My Secret for Increasing Google Ads’ Click-Through-Rates

I had a professor in college that always said it was harder to write short pieces than it was to write an entire essay. He would have us cut and cut and cut press releases until there was nothing left but the core of what we needed the media to know. That skill set came in very handy as my Twitter account started to grow. You don’t reach 170K+ followers without thinking, dreaming, and communicating in 140 (obviously now larger) characters.

It’s a skill set that now translates across many silos of digital media marketing, including Google Ads. Now, I pretty much think, dream, and communicate in keywords. I even know which keywords to use with my husband! —> Definitely EXACT MATCH if I want anything to be understood or get done. We started our relationship with me speaking broad match, and that was a definite no-go. Now some novices are probably wondering what the heck I am talking about. Here’s your first lesson on keywords:

  • Broad Match Keywords:

    • NOT specific. These are the words you use when you could really mean anything that surrounds that word. If I say “shoe” that could mean “footwear,” which could mean “sandals,” when really I am targeting for a business that sells stilettos. It’s not a perfect match, it’s a broad match that could spend a lot of money getting you impressions, but minimal clicks.

  • Modified Broad Match

    • Use this when you know what you want to say, but others might say the same thing in the wrong way. A modified broad match would still pick up what you are trying to say. These are great keywords to use when consumers tend to misspell. They are identified by a + sign. So if you say “+shoes,” your search will also pick up “shoos”, “shoe”, “shoe’s,” “shhoes”, etc. Modified broad match can even pick up acronyms commonly used for your keyword.

  • Phrase Match

    • This is pretty much how it sounds. This is a catchphrase that everyone understands, even Google. Your friend might have a different take on the phrase when he says it, but it will still be recognized as the original phrase. Phrase match uses quotation marks. For example, “white shoes size 8” would also be recognized if someone typed in “shoes that are white size 8”.

  • Exact Match

    • This one also is how it sounds! This feature is identified with brackets around precisely what needs to be in the search for a consumer to land on your ad. This is good when you have a business name that has a common word in it. I used to work for Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which was a nightmare to run SEO optimization on. We would often need to put [Cancer Treatment Centers of America] to make sure we were pulling our exact cancer treatment centers.

Now that you know the four different types of keywords, I can let you in on my secret: Negative Keywords. That’s correct. The OPPOSITE of what I just told you. Thoroughly understanding negative keywords allowed me to get a search CTR in Google Ads to 16 percent just this week. Across all industries, search campaigns average 3.17 percent.

So what are they?

Negative keywords are words that have nothing to do with your business when paired with some of your business keywords. For example, let’s say that you are working with a company that has the name of the neighborhood in its’ title— Crown Heights Dentistry. You do not want to show up in people searching for “best subway to get from Chelsea to Crown Heights,” “Events in Crown Heights this weekend,” “Crown Heights news,” “apartments for rent in Crown Heights,” “studio Crown Heights,” “rappers from Crown Heights.” You get the picture.

However, you cannot just go and not use “Crown Heights” as a keyword. It’s an essential keyword for you when attracting new patients. So, to keep “Crown Heights” as a keyword, you can add negative keywords to stop wasting ad impressions on all of the searches above. I would recommend creating a negative keyword lists with phrases like “this weekend,” “events,” “apartments,” “apartments for rent,” “rent,” “news,” “subway,” “studio,” “rappers,” “musicians,” “shows,” etc. Then your dentistry ad will not show any time someone is searching for one of your keywords (like “Crown Heights”) and one of your negative keywords.

This might seem like a bit of a “DUH” moment for you, but creating effective negative keywords can be more challenging than you think. What if someone is searching for the best subway to Crown Heights Dentistry, and you just cut them out of seeing your ad? Well, if they are looking for directions to your office, they must already know who you are. They don’t need to see another Google Ad. What if you want to target people looking for apartments in the area because they will need a new local dentist? They probably aren’t thinking of a new dentist while they are in this stage of their apartment hunt, but this search query could get you to think of how to target people just moving to the Crown Heights area with Google Ads.

If you apply your negative keywords list and your CTR (click-through-rate) and conversions significantly drop, there is a keyword in your negative keywords list that triggers a positive reaction among your target audience. The biggest thing I see is someone accidentally including their main keyword in one of the negative keywords. Just remove that and apply the list again. If that’s not the case, I’d dig into your Google Ads metrics and find out what keywords were leading to CTR/conversions and see if there is any overlap with your negative keyword list. That, most likely is the case.

What you will most likely see though, is an initial sharp drop in impressions, but a steady rate that continues to increase in CTR/conversions. This means you are spending WAY less money on impressions by targeting as precisely as you can.

Where to start with this process? Head over to ubersuggest.com, a free tool where you can search popular search terms around your keywords. Go through those keywords and find any that just don’t fit with your brand. For example, “apartments for rent Crown Heights.” Remove your positive keyword (“Crown Heights”) and add your negative keyword/phrase (“apartments for rent”) to your negative keyword list. I recommend creating keyword lists in the “Settings/Tools” section of Google Ads, rather than adding keyword by keyword in the dashboard. This allows you to have more control and organization of your campaign.

Need some extra help with digital marketing? Reach out! You can email me directly at marji@shermansocial.com.

– M.

10 Tips For Writing A Content Marketing Strategy

Being primarily a creative at heart, content strategies have always been my favorite strategies to write. Before paid social media existed (I know, I’m old), a brand’s content had to be stellar or it was not going anywhere. I feel blessed that I started out my social media career right when brands were allowed to have Facebook pages because I learned social media through the eyes of impactful, effective content. Within minutes I knew whether a post was going to succeed or not and I could adjust the strategy to reflect poorly performing posts and not make the same mistake twice. I knew my audience—I became my audience. I searched for anything bodybuilders were interested in, I interviewed bodybuilders, I looked at what other popular bodybuilding brands were doing. All so I could create content that didn’t miss a beat with our audience. Granted, brands are still doing all of this today, but when your performance is dependent on your content and SOLELY your content (remember—no paying for it to go to the target audience, no suffocation by the pay-to-play model—completely organic content that went on every newsfeed of your fans), it is what you live and breathe for.

So it irks me today when I see brands settle for any type of content just as long as they have content going 24/7 on their social and digital channels. Why on earth are some brands putting millions of ad spend behind creative that a kindergartener could do? If the content is not on point, it doesn’t matter how much money you put behind it, it won’t perform.

Here is my starting guide for a content marketing strategy:

Goals

Duh. All strategies should begin with goals and end with how those goals will be measured. Do you want more clicks to other pages from your homepage? Do you want to attract a different audience than you’ve been attracting? Do you want to gain more leads, more conversions? I’ve worked with clients who want th conversion at the end of the day—nothing else matters. I have also worked with clients who have more work than they can handle but they want to use the digital space to enhance their reputation in their industry. There are many different ways to use content marketing to achieve your business goals, so spend some time thinking about what goals might be best for your brand. What can content marketing do for you?

Research

What are other brands doing well in terms of content? What statistics can you find that support content marketing? What types of content are other brands finding success with? Research will give you a huge advantage as you dive deeper into your strategy.

You also should research your target audience in a way you never have before. Live and breathe your audience. What are they talking about? What content does it look like they are engaging most with? What platforms are they most likely to be on? If your goal is conversions—what can you find about which type of content drives the most conversions?

Ecosystem

SO IMPORTANT. I once read a content marketing strategy that did not reference what channels the content would be published on. Like, what?! A content strategy should always show exactly where the content is going to go and why it’s going there. There should also be examples of what the same piece of content would look like on your website versus display ads versus social media networks.

Content Mix

Your initial research will largely influence your content mix. I always use a pie chart for this and show how many videos versus still images versus GIFs versus text-only versus image+text, etc. will be a part of that pie. With how things have been trending over the past couple of years, I usually give most of the pie to video. This is the hardest part of the pie to fulfill, though, because creating a video is the hardest and most expensive type of content to create.

Brand Guide

Or, a brand strategy! Brand guides are something I always include in branding and content marketing strategies. They are so useful and help to push back on reviewers. You can simply open the brand guide and show that the green color is part of the approved colors. Things to think about here— Where does the logo appear on images? On videos? How many different logos can be used on creative? What will the opening and ending cards look like on videos? What filters, if any, can be used? What type of images should be used? What font? What colors?

Content Examples

I am obsessed with the free mock-up tool that AdParlor offers and I use it for every single strategy I write across the board. It helps clients see exactly what their content would look like, instead of relying on their imagination. I’ve sold many strategies by having examples. Remember, the people you have to sell this strategy to are most likely not as much of an expert as you are in the marketing space. But once you can show them what something would look like, they are able to understand better what you are trying to do.

Split Test Schedule

This is A MUST when it comes to a content strategy. You will need to test Copy A against Copy B, then you will need to test Image A against Image B. Doing this over and over again will help you refine your content strategy and provide you with your own set of research showing what your target audience does and does not respond to.

Infrastructure

Oh, yes. It’s wonderful to plan a comprehensive content marketing strategy, but who is going to create all of this content? Who’s going to design the content? Who owns the content editorial calendar for the brand? If you already have a creative team, get them on board very early on as you are crafting your strategy. You want them to feel involved and like they have a seat at the table. If you work with a creative agency, same thing— get them on board early because they might have some helpful tips for you. If you don’t have either, start selling to your executive team that you will need support to execute the strategy. Also, learn Canva. It is a lifesaver for under-resourced teams.

One other very important thing to think about when it comes to creating content is who needs to review the content. Is it your boss? Is it your boss and your CEO? Does the legal team need to review it? What about compliance? Whoever is reviewing the content needs to be brought in the minute you start writing your strategy because you want them to feel like they have a voice and they might see something in your strategy that legally you would never be able to do on digital or social. You also want to get a grasp on how far in advance you will have to get approvals and be prepared to push back and follow-up with people who are reviewers. They have other jobs to do and reviewing content can often get lost in the shuffle.

Content Library

Where will the content be housed? Think about this one A LOT and be sure to consult with in-house counsel in case your content needs to be on a very secure database. The dream is that the content will be in a place where all digital, social, print teams can access the content easily. Just make sure that you are able to turn on editing settings because you do not want everyone to have the capability to change content.

Measurement

I studied communications research in college and my first job was in the research space, so I am all about measurement. I would have not gotten this far in my career without being able to prove the success of digital and social media via measurements. Many times my role was to sell social and digital internally, and I always had a great report by my side when I went into meetings with executives. Measurement is important for content marketing because it helps identify what imagery and copy your target audience is responding to. You can quickly tweak creative based on nearly immediate feedback. Things to think about here include what type of content is performing best? Which imagery gets you closest to your goal? What goal are you short of reaching with your strategy? How can you tweak your strategy to get closer to achieving that goal?

I would also tag all content with content type, the theme of content, and the goal you think the content will most align with from the strategy. It sounds tedious, but it is a great exercise to ensure you are staying on-strategy with the content and aligning with your content mix.

Content costs A TON of money and requires even more resources, but it is WORTH it. You will see for yourself once you start testing images and copy and placement. There will undoubtedly be a winner and it’s not always the one that you guessed! Content is important now more than ever as people become more and more flooded with it everywhere. You need content that is going to grab your audience’s attention and keep it. Having a solid content strategy is a good start for that!

– Marji J. Sherman

Your #COVID19 #CrisisComm Cheatsheet

Hey! Welcome to the craziest crisis that seems to touch any and every business in the world right now. Suddenly, email inboxes are being flooded with what company you’ve ever engaged with is doing to make sure their employees and products are safe. Enter critiques, enter human errors, enter a major need for crisis communications.

I’ve been involved in a few crises during my decade career in social and digital media marketing, and a way to win a crisis is to BE PREPARED for a crisis before one even happens. When I was the head of social at a company in NYC, we had regular bomb threat drills, biochemical attack drills, fire drills, etc. You get the point. Not only did we have physical drills of what to do in case of emergency, we had crisis plans in place for what individuals were needed in an immediate war room once a crisis broke, and which media would be the first to share our response as a company, and who needed to approve that response.

On the far other end of the spectrum, I worked for a national company in South Florida that refused to acknowledge crises until they were already a full blown social media mess. Employees had no idea what the company’s stance was, or that there was even an issue, until they read something online. Soon after, a new hatchet man, disguised as a new CEO, joined the company and got rid of everyone I knew who ever worked there, and I knew the entire C-Suite.

Granted, some brands can be let off the hook because it wasn’t apparent how severely coronavirus would disrupt our society. But it’s not too late to activate a crisis communications plan and stay on top of what is happening right now in our world. Be transparent with your employees, evaluate what might need to change with your products/services, find where you can help right now.

Fortunately, I created a crisis communications guide for companies during #COIVD19 using my experience dealing with crises both on digital and traditional media. I included the infographic below, but please download the PDF version so you can click on each link for details on what to do in a crisis in that particular section of your company.

Good luck on your journey through this! – Marji J. Sherman

5 Steps To Embracing Personalization In Digital Marketing

I am OBSESSED with and OWE MY LIFE to Twitter. I am not kidding. This social media network has talked me through more moments than you could ever imagine. The thing about Twitter is that you can reach out in real-time and most likely speak to someone IMMEDIATELY who is going through what you’re going through. And the community you have spent a decade investing in is right there in a moment’s notice to talk you through it. And this, in this magical moment of connection between a few hurting hearts that can heal others’ hearts, is what often brands MISS and need to understand the most.

Through #MyCovidStory, I have learned just how powerful Twitter can be in moments when people need security, comfort, the promise that life will continue the next day. This nonprofit probably could have succeeded regardless, because it taps into something very important happening right now in our world. But I believe what really makes this nonprofit successful is its ability to be personal.

I predicted personalization as a digital trend for 2019 AND 2020. I believe strongly in personalization, and it’s the ability to turn customers into life-long fans. Let me tell you; I have been behind Fortune500 companies tweeting one lonely soul on a Saturday night and have seen how that has transformed into a conversion, a lifelong fan and an influencer tapping into the conversation (who we soon sent free product to and created a whole influencer campaign with). I also believe strongly in Twitter, and its power to influence conversions and maintain relationships. You can say what you want about the mega-company, but I have seen the platform work complete miracles between people. I found my best roommate ever through tweeting that I was homeless and in NYC (after deciding not to move in with my boyfriend at the time).

You can NEVER underestimate the power of SOCIAL MEDIA, TWITTER, and PERSONALIZATION. Yes, you can reach 100K fans through an obnoxiously large budget on Facebook. Still, you can also create lifelong relationships with real humans on Twitter by simply searching what you are selling and engaging in 1:1 conversations. Here’s how:

Invest In Software

I know, I know, I am sure you are being attacked by hundreds of software companies right now. Still, you truly do need a solid listening and publishing platform in order to engage in the personalization on social media. I’ve worked with everything out there. If you are a smaller company, I think Sprout Social works just fine. I’ve been with them since the beginning of my own business and personal brand. If you’re larger, I recommend investing in Hootsuite’s full program.

Set-up listening streams for your industry. This means not only for your product but also for competitors and the generic product you sell in general.

Create A Response Grid

These seemingly insignificant Google Docs have saved me more than once. Every time you get a response approved by compliance, legal, and whoever else you need to approve it, add it to the response grid with a generic question, exact messaging used to respond, social channel, any links used. Keep doing this until you have created a substantial document. This document can then be used to respond to customers quickly, especially on the weekend when legal, compliance, etc. might not be available.

Listen 24/7

I know we all have to sleep sometimes, but the best teams I have worked with have included a listening plan that had a person checking-in every two hours from 8 AM-8 PM. We would then set-up alerts within our listening platforms in case an influencer reached out at any time. We were able to catch conversations quickly and used our response grid to respond without having to go through a large chain of command.

Respond

Pretty important here. You absolutely have to reach out to people speaking about your industry or brand, if you can add value. In my case, a wig company reaching out would have added value by giving me an extra boost of confidence tonight. You’d be surprised, but positive encouragement. In a vulnerable moment can build friends for life.

Follow-Up

This is super important and ignored by many brands, especially the larger the brand gets. I cannot emphasize the importance of this step enough. I used to create reminders on my cell phone to follow-up with someone I reached out to in a personal moment about two or three days later. The awe of the fans that we remembered them a couple of days later was incredible to witness. Some of those fans found me on my personal social and we still keep in touch to this day. Others still keep in touch with the brands I worked for, even years later. Remembering someone is the epitome of personalization.

Times have changed. It’s a cliche for me to say, but it’s also true. People are hurting. This world is hurting. And if your brand plans on sending out some blanket, generic post…you will for sure be seen as tone-deaf.

If people are openly sharing their incredibly humbling stories of surviving this pandemic via #MyCovidStory, imagine what incredible impact your brand could have it took just a little bit more time to search for those really personal experiences and join the conversation where appropriate? And provide support?

Try it. I dare you.

-Marji J. Sherman

5 Ways To Grow From #SocialMedia to #DigitalMarketing

My fondest, strongest memory of Labor Day is one I spent a few years ago with my college ex-boyfriend who I had just reconnected with. We were a force to be reckoned with in college, finding every and any way into the hottest events in South Beach, just a cab ride away from the University of Miami. We fell quickly and hard and were completely inseparable. He was going to med school and I was going to law school. Or so those were our plans. We broke up right before our trek to NYC together for med/law school, which resulted on me moving to the city by myself in the dead of winter.

Two years later, when I found myself back in South Florida, I had a feeling he was near. I was shocked to find out that he had moved to NYC a year after me, and just moved back to South Florida barely three weeks before me. I don’t know what you believe in, but from this relationship alone I can testify to the power of being connected to another being for life. After one drink together, we were back together.

Per our usual college selves, he insisted we meet his friends from his prestigious building in Brickell at Mansion for the Avicii show on Labor Day. Of course, his passion for EDM still lighting a fire within me, I didn’t refuse. I tucked myself into my most sparkly, short gold dress and the highest stilettos and we ate dinner at our usual Thai place. I ducked texts and calls from my neighbors and roommate who I had become super close with in the artsy community we lived in near Wynwood. They were begging me to join their own night of debauchery in the Design District and then at Twist, pissed I had reunited with my college boyfriend who was known to be aggressive towards me in the past. But that night I was only his, we were only ours. We were able to hide away the past two years of adulthood that almost killed us and believe we were college students again heading out for a night in South Beach.

Looking for parking in the sometimes sketchy neighborhoods around Collins Avenue, I was reminded of the last time we looked for parking in South Beach during my senior year at UM. We got in a fight right as we parked, and we fought so long that the battery died in the car and all of the clubs had closed. We had to beg a chef on his way home from work to call a towing company for us. We both laid the seats all the way back and road in the towed BMW the whole way to the service station because there was no room up front for us. By the time we caught a taxi back to UM, all was forgiven and we were already laughing about the absurdity of the night. We passed a car stalled out in the middle of the road a few car lengths from a green light on Alton Road. A woman was passed out (or dead) in the front seat. Completely unresponsive. I made my first call ever to 911 to report it.

He pulled me out of the past as we finally found a parking spot, surprisingly not too far from the club. I grabbed his arm as I always did on our nights out, and felt proud of the stylish (outfit picked by me, of course) boyfriend I reunited with. I was in awe. I thought I would never see him again when we last broke up, but here we were as if time had not passed at all.

As we approached the club, I took an IG photo to rub it in that I was finally going to see Avicii live. When we crossed the street, I sensed something was wrong. The guys who lived in his apartment building, who I had briefly met a few years before, said they could not get us in after all. If we were to get in, we would have to climb the cement wall and sneak in the workers’ entrance. I told him he couldn’t possibly be considering that, and he said that he had done it many times with the same guys before. I shook my head no.

As I looked up at the marquee with Avicii’s name so clearly labeled, I realized just how far we were from that pompous, naive college couple. After all, I had taken up yoga and meditation and strayed away from drinking for the most part in the last couple of years. My sister had also committed suicide a mere year prior, forcing a different, more holistic view of life upon me. He hadn’t gotten into med school like he thought, shattering his dreams for the time being, and his confidant, his grandfather who I knew well, had recently passed away. As much as we wanted to fade into the carefree people we were in college, staring at a club that we used to own, that we could no longer get in, humbled both of us.

When we got back to my place, my neighbors and roommate were at their own party. I sat on my bed, looking at him as though it might be the last time we ever see each other. He asked to take my computer and played this song: City of Dreams. Tears fell down my face as I resolved today with yesterday. As I found a way to resolve us now versus then, he sat down next to me and put his arms around me. We just let the song play again and again. It, somehow by the act of God, is still my favorite song of all time today.

We broke up two months later, vowing to never ever contact each other for the rest of our lives. But when I had to go through chemotherapy last year, we reconnected. God has a way of letting people know you need them. Today, we work hard to accept each other exactly as we are. He got into med school, but then never placed with a residency. This was hard for me to learn, as I had written most of his med school essays way-back-when. He will surrender to a business-management job in medicine. I chose to communicate with him through my creative blog, “Almost Everything,” and continued to climb the social/digital media ladder during the six years we didn’t speak to each other. Nearly 10 years post-college, we are finally learning that we cannot ignore the past decade. We both had incredible and not-so-incredible things happen to us, but we bless each moment we are able to connect at 3AM after something terrible (or great!) happens. Because somewhere, those creatively beautiful beings still inhabit each of us and crave that connection.

Why tell you all of this? Well, because you should probably know a bit about the influencer you keep following, right? Nah. But also because social media and digital marketing are kind of the same way. I see so many brands reacquainting themselves with social media or trying to acquaint themselves with both of them, failing to realize how quickly the digital media landscape is changing. I had the lovely experience of recently going through the interview process for senior jobs in digital marketing, and I was shocked at how many brands were still looking for an entry-level person to run their entire digital marketing program. WHAT?! I mean, this takes skills, people! And what is going to happen to these brands is that they are going to show up to the Avicii concert with their entry-level college grad and not be able to get in. Until they realize how this advanced and complex digital marketing monster has been born out of a small social media or website seed, they won’t be able to staff properly, nor create impactful integrated campaigns that really hit the customer where they are at. Until they accept the new digital marketing landscape and the relationship it craves, they will flounder in the past.

So, here are some things to think about as a brand as you transition from siloed thinking into integrated digital marketing:

Graphics

I am creative, so this is obviously a sore point for me. In 2019, each and every brand graphic should match each and every other brand graphic. Period. This does not mean the same graphic is used on every platform, but it DOES mean that a version of it and a version of its copy is used on each and every platform. A consumer should be able to see your image on Facebook and then your ad on Instagram and then your Google ad and know exactly what brand they are coming from.

URL Parameters

This is an easy miss by SO MANY brands. You should have unique URL parameters set up for each and every platform and online network and affiliate brand you work with. Your digital marketing head should be able to quickly pull a report and be able to tell exactly where consumers are coming from. There is no more social media versus web content versus Google ad. No. You need to be looking at every single point of contact as a unique point of contact so you can refine your metrics.

Pixels

OMG this was a total mess at my last company. They had a purchase pixel on the main page of the website and no Google pixels placed at all. Correctly placed pixels are essential to getting the best learning data and finding out exactly what your conversions are worth. We had to play around until we realized it was not the “Submit” page, but the “Congrats” page that truly measured a conversion. This meant customers were approved and a true customer, so we immediately had a custom Pixel placed on that page.

Hiring Requirements

You need to be thinking about who you are looking for in a digital marketing role. It’s no longer the cut and dry social media manager, but a social media manager with SEO and affiliate marketing experience. It’s no longer the SEO-focused SEO manager, but an SEO manager with paid social media and eCommerce experience. You are looking for the T-shaped employee to run digital marketing for you. This means that they have a main focus (social media, SEO, ecommerce) but they are also able to take on and understand other roles as needed.

Business Structure

This is something I have seen a lot of brands rethinking as the digital age comes to fruition. Not only should you be thinking of the digital marketing tactics, but also can your business in general be sold in more digital ways? Is there an opportunity for you in eCommerce? Can Instagram stories spotlight one of your newest products? What can you change to make the in-store experience more connected with digital? Find it out an start implementing more digital-forward strategies NOW.

The greatest news is that it’s not too late. It might have taken six years, but the college ex and I now know how to support each other where we are in our lives now. Hopefully, it doesn’t take your brand six years, and you are able to recognize the evolution of social/digital marketing and tap into the power it can give to your brand.

– Marji J. Sherman

Empower Your Employees with Social Media

I remember when I first started in social media, I was always getting in trouble for being on Facebook at work ALL OF THE TIME. WTF. I had to go around and around about how social media is what they hired me to do, which meant that I had to be on Facebook –> duh. Once, I even got in trouble for being on my cell phone during work hours when I was on Instagram. Mind you, this was when Instagram was first released and was only available on the phone! When I explained this to my boss, she asked me to find some other way to access it through the computer because there was a no cell phone policy in the office.

Fortunately, at least when it comes to being the social media strategist, companies now understand that it requires massive amounts of time on social media. However, some companies are still in the vast debate about whether other employees are allowed to access social media during office hours.

I’ve worked for businesses on every side of this spectrum:

One company would let employees on social if they only participated in conversations about the brand during work hours. Employees were not allowed to engage with any other content, such as their friends’ posts, during office hours. If they were caught liking a friend’s post that had nothing to do with the brand, their social media privileges were revoked.This bred a fear in the employees that they were being constantly spied on by upper management, so some stayed off altogether, while others kept getting caught for not being able to resist liking friends’ posts while online to participate in brand conversations.

Another company blocked social media altogether. Employees could not even get to Facebook even if they wanted to. Only select employees had access, such as those on the digital and social teams. This tended to just piss employees off more than anything, or at least made them feel untrustworthy to their management.

Two companies actually included teaching social media in my job description, so I held workshops and classes where I would actually teach employees how to use all of the social networks. I also coached employees on what forums they should get involved in, and what LinkedIn groups would be best for them. This, of course, made for the happiest employees.

However, which companies do you think had the best social media community in general?! —> The ones that empowered employees to use their own social networks, even during work hours. Your employees are a valuable resource to your social ecosystem. They help cultivate conversations around your brand, and give an authentic insider’s view to the company that consumers love. It’s nothing new –> employees are your best brand advocates. They are trusted by social communities because they have this inside view of the company and let people know that all is well within the brand.

I highly recommend tapping into your social media strategist’s expertise, and allowing them to hold classes within your company for your employees. Let them teach your employees how to use their own social networks to be brand advocates. And, if they happen to like a friend’s post during work hours, so what? Their ten seconds of liking a post not related to work is well worth the advocacy and trust that will come from letting them use social media.

What are your thoughts? Does your brand allow employees to be on social during work hours?

– Marji J. Sherman