One of the unique challenges for many managers is that it’s common to lead a team that is remote and spread out. I may see some of our reps 2 or 3 times a year, at best. Yet it is important that each rep feel as if they are in important part of the team. They must be engaged, with each other, with the team, and with the leadership. I’m a big fan of motivational resources, and I want to be able to share what is getting me fired up on a more frequent basis with my team.
I’ve had a Newsletter in the Region for some time now – and the feedback has been very good. However, the time and effort that goes into it is just too great. My Manager’s find it to be another ‘to do’ added to their already heavy load of administrative stuff. Our poor admin (who is very good at things like this) bears the load of getting everything formatted and “looking pretty”. It’s also out of date immediately when we finally get the darned thing cleared by our PR department and published online. With this in mind, and with the age of Social Media upon us, I set out to create a virtual water cooler for my team in the Twittersphere.
My comfort factor was highest with Facebook, and I knew that I was already connected to about half of the team on my personal account. My vision was to create a “Fan Page” – a repository for motivational tidbits, quotes, pictures, that would nurture the personal connection amongst teammates. To maintain privacy, I made the page only open to those who I approved, and also established a “no product discussion, no business discussion” policy.
It was pretty straightforward to build the fan page, and also pretty simple to upload media such as photos and videos. I also found it easy enough to post links to items that I felt would be interesting to the larger group, such as motivational links, etc. Still, I’m finding the Fan Page to be a clunky tool at best. I can’t log directly into the page – I am always logged into my own webpage and have to manually go into the Fan Page in order to post. It would be so much easier if I could be logged in separately from my own profile so that I could better customize the experience on the Fan Page. I also found that I had to log into my own account, then search for the Fan Page. I have not found a way to provide a link on my personal page to the Fan page. Frustrating!
I’m pretty proud of my eye catching, aesthetically pleasing page that has lots of inspirational rah rah stuff on it. But I have to be honest – I am not getting the hoped for engagement from the team. Oh, they are looking at the page every now and again, but they aren’t commenting or contributing to the conversation. They are checking out the pictures and videos from our last sales meeting, but are not posting any messages or responding to the posts. The feedback is that they “forget it’s there” or “don’t have the time”. Both of those translate to “Thanks Jen – but you have provided absolutely no value to me with this.” And so I’m beginning to think that I either really mucked this up, or that Facebook might not be the right medium to achieve the goals that I have set forth (I prefer to believe the latter).
With my limited Twitter experience, I enlisted a group of reps to help me test that as our “water cooler”. A massive failure. The twitterspeak was too much for some reps, too labor intensive for others, and just wasn’t returning value to most. I admit – this one was my fault. I’ve recently stepped up my Twitter activity and am learning how to form groups and promote discussion. However, I still don’t think that is the medium to achieve the objectives.
I know that Social Media can help to elevate the experience that field based personnel are challenged with and hopefully provide a connection back to the main office. I work in a highly regulated industry, and the company has done an exceptional job of teaching our employees to be extraordinarily cautious and conservative in the choices and decisions that they make. For the majority of the team, Social Media is a new frontier – something they may or may not understand. Therefore, the safest route is to avoid it and therefore mitigate their risk. My experience thus far could be linked to that mental factor, or it could be that I’ve executed poorly – wrong methods, wrong avenue.
And so, I am currently ‘noodling’ my next steps. I know this could be one of those soft environmental things that helps to boost employee engagement and employee satisfaction – but in order for it to be of value, the reps must find it valuable. I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but am eager to find that magic combination that will bring my sales team into the new Web 2.0 world