Politics in the Workplace! Yes or No?

In times past it was generally accepted that, in polite company, you didn’t discuss three distinct topics:  religion, politics and…well…you can guess the other one.  Times have changed and with the advent of social media, many of these traditional ideas seem very quaint!  In the area of elections and the workplace, we have seen big changes over the years that have led to companies thinking about politics in the workplace, how involved a company can be and even if a company wants to be active at all.

Politics and elections can be a challenge in the office environment, especially with the intense interest in years when it is a Presidential election, like 2016.  This environment can be confusing, both for employees and employers.  This brings forth the question of how active should an employer be during an election, and in what way that does not create potential problems.

Like individuals, every employer in every industry in this country has a vested interest in the outcome of an election because lawmakers and Presidents have the ability to create public policy that can have a tremendous impact on any industry, either positively or negatively.

However, there are areas where employers can be involved on varying levels in the election process.  Data developed by the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC) has shown that employees actually look favorably on information provided from an employer on issues, candidates and elections.  Employers should take the opportunity to provide that information so that employees understand how policy positions of different candidates would impact their industry and the voting process.  This allows employees to make an informed choice when they enter the voting booth and also allows them to consider the impact a particular vote could have on their industry; in some cases a voter will discover that the candidate that is closest to their personal views may not be the best candidate for their industry and that may be something they want to add into the equation when making a voting decision.

All of this might be new for your company, and you might still have concerns about getting involved in deeper activities surrounding an election.  However, one area where you can be involved and have a positive impact is making sure your employees are registered to vote and that they understand the voting process.  Here are some ways to start that process:

  • Consider sponsoring a nonpartisan voter registration drive as part of company events: the company picnic, in-house seminars, brown bag lunches and other similar events at your company.  Encourage your employees to register to vote.
  • Include voter registration material in employee information packets and in welcome kits for new employees.
  • Alert employees as critical dates near including registering to vote for an upcoming election, deadlines to apply for an absentee ballot and the opening of early voting.  Do this for both primaries and general elections.
  • Some states require that employers provide paid time off to vote.  If your state does not have laws requiring this, consider instituting paid time off for people to have time to vote and to remind employees before the election when polls open and close in your state – different states have different times so it is important to know the poll times in your locality.

These are just a few examples where employers can be active in helping their employees participate in citizen democracy.  While an employer never wants to be viewed as trying to force employees to vote a certain way, providing tools to register to vote can go a long way in helping individuals be informed and navigate on Election Day.

Are you interested in knowing what more you can do to educate your employees on the issues?  inFUSION Group can help!

Written By: Christopher R. Brown, CAE
Senior Consultant, inFUSION Group

Popping the Question: Are your Employees Engaged?

It’s no secret that employee engagement and strong organizational culture have been linked to higher customer satisfaction, business profitability and, of course, employee productivity. Companies like Google, Zappos and Zingerman’s have made a name for being great places to work and the rest of the businesses in the alphabet have been scrambling to replicate their successes. But pool tables, free dry cleaning and espresso machines do not a culture make.

So how can you really know if your employees are engaged? How do you find out what makes your people tick and tock around the time clock? Just ask!

Employee engagement surveys may seem passé. You may have even eliminated your old survey for lack of participation or actionable data. But truthfully, asking for open and honest feedback is cooler than ever. Just ask a millennial – they are a third of your workforce!

Speaking of data, here are three stats that should make you reconsider the need to measure engagement:

  • Organizations spend an average of $720 million annually on improving engagement (Bersin, 2012)

Yet…

  • 70% of employees are not engaged in their work (Gallup, 2015)
  • 87% of organizations see employee engagement as one of their biggest challenges (Deloitte, 2015)

When you want to know how your customers feel about your service, you survey them. You host focus groups. You put instant polls on your website and comment cards in your lobby. Those strategies can be equally as effective for your internal customers (noun. Fancy term for employees. See also team members, associates and client success managers).

Renowned firm, Deloitte, says “an organization’s culture can become a key competitive advantage – or it’s Achies’ heel. Culture and engagement are now business issues, not just topics for HR to debate.” They agree that the risks of not knowing extend beyond poor culture and low output, but onto your reputation as sites like Linkedin, Glassdoor and Salary.com tell the world “how things work around here.”

Let’s be clear. Just creating a survey isn’t enough. Your old survey may have been ineffective, and if you’ve never had a survey you may feel like you are steering in the dark – but we can help you right that ship.

Ask not what your employee survey can do for you, but what you can do for your employee survey:

  • Conduct short, meaningful surveys at least annually.
  • Use an external source to create the right questions and design a survey that will get responses.
  • Communicate the results of the survey to all employees.
  • Develop and execute action plans to address common themes in feedback and underlying issues.

Those last two bullet points are critical. In fact, we won’t even accept a handshake – you have to pinky promise that if you ask your employees for feedback, you will respond. An engagement survey can only positively influence your corporate culture if it is followed by a strong communication plan and noticeable change. Think taglines like “We’ve heard you!” or “Your feedback matters!” and be sure to follow them up with substance like “We’re changing our policy…” or “We’re upgrading your…”

We know what you’re thinking – what if you don’t get any good feedback? What if people make impossible demands? Thing is, this isn’t a hostage negotiation. It’s simply listening to people whom you entrust with significant responsibility day in and day out. No matter your brand or your ultimate vision for your corporate culture, you must first establish trust and prove that you’re all playing for the same team. You are united in a common purpose and whether that is solving a social problem or manufacturing goods, listening to one another will improve your chances of shared success.

It’s Not Over till It’s Over: Five Strategies to Improve Your Meetings!

The end of your meeting may be the most important part of all.

Written By: Erika Oliver, PMP

We tend to put great thought into meetings before they happen but less so while they’re winding up. If you want to reap true benefits from your meetings, though, don’t adjourn too quickly. Do these five things at the end of every meeting to give the team the energy to move forward and set the tone for what happens next.

  1. Ask participants to share one thing they’ll do before the next meeting. The most high energy meeting is doomed if people leave without knowing precisely what’s expected of them. Eliminate the “what now?” problem by assuring that each person chooses a task to move the project forward.
  2. Ask each person what tools are needed for next steps. This question helps people think more deeply about what they plan to do before the next meeting. If they’re stalled by missing information or needed support, they’ll stop before they even begin. It’s also important to share how and when the tools and information will be available. Tools aren’t any good if they don’t get in the hands of workers.
  3. Revisit the vision with a question. Show the completed building, the project timeline, the face of the client who will be served. Team members are more likely to follow through on tasks and stay the course if they clearly understand the “why” of a project and, most important, their specific role. Not only is a picture worth a thousand words but it also motivates people and connects them to the larger goal.
  4. Have people share what they consider the most meaningful part of the meeting. This strategy accomplishes four important things: (1) It gives the facilitator feedback about what resonated with the group. (2) It summarizes meeting content for greater information retention. (3) It ends the meeting on a positive note. (4) When people communicate a valuable learning experience, they become more bonded to the group.
  5. Invoke a team cheer or ceremony. Fun is often a missing component in meetings and projects. Providing opportunities to let off steam, celebrate small successes, and just play will go further in motivating people than you might think. Put your hands together and shout, “Go Team!” or share a round of applause for each other. Don’t worry if someone holds back and acts as if it’s “silly” to celebrate. Once they feel the group’s energy, they’ll be first in line for the next team cheer. If nobody’s enjoying the process, what’s the point?

Is Viral Marketing For Your Business?

Every few days, there seems to be a new viral video surfacing online. A couple years ago it was flash mobs, then the Harlem Shake and of course you can never forget the adorably sweet cat videos making the rounds.

The right elements contained within your video can mean the difference of just a few likes, shares or views to millions. You want to keep your video simple, they should strike an emotional cord – whether it be funny or pulls on your heart strings, it should contain an offer of some sort or a connection back to your company.

With a fickle and ever-changing audience mood, viral marketing can be hit or miss. Your idea could be clear genius and relevant and still not garner much of a viral impact or it could be online for two years and then take-off. Knowing this is part of the planning process. For this reason, pumping money into a viral video may not be the right strategy for your organization. Keeping it light, easy and with a ‘homemade’ feel is key. At InFUSION Group we can help you determine if a viral marketing strategy is a good fit for your organization, assist in developing a plan and work with you to get your videos seen.

Our expertise in human resources, marketing, leadership and corporate culture will provide your organization with the tools it needs to sustain and grow your business. At inFUSION Group we strive to implement specific solutions that will work for your particular organization.

Get on Board! Increasing Retention and ROI of New Hires.

Now Hiring

For the first time in a long time, the job market is as busy as the supermarket on Sunday. As of the 3rd Quarter of 2014, there were 4.8 million job openings in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics this was the highest level of job openings since January 2001. Even better yet, we saw a significant net increase in employment after accounting for turnover.

In the thick of budget season, there is no doubt you are counting and recounting your FTEs (full-time equivalents) and forecasting 2015 hiring needs. You’ll account for the basics like salary and benefits, but new hires come with an additional premium – the cost to get them on board. From external costs like job-board postings, screening fees and background checks, to internal costs like recruiting staff and learning and development, a new hire starts costing you money before they even start.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way, we love to see organizations growing and putting people back to work. We just think that your human capital should be looked at like any other investment you make. Maximizing your return on investment isn’t a mere monetary endeavor – it takes time and resources. But when you pay the higher price up front, your returns take a jump, too!

Off Boarding – It Happens

All too often, the best day of a new hire’s employment is the day after their interview. You know – when you celebrate, thinking you struck gold on LinkedIn and scored the perfect person for the job. Fast forward to
usually about two weeks later, and your onboarding efforts may already be starting to get off track:

• The new hire just doesn’t seem to fit in
• The new hire isn’t getting up to speed quickly enough
• There just isn’t enough time to hold his or her hand
• Your training program doesn’t fit the needs of the new hire
• The HR team is small and overworked; the hiring team is short-staffed

The next thing you know, the new hire is a termination time bomb. Maybe they even feel it more than you do. And maybe they move on to a company that doesn’t use terms like “proactive” and “self-directed” to cover up the fact that their new recruits are stranded on a desert island with a training binder and an emergency e-mail contact.

Hire Education

A holistic onboarding program starts with the first new hire contact and doesn’t end until your new recruit reports for work for the 91st day. Think of onboarding like a high-maintenance date. From providing the right job description and setting realistic performance expectations, to supplying them with the right tools (and we don’t just mean a stapler and chair), new relationships require nurturing. If you’ve done well, your new hire…

• Fits in with your culture
• Is committed and engaged
• Has gotten up to speed

Moreover, your organization experiences lower turnover rates, improved brand image and reduced recruiting costs.

Talent is not as easily found as it is squandered. Don’t lose good people by getting off on the wrong foot.

Are You There Success? It’s Me 2014!

How The Rut Was Dug…
2006: the year Twitter was launched, the year Western Union killed the telegram, the year NASA launched the first mission to Pluto (back then it was still a planet), and of course, the economy started to slow down. Then in December of 2007 the recession hit us full blown. Eight years ago, we saw the writing on the wall. We put our corporate growth initiatives into hibernation. We changed our focus from innovation to efficiency, from bolstering profits to protecting capital, and from proactive leadership to conservative management. We hunkered down, saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and coasted our way there.

So, now what? It’s 2014. Our economy is on the upswing, innovation in technology hasn’t slowed since 2006 and consumer confidence is 70% higher than it was at the start of this decade. We should be jumping up and down shouting “carpe diem.” Instead, we are trying to find the best shovel to get us out of our rut. Is it the technology shovel that will upgrade our tools and position our infrastructure for growth; is it the talent shovel that will bring us the brightest innovative minds? While the tools of change are important, it really starts in the collective minds of your leadership. So read on to get elevated.

Why Don’t Organizations Change?
Simply put: change is hard. It’s a long and often dirty process, and even the most informed change
initiatives are subject to the same variables that undermine less well-thought plans: people, technology, processes, money and the overarching culture of our organizations. It’s easy to see these variables as road blocks and avoid change as a result. The best way to overcome these obstacles is to change the way we think of them.

Outdated technology and tools: Over the last decade the recession rut kept many organizations from updating their infrastructure. Getting bogged down in the need to update MCIF, HRIS, and intranet systems will keep you from embarking on large scale change initiatives. While these tools are necessary and help create better programs, updates should not stop you from exploring change and making incremental progress. What’s certain is that these problems can’t continue to be the quiet elephant in the room. Contract an expert to examine your current capabilities, determine the gap between what you have and what you need, then create a plan and budget to get updated.

Sunken cost investments: From time to time, we all buy a bridge. We make investments in programs that look like the airplane to the future, and instead we take a ride on the Titanic. Don’t wait for the last life raft. Just jump ship. So now that you get the metaphor, let’s shoot straight. You spent too much time and money on a failed program; you teeter between frustration and the hope it will just magically click. The truth is, the longer you continue trying to make it work, the more time and money you are wasting. Accepting you are in a rut is the first step to getting out.

Bureaucracy: All that focus on efficiencies has really strengthened your operations. You have a new arsenal of forms, protocols and procedures all coveted by their creators. Strengthening controls is an important measure especially when your organization is subject to regulation and auditing, but have you gone too far? If the reins are too tight, you may stifle innovation. Sure, you need processes, protocols and procedures… but you also need passion! It’s a good time to unwind some of the red tape. Get your administrators on the next hot phrase in pop management text: “adaptive controls.”

Progressive Thoughts from Professional Thinkers
So now that we’ve countered some of your arguments against change, we’ll turn to the experts to discuss how you should reinvigorate your organization. Dan Mroz, PhD and organizational guru, is certain when he tells us, “there is no set formula for innovation,” but he does offer some fantastic suggestions. Hint: it’s all about people. 1) Create a learning environment: Learning encourages collaboration, idea generation and professional development – innovate by drawing out the best in your people and putting them in the right roles. 2) Consider your attitude: If your culture needs to be re-energized, examine the projected attitudes of your leaders. Do you truly encourage an open, honest and collaborative environment? 3) Celebrate small wins: employee recognition is more than just perks and bonuses. Celebrate your employees when they contribute to organizational knowledge. Mroz advises celebrating small wins because it creates an “organic sense of progress.”

Amplify the Message:
Uplift your organization by supporting the developmental needs of your employees.

If brainstorming meetings with your team turn up more roadblocks than possibilities, MIT scholar Clark Gilbert may suggest you need more “Energizers” among you. “Energizers see realistic possibilities; de-energizers see roadblocks.” Energizing your staff by creating a compelling vision for change. Take their minds off of past or current problems by presenting an inspiring possibility for the future. Do be certain that the goals of each member of your change teams are realistic. If it is overwhelming or difficult to execute due to resource issues, the discussions of possibilities will quickly turn back to roadblocks.

Amplify the Message:
Lead change efforts with a strong vision that is both inspiring and realistic.

Ultimately, it’s about recognizing when it’s time to change and taking steps to snap yourself and your organization out of a rut. The Recovering Leader recommends concrete action when you have accepted you are in a rut. Among his advice is the need to “face it” by discussing your organization’s complacency with an advisor who will give it to you straight. He also advises you tackle the “bigger enduring issues” first. Remember the top reasons organizations don’t change? Those reasons are things that can be, well, changed. Rank them in order of importance and knock them out of the way.

Wellness Programs: The Penn State Experience!

Written by Guest Blogger: C. John Holmquist, Jr.
Holmquist Employment Law Firm, Troy, Michigan

Penn State is planning to implement a wellness initiative called the “Take Care of your Health Initiative” next year. The program had three components: the completion of a WebMD online health risk assessment; having a preventative physical examination; and having a biometric screening that would give a full lipid profile as well as blood pressure, body mass index, and waist circumference. Employees who completed the three steps would be entered in a raffle to win one of six $500 cash prizes. Employees who did not complete the three steps would have a monthly deduction of $100 from their pay. Spouses and domestic partners are required to participate in the first two steps.

The program was not well received by the employees and the faculty; some referred to it as the “Sandusky tax” in reference to the monetary exposure from the football scandal. On September 29, 2013, the university suspended the $100 monthly surcharge and encouraged employees to utilize the initiative to find out about their health.

The Penn State wellness program caught the attention of Representative Louise M. Slaughter (D NY) who wrote a letter to the EEOC on September 23, 2013, expressing her concern with a program that “coerces private health information from participants.” Ms. Slaughter who authored the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) stated that the Penn State program raised concerns with the type of information collected and the “voluntariness” of participation. Representative Slaughter stated in her letter that any employer who coerced employees to provide genetic information through monetary incentives would violate the core intent of GINA and other civil rights laws. She urged the EEOC to promptly issues regulatory guidance for wellness program compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws.

The EEOC held a hearing on May 8, 2013 where panelists addressed the treatment of wellness programs under federal law, specifically the ADA and GINA. To date, no action has been taken by the EEOC. One commissioner tweeted “I agree.” with a link to an article discussing Representative Slaughter’s letter.

On September 26, 2013, Towers Watson issued the results of a survey concerning employer action to increase the success and effectiveness of wellness programs. The survey found that nearly 8 in 10 employers viewed lack of employee engagement as the biggest obstacle to changing behavior. The survey also found that for 2014, 4 in 10 US companies will use penalties such as an increase in premiums or deductibles for employees who do not complete the requirements of health management activities. That figure will jump to 61% for 2015.

Employers in Michigan have another consideration with respect to imposing penalties. The Michigan Payment of Wages and Fringe Benefits Act prohibits employers from making deductions from employee pay without the “full, free, and written consent” of employees obtained without intimidation or fear of discharge. The statute further requires written authorization for each wage payment subject to a deduction. Under Michigan law, an employer would not be able to automatically deduct the $100 without the written consent of the employee, which certainly would not be expected to be forthcoming.

It is very surprising that employers are implementing penalties even though it has not been settled that they are able to do so without violating federal law. The EEOC has made it clear that HIPAA compliance does not necessarily guarantee that an employer does not violate nondiscrimination laws. The agency has also made it clear that wellness programs are acceptable as long as they are voluntary.

An employer needs to carefully consider how to effectively engage its employees in wellness programs in a world without EEOC guidance. Penalties are easier to target than incentives; a penalty changes the status quo of the employee while a bonus does not. A comparison of the incentives offered with the penalty in the Penn State program establishes that the university felt a penalty was the better way to achieve employee participation. The incentive offered in light of the number of employees was, to say the least, minimal. No one wants to be the test case for the EEOC on the voluntariness of employee participation. Using penalties to achieve participation is an invitation that the EEOC may, at some point, decide to accept.

Whatever Happened to that Plan?

As the summer sun gleams through your office window, it’s difficult to think back to the cold winter that passed. But, that is where we are going today. Back to December when you vowed that 2013 was the year you’d plan ahead, stick to a calendar and figure out what’s so smart about SMART goals. Back to January when you pulled an overnighter to put the finishing touches on your production calendar and optimize your new monthly tracking charts. Back to that harried day when you drove through the snow for a grueling hour hoping you wouldn’t be late for the management meeting where you were rolling out the best annual business plan you’d ever written.

So…yeah…whatever happened to that plan? If you’ve stuck to that production calendar and dutifully completed your tracking charts for the first 8 months of this year, bravo! You are as rare as the great white buffalo, a master of business to behold and applaud. Yes, we love you, we envy you, but you can stop reading now….

Okay, now that the rest of us are alone, let’s talk about why we keep finding ourselves in this empty ritual of slaving over an annual plan only to abandon it before first quarter results are in. It was, after all, a great plan. You downloaded a cool template, you asked for input from your team, you aligned your business unit’s goals with the organization’s and you delivered it passionately back on that cold, snowy morning. So, what went wrong? Chances are there is more than one answer, but here are a few of the most common causes of business plan failure:

1. The Earth isn’t flat and neither is the market.
We often write plans in our happy place. Much like New Year’s resolutions, we commit to goals that are attainable in the most perfect, static conditions. Be it your commitment to launch a new product or finally hit that next million-dollar milestone, you need to consider whether outside influences or market challenges could derail that goal. Doing the research doesn’t cloak you from failure, but it softens the fall. Picking up the pieces is infinitely easier when you have considered alternate courses of action and mitigation techniques in your plan. A few extra bullet points can be the difference between an irrelevant document and a darn good starting point to correct the course mid-year.

2. It’s always easier said than done.
Great leaders, heck even good ones, have big visions. You believe whole-heartedly that if you shoot for the moon, you’ll land among the stars. Unfortunately, you may be leaving your team wondering what planet you live on. When you write your goals and layout the strategies and tactics to achieve them, don’t forget to analyze your resources. Do you have a team dedicated to carrying out that plan, or like the rest of us, is your team going to make incremental progress between carrying out the day-to-day business? If an honest analysis proves you need to hire someone, put it in the plan. If it isn’t deemed worthy of an extra salary, it can be revised, downgraded or parked for future consideration.

3. If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.
Commitment: feared by many and lacking in boardrooms across America. Even the best-laid plans will crumble quickly without it. It isn’t enough to write the plan or make a jazzy PowerPoint explaining the plan, you have to get real buy-in. Sure, a table full of executives nodded their heads after you concluded your presentations, but I’ll bet a couple of them were thinking about their fantasy football matchup within 30 seconds of your last word. Real buy-in probably won’t happen the first day you present the plan. It will happen when you come to meetings weekly and monthly showing them the progress you are making on your goals and telling them what you need from them to get it done. Set goals, make progress, and then demonstrate results. Yes, I know…it is always easier said than done.

So, as you enjoy the end of summer and prepare for the fourth quarter, dust off your forgotten plan and figure out how you can really do it better next year. Maybe practice on that quarterly plan, speaking of which, that’s due soon…get cracking!

Looking Ahead: Technology and Government Affairs

Written By: Christopher R. Brown, CAE

As technology continues to develop at a very fast rate, social media in government affairs advocacy will also continue to expand. Failure to keep abreast of developing social media techniques will quickly leave government affairs executives behind as their ability to connect with potential advocates will lessen against the onslaught of social media messaging in many public policy debates.

Take for instance the actions last week with the Supreme Court, which undertook two cases surrounding the issue of marriage equality. It can be safe to say that this is a contentious issue with diverging viewpoints on the matter. The issue exploded on Facebook following the introduction of a red and pink modified version of the Human Rights Campaign equality logo. The image went viral when thousands of people changed their Facebook and Twitter profile images to speak out in support of marriage equality. Senator John Tester, a Montana Democrat, even announced his position on the subject on his Facebook page. Twitter was also buzzing on the topic of marriage equality before, during and after the Supreme Court proceedings. This is a major transformation from the days, not so long ago, when advocacy groups would gather at the Supreme Court building or on the National Mall, and hold signs supporting or opposing a public policy issue. While that still took place last week, the impact of social media adds an additional layer of complexity, as well as an avenue for citizen involvement, on high-level public policy issues.

The activity last week illustrates the sheer power that social media can have on an organization’s advocacy program. In this example, those who have discussed the issue and have a Facebook and Twitter account tend to be demographically younger. What this tells advocacy professionals is that they need to align their own organizations with the use of this technology platform in future advocacy activities, as many marketers have done already. Recently the New York Times Magazine published a story that discussed major differences in the use of technology in the 2012 Presidential campaign. The main premise was that Republicans are woefully behind in the development and use of technology in campaigns and need to vastly improve their performance in this area. Yet this article also illustrates how technology is used in campaigns and advocacy activities; if an organization wants to be relevant, it needs to embrace technology, and more importantly, have a defined strategy of how it will be used.

Technology in advocacy has changed tremendously since 2000. Prior to 2001, it was still common to mail a letter to a Member of Congress using the United States Postal Service and Capitol Hill offices were learning how to incorporate e-mail communications from constituents into their operations. The combination of the anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill in 2001 with significant advances in technology and the use of the Internet completely changed this landscape. Advocacy professionals throughout the first decade of the 2000s saw grassroots communications switch from mailed letters to faxed letters to the extensive use of e-mail and online advocacy tools that allowed organizations to develop structures to mobilize their members and employees to communicate with lawmakers. The second half of this decade saw the introduction of Smartphones, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a host of other applications and online resources that can be used for advocacy purposes. The amazing things your members and employees can accomplish online, compared with 2001, is truly mind-boggling and is a ripe opportunity to use technology to harness your online advocates.

The explosion of discussion, posts and tweets on the marriage equality issue last week also shows the power of these systems to sway public opinion. Not having a social media response, let alone a consistent social media presence, can lead to disastrous results for your organization.

Social Media – It’s More Than Just a Marketing Tactic!

Written By: Amanda Trombly

Social networking has changed the world. Anyone with an internet connection can now communicate with current friends, old friends and new friends from all over the world at any time they’d like. During the early days of social networking, that’s all it was about.

But now, the corporate world has jumped onto the band wagon and has integrated itself into the newsfeeds of millions of people across the globe. In fact, over 3.8 billion dollars were spent on social media (ad only) marketing in 2011. This doesn’t even include the status updates with the news/offers/incentives that companies post. Businesses, small and large, have a unique opportunity to connect with their customers (or potential customers) like never before. Not only can they continually keep their products/services/brands in the forefront of their customers’ minds, but they have the opportunity to receive feedback from their target markets, good or bad.

The question is: how can a company capitalize on this valuable resource?

The answer is…complicated. So, allow me to suggest a few ways (as a consumer and a self-proclaimed social media addict).

1.)    Clogging a news feed with several updates per day is a surefire way to get your company ignored, “hid” or “un-liked”. Instead, post a useful update twice or three times per week.

2.)    Make your posts interesting. Include something entertaining like a little-known fact or a funny picture every once in a while. Such posts entice discussion; and when people comment or “like” your post, it’s likely that their friends will see it, too!

3.)    Respond to complaints. If your valued customer is taking the time to post a complaint on your page, then he or she deserves a prompt and polite response. Your social media administrator should be well-versed in public relations and/or customer service in order to handle all sorts of direct communications with your clients/customers.

4.)    Offer discounts to your followers that you don’t offer on your website or elsewhere. It makes your followers feel special.

I’ve seen social media marketing done very well; but I’ve also seen it go terribly wrong. To me, the trick is to understand the medium itself. It’s social. It’s a conversation. It’s a relationship between a company and its consumer. It’s such an excellent opportunity to connect. When it’s done right, the sky is the limit.

How can Infusion Group help? We work with clients to understand their unique social media needs. Then we present you with a recommendation that identifies what resources you will need to execute that plan. Finally, we assist you in turning your ideas into quality content all while managing the details of the process.