The Good, the Bad and The Ugly. In the youth world today, Social Networking tools are used, as a matter of fact, an assumption and expected. Indeed for those of us that are parents, the thought of IM and Facebook discussions happening between two youngsters sitting on the same sofa rather than talking seems quite an enigma. But it appears that these are the true facts of life today.

The Retail Sector is renowned for its employment of youth and connecting to these employees at the right level in the right medium is critical to gaining their engagement and loyalty. Yet in Retail keeping the focus on customer service, having the right information at the right time and avoiding the distractions of social media is imperative.

So how can we embrace these tool-sets, put them to effective use and ensure that they can be and will be used at the right time in the right place?

Let’s look at the good, the bad and the ugly, the ugly being what are the show stoppers.

The Good

  • Easy access – multiple platforms from mobile phones, apps and all browsers
  • A toolset that millions of people use to communicate and share
  • Simple to use and understand – NO TRAINING!
  • Provide an easy way to share emotions, thoughts and views
  • Available anytime, anyplace, anywhere

The Bad

  • No control
  • Distracting
  • Disruptive
  • Out of control

The Ugly

There are two common negative themes that we see within the Retail Sector regarding Social Media

(i) The need for moderation. But how does this fit into the social media psyche? If I am not free to share thoughts and views, likes/dislikes will I just look for another medium?

(ii) Will it be a distraction? I need my retail employees focusing on customer services, not liking a Facebook entry. But what if this is the way the store colleagues share best practices, knowledge, hints and tips, would we be mad not to encourage this behaviour?

The Truth

Within the unified communications world, we would be MAD to ignore these technologies and tools. We must look to ways of embracing them within the world of retail communication and employee engagement. It would equally be imprudent not to have a level of management of how these tools could be used to motivate employees but have a level of preventing distraction and inappropriateness, but any such management would need to be carefully implemented.

The Best Practice

  • Embrace your corporate social media tools within your communications strategy. Let your employees see the way that you as an organisation use these tools to communicate, share and promote.
  • Provide internal tool-sets to encourage employee tweets, notifications, forums, discussions, but make sure that these can be targeted and shared with predefined user networks, i.e. let the employee decide their ‘friends and family’ to share with, let them decide the audience.
  • Provide formal forum boards for more formal discussions and debates.
  • Provide the facility to share these internal tool communications with the social networking tools at large – I want to promote this latest offer to my Facebook friends.
  • Have an element of moderating, but keep it high level and not invasive. Clearly, abuse needs to be addressed, but over moderation will prevent use.
  • Accept these tools as the latest communications mediums and be prepared to adapt quickly because there are more and more mediums being launch every day.

And YES Social Media does have a place within Retail Communications and Employee engagement.

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