indirectly.  And as adoption of social tools continues to evolve – like mobile applications that merge online and in-person behaviors – consumers will begin to have more face-to-face “social media” interactions with brand representatives.  These employees, or “social media middlemen,” will need to not only be familiar with social tools, but also be apprised of any relevant social campaigns that your brand is participating in.

So what can a company do?  First, identify your middlemen. If you’re an insurance company, they may be independent agents or in-house customer service representatives. If you’re a restaurant, they might be the wait staff and counter help.  Banks have tellers and car companies have sales people. For some companies, like electronics manufacturers, it can be more complicated – your middlemen might be employees of the store that carries your brand.

Second, you must determine the role that these middlemen will play. Will they be active participants who promote your brand’s social engagements? Or should they just be educated representatives who are simply aware of your online efforts?

After you’ve identified your middlemen and determined what role they play, you’ll need to figure out how you will educate them. How will they know the difference between a mayorship and a badge if they don’t even know what Foursquare is? Will they need to be formally trained to help a consumer download your app on Android instead of an iPhone? If your company has thousands of locations, how will you make sure that everyone is up-to-speed?

And finally, you’ll need a comprehensive strategy to ensure that your middlemen continue to be properly identified, trained, and leveraged. Remember, social tools are about connecting people with people – and the more that the online and offline worlds of consumers begin to merge, the more they’ll be socially connecting with your employees in real life.

See the full article or more written by Tom Cummings

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