Employee Communication Via Social Media – Overcoming Internal Resistance

'Digital natives' and 'digital immigrants' What differentiates the 'digital native' generation, who grew up with the Internet from those who didn't? Typically, many older workers, or 'digital immigrants', talk about their comfort zone. They find comfort in a hierarchical, command and control management structure. They are good communicators, who like to think, plan and do - in that order. They favour a top-down approach and generally like to play safe. Many of our senior managers fit into the digital immigrant generation. Digital natives, on the other hand, prefer a guiding and nurturing environment. They do not want instructions handed down from on-high. They are great communicators and great networkers. But they do it differently. Digital tools and social media are like extensions of themselves. This emerging generation thinks acts and communicates quickly. They like engagement and like to try things out. They harness their team's collective experience and skills in order to find solutions. It's all about communicating. Many of the people now joining the workforce are digital natives. The old way and the new? The old way uses intranets or websites as static sites. Staff can search and find, but have limited ability to contribute. The new way is interactive and collaborative and uses social media such as Social networks (e.g. Facebook), Blogs, Discussion Forums and Wikis. Social media tools definitely add value to employee communications. They can help build relationships, increase collaboration, improve productivity, reduce silos, and build engagement. They also offer an excellent means to share ideas and gather qualitative feedback. So why is social media sometimes so hard to implement as an internal communications tool? Communicators understand the power of social media but their senior managers, who are often digital immigrants, remain wary and unconvinced. Are these the arguments that you are hearing? 'It's not a priority" A CIO magazine's study,Top Technology Priorities found that even IT professionals don't consider Web 2.0 a priority. They're focused on network consolidation, outsourcing, CRM, and security. This would seem to back up management's assertion that Intranet 2.0 needs to take a back seat. The response Point out that Web 2.0 tools are already commonplace. Innovative companies are already leveraging the power of these tools. Many social media tools are easy and relatively cheap to implement. They don't need to compete with major IT plans. Don't make sweeping claims when you are proposing social media tools. Managers don't want to hear about social media democratizing the organization. They want to know how business goals will be supported. So use language the CEO will understand and focus on concrete goals where possible. Spot opportunities and start with small simple projects. Provide evidence of success before proposing a wider implementation. Do your homework. Support your proposal for a wider implementation with case studies. IBM, Sun Microsystems and the hundreds of other Fortune 500 companies are already successfully wielding these tools. Tips Choose web 2.0 channels that have been specifically designed for employee communication. Use low cost communications channels that are quick and easy to implement and manage. Use a platform that is easy for IT to implement and has little need for ongoing IT support. Choose a platform that allows access rights to be targeted to specific staff groups. Ensure centralised reporting allows you to easily quantify the value of the web 2.0 channels and demonstrate their strategic communications value to senior managers. Try a free trial or low cost pilot to test concepts out prior to a more comprehensive commitment to social media as an internal communications channel. "We don't have the time, money or resources" Management quite rightly recognizes that communicators are already overworked. They might also voice concerns about the cost of the tools and the lack of support resources. The response Explain tools that assist internal communications assist you. As for the tools being hungry on money and resources, explain that generally these tools are relatively inexpensive and require little time to set up. Rather then worrying about the return on investment in financial terms the focus should be on what can be gained from making them available. To keep costs down, lease a Web 2.0 solution. This allows you to leverage developments based on learning from other organisations. Study less and do more:
  • Start the dialogue and keep listening to the comments
  • Spot opportunities in the business where social media could provide a good fit
  • Start small and simple and use an iterative process
  • Predict concerns and solve problems early
  • Create an army of evangelists
Tips Choose web 2.0 channels that have been built only for employee communications purposes, they are not a 'one size fits all' solution with a confusing array of set-up options. Use a solution that is authenticated back to employees computers which means it is very secure but staff also do not need to remember a user name and password. Just one click and staff are able to participate. Select a user friendly, intuitive solution that allows staff to participate with little or no training. Use a low cost solution that can fit within existing employee communications budgets. Utilise free trials to test out small deployments and evolve the use of staff social media channels based on staff feedback and learning. Increases in productivity facilitated by improved information flow can easily cost justify the use of social media for employee communications. For example, an interactive Helpdesk channel provides effective real time support channels for staff by allowing them to ask questions in interactive online helpdesks. This means that answers can be made available almost immediately and become part of an evolving searchable repository of knowledge. It doesn't suit our culture "These tools aren't a fit with our culture. It's not the way we do business..." The response Do you have a young, tech-savvy workforce in an organisation with a flat structure, or is the structure hierarchical with predominantly older workers who may feel uncomfortable with new technology. It is important to recognise your culture, and to work out what will work and what won't. It is true social media fits better where the culture is democratic and open, rather than hierarchical and paternal. However, even conservative companies are finding increasing numbers of digital natives joining their ranks. Collaboration and team work are here to stay. Knowledge-sharing enables the whole company to benefit from an individual's expertise, and ensures that this knowledge doesn't exit the organisation when the individual leaves. Explain that providing additional channels for sharing information does not equate to loss of control or a decline in standards. It should lead to increased productivity and innovation. It may be helpful to encourage knowledge-sharing and collaboration by assisting executives to lead by example. You could also workout a system of rewards for champion bloggers and networkers. Tips Select a platform with a range of moderation options. Simply select the setting required for a specific employee blog, staff discussion forum or online helpdesk. Even the most risk adverse managers should feel comfortable with a communications channel that requires every post and comment moderated. If possible set up moderators to receive desktop alerts notifying them of the need to approve content so that approval (or not) can be fast and seamless. In time, as managers become more comfortable with the social media as an employee communications tool, it may be appropriate to reset the moderation level to only anonymous posts and comments or even to switch moderation off altogether. For organizations that are really adverse to social media, why not consider an electronic magazine fomat that permits 'user generated' content. This will enable you to distribute 'safe discussion' directly to the employee's computer screen. "It will open a can of worms" "Employees will say inappropriate things. People will complain, or insult management. Bad language will appear on comments..." Management may express concerns that the 'rumour mill' will take over, or that staff will spend all day complaining. Management may also be concerned that knowledge-sharing via staff forums or blogs sets a dangerous precedent. This informant is 'unofficial' as no-one has authorised it. The response Gossip and staff complaints were around long before Web 2.0 came on the scene. If social media channels do throw up unpleasant surprises, you have at least identified that there are issues which you can address, rather than having a seething undercurrent. Where engagement is low and/or guidelines and policy are not stated, staff may not know how else to communicate worries or causes of dissatisfaction. Define what social media tools can be used for as part of your strategy and communicate the policy. For example, some companies allow comments to go live without being filtered, whereas others insist that comments go through the editor. Some organizations allow anonymous posts while others don't. Some even have a forum entitled 'Rumour Mill' to flush concerns and gossip out into the open to be addressed. Not all information needs to be official. Tacit knowledge is still shared around the water cooler, or sent via a memo or email. It may never be captured in a form that can be shared. Management agree that this is a huge disadvantage when knowledgeable staff leave, taking their 'unofficial' knowledge with them. Online tools, on the other hand, capture this know-how. Your staff will easily recognize the distinction between opinion and authoritative content. Tips Specify a 'Code of Conduct' clearly at the top of each page view. Implement a range of moderation levels which allow you to monitor and approve posts if required. For example, moderators could be set to receive a desktop alert when an anonymous post or comment is made. Use multiple interactive channels. Setting up a specific, moderated helpdesk, for example, around an organisational change, can help keep inappropriate content out of other staff discussion forums. 'Risky' discussions, where sentiment might be negative, can be targeted securely to only those affected. This means that negativity does not need to 'infect' the rest of the organisation. "It's too risky, too uncontrolled" Management may equate loss of formality with a decline in standards. The idea that staff can write what they want runs counter to the command-and-control structure of many organisations. Considerable time, effort, and money go into crafting a strong brand image. CEOs may fear that the company's image will suffer if they make it easy for staff to say anything they want about the organization or their colleagues and managers. They may also worry about leaks to outside world. The response Just because communication is taking place online doesn't mean that professionalism and respect will be forgotten. Most staff already know that inappropriate use of email is not acceptable, and will transfer this knowledge automatically to social media tools. Don't forget that Management have legitimate concerns about the need to keep some information confidential. You can offset Management's fear of losing control by implementing appropriate security measures and guidelines for these channels, just as you do with email and Internet use. There is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to setting the policy. You know your organisation and whatever works best for your organisation is the best way to go. IBM's solution was to create a wiki and to get its staff to create the policy themselves. The fact that blogs and online discussion are visible is more likely to deter inappropriate comments. Tips Choose social media channels that have been built specifically for secure employee communication. Use a solution with a Client applet that resides on staff computers. Only staff who have the applet and have been targeted with access rights can view these channels. This means that the risk of leaks to the outside world is dramatically reduced. Code of conduct and moderation options mean that if it possible to keep a close eye on conversations that are considered high risk. Desktop alerts can inform moderators when new content is added to blogs, forums, Q&A spots and staff helpdesks. This can allow moderators to check that information is correct and amend posts if necessary. Sarah Perry is a Director of Snap Communications, a company which provides specialist Internal Communications Channels and Solutions. Her specific area of expertise is the use of new technologies in the field of Employee Communications but she has a broad knowledge from strategic communications planning through cross cultural communications to measuring communications effectiveness. Author: Sarah Perry Article Source: EzineArticles.com Electrical Pressure Cooker Online

Expanding your presence on the Social Media Networking front

It is important for agents to build their presence on the social media network front as this is the platform where people goes daily to view information, play some games like farmville and also to catch up with news and opportunitites as well as what others are doing. So, isn't this the correct platform for you to reach out to the potential customers? A short video for your viewing pleasure.... You like it? Catch up with us on http://facebook.com/miiagroup to get connected to the Malaysia internet-Insurance Agents Group

Top 10 Social Media Blogs – A List of the Top 10 Social Media Blogs Online

In the industry of social networking and online marketing, one of the major components to being successful is your ability to stay up to date with the most current information. By harnessing this knowledge, you place yourself in a position to give back to the community by providing or teaching it back to your prospects, customers and followers. Sometimes keeping up with the torrential flow of cutting edge information can be difficult, but this is where this list of the Top 10 Social Media Blogs comes in handy. Each and every one of these blogs contains a wealth of knowledge and it's all current. It's not the same jargon being repeated and recycled over and over again. By keeping yourself at the forefront of the social media game and positioning yourself as an authority by contributing to these top 10 social media blogs you are building the foundations - laying the bricks, so to speak - for your eventual and perpetual success online. The top 10 social media blogs are listed below. Be careful not to get overwhelmed by the vast amount of knowledge contained in them. Remember to take things slow, one step at a time. If you learn something which you can implement straight away, then do it! Don't think after you've just read some crazy new secret "Oh, that's a good idea... I'll apply that to my business tomorrow," and then keep trawling the blogs for the rest of the night. As soon as you learn something, put it into action. Once you're done with that, find another strategy to implement. Step by step you will slowly but surely begin to see concrete results! So without further ado, I give you... The Top 10 Social Media Blogs! #1 Mashable.com - If you're looking for the best place to come to for social media news, this is it. It is the worlds largest site dedicated to this purpose. With more than 12 million hits every month, it will definitely boost your inside knowledge on new sites, trends, technologies and services. Come here to find critiques on the newest stuff and get some great tools for your social networking campaigns. #2 AllFacebook.com - As the name suggests, this blog is all about Facebook. Here you can learn about the newest applications and general news. You can even read predicted trends about the future of Facebook, an excellent way to stay on top of the game. If you need to know anything about Facebook, this should be your first stop. #3 Twitip.com - Similar to #2, this blog is all about Twitter. There are so many helpful Twitter tips including things like how to get the right followers, how to build relationships and turn them into your real friends, how to build massive followings without getting booted off the system, etc. There is also a wealth of useful marketing information related to Twitter, such as personal branding, effective marketing methods and even useful Twitter tools to help automate your business. #4 SocialMediaToday.com - This blog is a community made up some of the best social networking and web 2.0 thinkers alive today. There is no limit to what you can learn here! Most importantly, this is a great place to learn how to create an interactive social community. A pretty neat perk: once you have registered on this site, you can begin feeding your existing blog posts (assuming you already have a blog) to the live content flow of SMT and create posts directly on the site, increasing your exposure to a highly valuable community! Now THAT is pretty darn cool. #5 Techipedia.com - This blog is run by Tamar Weinberg, a social media consultant and techie geek. She truly has some information worth hunting down, and her blog is an amazing resource. One of her recent posts was "How to Create the Perfect Fan Page." Now who in social media wouldn't want to know info like that? For free? She is a freelance writer and author of The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, who specializes in social media consulting and strategy, blogger outreach, reputation management, and search engine marketing (SEO, link building, and Pay Per Click Marketing). If you're interested in social media, you should be checking out her blog. #6 CollectiveThoughts.com - Another invaluable blog made up of superstars. Each member of this community is a well-known authority or upcoming figure in their own respective fields, and they all share a passion and thoroughly developed understanding on social media. So thinking collectively, they created Collective Thoughts, a place to share their fantastic knowledge. #7 BrianSolis.com - Brian is a pioneer as he brings his own unique view to the world of social networking. He takes both approaches of traditional marketing and social media and meshes them together to create one heck of a powerful marketing machine. This blog made the top 1.5% of all blogs tracked by Technorati-which means it really is worth checking out! #8 DoshDosh.com - This one's a bit different, not what you would call your typical social media blog. But don't let that fool you, because here you will find some amazing resources for cutting edge online marketing and blogging tips, social media and Web 2.0 strategies. I personally like the artistic use of their images and graphics in the various posts. #9 ScottMonty.com - Scott is the head of social media for the Ford Motor Company. That's right, the big corporations are realising the potential in social media are beginning to stake their claim. On his blog, Scott shares his perspectives on various topics - the convergence of marketing, advertising and PR on the Web - for marketers, agencies, the enterprise and the individual. Not only will learning from him benefit your campaign, you can build your connections as you expand your sources - and Scott is a very good source. #10 The Viral Garden - Mack Collier is a social media consultant, trainer and speaker. He has been actively immersed in social media since 2005 and is known as a guru in the field. He has some great info on his site where you can learn about the latest tools, tips and trends to enhance your productivity, profitability and online presence. So there you have it, the Top 10 Social Media Blogs, places where you can hunt down valuable information to help take your business to the next level. Take full advantage of these resources as they will help to brand you as an expert in social media and put you in position to become a top earner in this industry. Boio Bess Is A Savvy Network Marketer Who Has Seen All The Tricks Of The Trade In The Industry Over The Last Decade. Visit EarnFromSocialMedia.com To Learn The Techniques She Uses To Generate 50+ Leads Daily Using Social Media Sites Such As Facebook, Twitter & YouTube! Author: Boio Bess Daro Article Source: EzineArticles.com Cool mobile gadgets

Does your agency has a business blog

Many agency realize the importance of having a blogsite but they don’t understand what the importance is. As a consequence, many blogs across the country are sadly being abandoned and neglected through no fault of their own.

All agencies, large or small, should have at least a blogsite. But what do you do with that blog? If you own a business, then you are hopefully very passionate about what you do or sell, right? Ok, so blog about it!

Yup, it’s as simple as that. The No. 1 rule of writing is to write what you know. But the No. 1 rule of Internet marketing is to engage your audience with something free and valuable, like information. If you can turn your blog into a go-to information center for your readers, they will want to read it.

Readers may then start to read your blog every day and pass the word around that your blog is great resource for learning about (fill in the blank). The goal is to create a trust factor with your readers by offering them good, insightful and helpful information. After trust is achieved, readers may venture to other areas of your site and, eventually, they may buy something.

Luckily, the benefits of blogging don’t stop there. Your search engine rankings are also more likely to improve with daily blog posts, since fresh and relevant content is a metric that search engine crawlers look for.

As a result, the more fresh and original content you post on your blog, the more authority you demand with the search engines. In fact, some agencies that don’t have the time to write daily blog posts for their site can simply order their blog posts from a certain SEO company that offers custom content creation – what a great idea!

A huge mistake that many uninformed people make while trying to get in on this trendy action is blogging for other people. By ‘other people’ I mean other sites that serve as an aggregate for blogs. Basically, you sign up on a Web site and they give you a space on that site to start a blog.

What you are essentially doing is giving away fantastic, fresh and original content to another Web site, which they use to keep their rankings up. Instead, you want to be sure that you are writing on your own blog which is installed on your own Web site (if you have a website that it). That way you get to reap the benefits of your own writing and improve the rankings of your own Web site.

The key to blogging for the purpose of attracting potential clients involves several things.

First, you need to make sure that the information or opinions that you are offering are interesting, insightful or helpful for your readers. Then you need to make sure that you are writing in such a manner that everyone can understand it, but not be bored with it. You don’t have to insert every semicolon and you don’t have to use long words. But you also don’t want to write something that may make some people think English is your second language.

Finally, don’t hesitate to drop subtle incentives for your readers to actually pick up the phone and ask questions or inquire about services.

Of course, after reading my blog post, you are anxious to get a blog of your own and start blogging! But what do you do if you don’t have a blog? You can ask your Web site developer to install a blog for you or you can give PROJECT MIIA a call and ask us what's the simplest way to install a blog on your site is? We highly recommend WordPress, which is a popular (and free!) blogging platform that works well in tandem with SEO Plugins; but every site is made differently, so this doesn’t apply for everyone.

At the end of the day, you want to be sure that you are having fun with your blog and that your readers are having fun too! They should learn something new or insightful from your posts and they should possibly get a laugh or two out of it, as well. Whichever direction you decide to take your blog, just be sure to promote it like none other. Blast links from all your social media sites and have your friends or employees do the same.

Anymore questions? You know where to find me. In the meantime, happy blogging!

Source: Freebase

Source: Freebase

Special thanks to Dayna Fields

Learning from the more advanced insurance markets


The rise of AGGREGATION websites has revolutionised the way general insurance is being sold in the UK, and how it is priced. These sites have also revolutionised the way consumers buy motor, home and travel insurance, giving them greater choice and control, and saving them money. So what is this AGGREGATOR SITE all about? They are basically agent's owned websites having links to the some of the subscribing principal's sites. Customers usually prefer such sites because they can get a few quotes all at once for comparison, something like a one-stop quotation shop. Once the customer is satisfy with the best quote, then they just proceed with the online purchase. The other advantage is this online aggregator website also provide opinions and advises to their customers after securing the quotes for comparison - online though.... In 2008 per UK compiled statistics (source: CII journal Oct/Nov 2009) pointed out that 65% of adult users buying motor insurance actually used the aggregator sites. The response was, "...it is alot more quicker" For more information on how to build your own aggregator site to compete effectively against the intermediary channel, bancassurance and the insurance companies, visit websites like moneysupermarket.com, confused.com, gocompare.com and tescocompare.com.

What is more important, the mailing list or the products?

The other day I was having a teh-tarik session with a close acquaintance. We were trying to establish as to what was more important in internet marketing - the mailing list or the product offered?

A musician has the product range but who would be the customers?

If having to make a decision on a single option, I would stick to the available marketing list (assuming this list to be updated and of reasonable quality) as the more important item. In my mind, product range is not that important simply because we are more abled to source for them. But, where are we going to get our customers? This has to be from our ready or available listing of contacts.... If we have the customers, we can always post or email some sort of offerings to them to interest them. Even if there are limited positive replies from the customers in the listing, it is still not a major problem. We can still rework our strategies by calling upon them, or we can also use outsource tele-canvassers to do the follow up. The other good thing about the available listing is, it provides you with ample opportunity to develop a following on your internet website or any social networking sites. This "following", even if there are still limited sales concluded, can still be very important source of traffic or audience to your sites. That's why some of the blogging sites have nothing much to sell but earned reasonable income from advertisements, especially those coming from Google Adsense, Nuffnang and Advertlets to name a few. Blogsites having sizeable traffic per day, perhaps in region of 5,000 hits per day are targeted by advertisers for specific advertising activities. Thus, you have some sites, eg. kennysia.com blogging about functions and features of tele-communication gadgets for some prominent brand, earning a handsome sum in return..... The conclusion, at least from my thoughts, is the mailing list or the listing of potential customers should outweighs the product range, at least in this teh-tarik discussion.

Digital Branding?

Does an Insurance Agency needs to brand itself and why digital branding is a great way forward?

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

The Malaysia Digital Brand Index (MDBI) reported the following interesting pointers - at least from our perspectives:

1.   Lowyat.net.forum - Kopitiam featured prominently in a recent technology related survey (not surprise as Malaysian are much attached to "kopitiam"...),

2.   Service providers do not usually engage their customers online,

3.   Highlighted the needs to target the right channels and people - more than often, selected online channels failed to reach their target consumers,

4.   Search Engine Marketing is deemed to be important, and

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

5.   Ability to analyse and measure the return on marketing investments in respect of online activities is deemed very important.

The word "Brand" and "Branding" sound like something that are overly sophisticated and hi-tec but insurance agencies are mostly of small proprietary setup. Why then should insurance agencies need to brand themselves?  Insurance agency is a living and dynamic entity, and like any other business entity it needs to grow and eventually spread its wings, otherwise it could be easily phrased out over time by the new and larger players.  Just like any other business setup, an insurance agency represents different thing to different people - thus the issues surrounding "perception" start developing.  With a brand tagged to your agency, it creates an emotional connection, builds loyalty, and helps acquire new customers.

In a nutshell an insurance agency must grow both in terms of business revenue and business image. Ability to grow its revenues means the agency is able to deal with its existing competitive environment, and on the other hand, having a great positive image means it has laid the path for the future, which will eventually equate to consistent growth in future revenues. As a matter of illustration, we can take the small retail shops of our yesteryear as example - these shops are slowing dying off in the larger towns as they are being replaced by chain of convenience shops like 7-Eleven.

Of course branding is not something cheap for any insurance agency to work with. However, with the growing realities of Internet marketing and business transactions done over the world wide web, branding exercises have been made cheaper if it is done digitally or via the web.  The web is therefore a low cost  for marketing channel development and for online branding. If this is already a reality - What are YOU waiting for?