The first steps to integrate social media into your company

Home The first steps to integrate social media into your company

In the past few weeks, I had the chance, together with my colleague Dado Van Peteghem, to interview several European and American companies on their social media usage. One of the main conclusions from our conversations is the need for companies to provide a solid base when integrating social media into their marketing and other company processes. The basic pack consists of: providing efficient training, optimising the technical & social infrastructure, starting conversations with legal and corporate affairs in an early stage, and adapting the recruitment criteria.

Efficient training

Companies that have come a long way in social media integration have all elaborated a detailed training process. Social Media training is taken very seriously. Intel for example has created a ‘Digital IQ’ programme. This programme consists of some 60 training modules. The system is organised like an American university: you have to participate in training A first before moving up to the next level. The bottom level of the training is compulsory for all commercial profiles. Furthermore, we should add that this is one of the few training sessions accessible to all at Intel. Also at Cisco (see earlier article), it’s clear they take training very seriously. Their ultimate goal is to lift the general knowledge level, in order to integrate social media into their entire company management. Many Belgian and Dutch companies are too noncommittal where this type of training is concerned.Unfortunately, alack of knowledge often leads to rather conservative decisions . Improving knowledge is absolutelythe first condition for dealing with social media in a serious manner.

Technical & social infrastructure

How can you expect your company to get organised for social media when the infrastructure is not optimal ? 56% of companies still block social media (InSites Consulting research). It is difficult to learn how to work with Twitter if you can’t use it. I really like the Rabobank principle on the matter: employees are not only allowed to use social media, they are actively encouraged.And if you can convince your management that you need a smartphone or a tablet for your job, chances are you will get one. That way you help employees to get used to the new reality we’re living in.

A second aspect of providing a social infrastructure is determining your social media presence. How can you create a link between owned and earned media and what are the targets of the different touch points? Overzealous companies sometimes skip this step; they quickly create a Facebook or Twitter account that is not linked in any way with their own online media.

Engaging in difficult conversations at an early stage

I recently organised a workshop for a pharmaceutical company, the marketers were really enthusiastic about the opportunities of social media . But at the same time, they were ‘afraid’ that nothing would be allowed in their company, given the attitude of their legal department in such matters. The pharmaceutical sector has quite some legal limitations so indeed it’s not that easy. There is one thing you can do however, and that is involving all parties in the conversation at an early stage. My interviews with Intel, Cisco and Kodak taught me that these companies involve their ‘difficult’ conversation partners at an early stage. They don’t do this in a defensive frame, but they approach them on the following basis: we need your help, can you please help us with this? Postponing that conversation and therefore creating insecurity will only entail problems. In order to go all the way, you need their buy-in.

Adapting the HR recruitment criteria

Another important step in the preparation of your company for the total integration of social media is the evaluation of your HR policy. What criteria do you take into account when recruiting people? Do you only check relevant work experience and the person’s capacities, or do you go beyond that? To fully grasp the opportunities of social media, it is good to add some extra criteria. Not every candidate needs to obtain good scores for these criteria, but try to obtain a good balance in your total staff based on these criteria.

1. Look for digital experts: this often limits you to the post-1987 generation, but that’s not necessarily the case. Checking one’s social profile (followers on Twitter, LinkedIn profile) will tell you a lot about how someone deals with new media. As an organisation, it is important to actively look for ‘conversational’ profiles.

2. Check the influence and network of people. If someone is a large opinion influencer online, this could be useful in your marketing mix.However, keep in mind that this person still needs to fit within the company values.

3. Open to change. The world is evolving at greater speed all the time. The ability to adapt will become an important aspect for a modern company. Recruiting people who are open to change will help the company to become more flexible.

4. The extent to which a person is happy. Zappos asksapplicants how happy they are, on a 10 points scale. Those who give a score below 8 are not recruited. Scientific surveys have shown that this one question can be linked toIQ and EQ.

Can you think of any other basic needs that need to be fulfilled and do you agree with the four I have listed above?

Dado and I are working on a whitepaper, which will contain all our conclusions from these conversations. Should you be interested in it, send us a mail ( and and we’ll keep you posted.