Use Social Media to Unlock Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Staff

Photo: Steven Roll By Steven Roll

“You know, we have really good frozen naan in the freezer section,” the cashier at Trader Joe’s told me as she rang up the two boxes of instant Indian meals I had purchased. “Hold on a second,” I said, “let me go grab some.”

A few evenings later when I ate the naan with my family, I was glad the cashier spoke up. The India-style bread served at most Indian restaurants made our pre-packaged meal seem more like a take-out.Photo: Frozen Tandoor Naan

One of my favorite things about shopping at Trader Joe’s is how genuinely enthusiastic most of the staff is about their store’s offerings.

I can’t recall a time when a cashier at one of the major supermarkets in my town ever recommended something — or seemed enthusiastic about anything other than ending his or her shift.

The employees at Apple stores have a similar orientation toward customer engagement. Unlike the staff at most big-box electronics stores, most seem like people you might talk to at a party. A conversation that begins with me talking about a problem I had with my iPhone might digress into talk of upcoming 5k races.

Of course, journalists at B2B publications aren’t able to speak face-to-face with their subscribers. But social media tools such as blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn provide them with more ways than ever to engage with their readers.

This is an important opportunity because most business journalists have engaging personalities. It’s a trait that’s necessary to perform a job that mostly involves convincing industry leaders to share insights that will most likely be read by their competitors.

Subscribers are accustomed to reading articles with quotes from reputable sources or references to laws or other authority. But chances are they’re also interested in participating in a less formal conversation about the insights a business journalist has about the industry he or she covers.

Blog posts are an effective means of bridging the gap between a feature article and a conversation over coffee. Regular updates on Twitter and Facebook create a water-cooler effect, which transforms a byline into an actual person with worthwhile ideas.

This makes it more dangerous than ever to do anything but fully embrace social media. To do otherwise is to risk turning your publication into an experience that is about as memorable as a trip to your average supermarket or electronics store.

Steve Roll is the immediate past president of ASBPE.

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