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Have You Unleashed Your Company’s Best Communicators?



The once predictable, controllable channels of television, radio and print no longer dominate.

Esquire has a cable channel.

The New York Times is developing short documentaries.

NPR has one of the best multi-media websites in all of journalism.

Social media has shattered the communications landscape into a million different pieces and corporations around the world are still trying to pick them up.

When 10.3 million viewers sat down to watch the final episode of Breaking Bad, many of them did so with tablets and smart phones. In fact, according to a new report from research firm NPD Group, 87 percent of U.S. entertainment consumers use at least one second-screen device while watching television.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram. The list grows every year, not only giving people greater and greater opportunity to broadcast their voice in real-time, ut also making them more powerful and relevant than Consumer Reports.

So what are companies doing about this? How are they getting their arms and heads around the constantly evolving conversation?

They’re establishing presence. They’re gaining a foothold. They’re making sure their brands are visible and active.

You know, all the things a big social media-marketing budget can do for you in a few month’s time.

But as many are finding out, presence and activity are not enough to win over consumers in what is quickly becoming a radically transparent world. Consumers can see through the pre-written posts and tweets and they punish you when you fail. Sometimes, mercilessly.

But there is a new movement afoot. As workers trend younger, corporations are embracing social media for the right reasons and in the right ways.

One of the pioneers of this movement is Best Buy.

Best Buy is essentially an experiential brand. You know what they sell, but the service experience and tech expertise contained within the store’s employees is out of reach.

This posed a unique problem for the company: How could the company extend its expertise beyond its actual store walls?

In July of 2009, Best Buy launched Twelpforce, a digitally connected army of Best Buy employees available 24/7 on twitter. The idea wasn’t to enlist employees to push products or tweet promotional copy, or even act as a customer service component. The idea was to unleash their employees’ inherent expertise and enthusiasm.

From a Fast Company interview with Best Buy’s John Bernier:

“The genius of Twelpforce is that it tapped into an existing talent pool that welcomed the chance to share their knowledge in their spare time! ‘A geek square guy might have a break between sessions or it could be a “Blue Shirt’ in-store at a slow moment, either way,’ noted Bernier, ‘this talent was ready, willing and able to help out. Because the system was designed to tie each response to an individual employee, each Twelpforce rep could feel a personal sense of pride in their participation.'”

At the time, this approach to social media was incredibly unique. It became one of the company’s leading marketing tools, vaulting the company the big box retailer to technically savvy brand communicator. Twelpforce was even featured in the company’s ad campaign.

Just recently, Best Buy shuttered Twelpforce, noting that while the company will continue to use twitter to communicate with it’s customers, it also understood that customers needed “deeper knowledge that can be answered in 140 characters of less.”

For the record, Twelpforce sent out more than 65,000 tweets from 3,000 different Best Buy employees.

Best Buy understood early on that one of the keys to authentic social communications and brand advocacy was giving your employees an opportunity to communicate for you in their own words. They not only understood that, they capitalized on it and turned their workforce into the most recognizable part of their brand.

Since Best Buy’s breakthrough, a number of different companies and organizations have followed. In the coming weeks, we’re going to take a closer look at some of them, the branded content platforms they’re creating and the social media programs that unleash their best communicators, their employees.

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