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Social Media: best practice at Krones AG
Twelve questions to Charles Schmidt, Corporate Social Media Officer, Krones AG
• Charles, can you briefly describe your current job for us?
My job at Krones AG is interesting and very versatile. After all, I am not only the company’s Social Media Manager but also the Team Manager Creations for company communications. I manage 17 staff. My team and I make films, produce brochures, take photos, write articles, organise trade show appearances, plan campaigns and do a lot of other thrilling things. So, you can see that for social media we can fall back on a vast pool of content. In other words, my various responsibilities go hand in hand. And I keep giving public speeches at social media events. In those speeches I talk about best practice in knowledge transfer and a type of expert status within the industry.
• You have been with Krones for 25 years now; how did you come by your current job within the company?
I have been in corporate communications for more than 20 years. And I have always had a particular interest in moving images. This is why we pushed in-company film productions very early on. Between 1989 and 2004, I produced about 600 image, product and training films for Krones AG. In 2004, I assumed responsibility for the team Creations within Group Communications. In 2008, we launched the platform krones.tv, where we have published about 200 videos over the past three years. So our social media activities today are only the next steps going forward.
What is it that you like about communication, and in particular, social media?
I especially like the active and lively element in it. Social media allow us to act and communicate across space and time. The fast and direct response and the resulting dialogues are marvellous. In the social media, things happen. They are alive.
• In your opinion, how has in-company communication changed over the last few years?
The idea behind facebook, twitter, XING and the likes will eventually reach every company. For some time we, too, have been seriously considering the introduction of various ‘2.0’ technologies and platforms. And what has changed now in in-company communication on foot of Web 2.0? I think that networks have been linked more closely. Our staffs have accepted our social media activities very well and participate very actively in them as ‘Kronesians’. I think that this is inspirational and strengthens people’s sense of belonging. Our employees keep speaking of the ‘Krones family’ in our videos, too. Social media have brought Krones closer, made it more palpable in all its diversity and turned it into an experience, even for outsiders.
• When you hear the term social media, which three words first come to mind?
The term social media already includes two core words. The social and interpersonal dimension is extremely important because we are dealing with people who have social relationships with each other. This is why mutual respect is a precondition for the use of social media. The second core aspect is the media part. In dealing with media, any rights over images and sounds or other usage rights (e.g. with a view to copyright issues) must be respected. The third term I would like to add is responsibility. Social media are not a value-free space. And the web won’t forget a thing. Therefore, a sensitive and well-considered approach to social media is very important in my opinion.
• Everybody is talking about ‘authenticity’. But many people grow nervous at the thought of the concomitant loss of control that this implies. How can you make people and/or companies more comfortable with more candid communication?
Authenticity means transparency and open-mindedness, among other things. Let me give you an example to illustrate this: Of course, people love being praised or receiving positive feedback on a company, a machine or an achievement. However, it is also possible that someone is annoyed or has the opposite opinion – and it is particularly here that one should respond in an open-minded and respectful manner. It’s like in real life where you wouldn’t want misunderstandings or conflict to get between you and other people, though you may sometimes have to draw a line in the sand. Social media only allow for immediate reaction or response, thus creating a public platform.
• What influence do internal company structures have on the successful use of social media?
Social media require self-determined freedom of movement in the company. This is in place if the company’s guidelines, values and objectives are securely established. This framework of orientation and action is important for a common language and therefore for external communication. And if the company’s internal structure then allows for content to be created and maintained independently, this is perfection.
• In your opinion, what would be the logical first step towards a social media strategy? Where to start? And who should start?
The first step is to listen. Only if you know what is communicated about the company on the web can you develop a meaningful strategy. Once the issues and influencers are known, things become much easier of course, including the selection of target groups, channels, issues, etc.
From then on its content, content, content! The ideal approach is to be clear about the sources that might inform your online communication even before you start. Where is the hidden potential that is not obvious at first glance? This potential should be developed.
• Are social media a matter for management?
I think so, because social media are something you cannot do by the way. It’s something you really have to want. It’s important to commit to it heart and soul. If you really want to build relationships you have to think about it long and hard. It’s no different from the offline world. You have to look after relationships and friendships, invest in them and maintain them. It’s about real presence.
Social media happen round the clock. Even after business hours you can’t just drop your pen. Social media are worldwide and transcend time zones. So you can expect to get the odd late-night feedback. As I said, it’s all about relationships and their care, and if you are serious about them, then they do become a matter for management.
• What do you think about the persistent view that social media are for free (because of the numerous free services available)?
Costs are always a question of definition. For social media you have to expend personal energy. But the work invested in your own content is definitely worth the effort. We are successful with what we do. Krones and our activities are publicly discussed, and people speak about us positively. We have translated our technological creativeness to social media in a coherent way. Added value is a declared company goal for Krones and a commitment.
We feel it is important to apply company values and to shape them. We believe in active dialogue with our customers, employees and partners. And success obviously vindicates us.
• Which are your three most favourite tools for your own social media work?
First and foremost I prefer the classics, such as facebook, twitter and YouTube. But I wouldn’t separate these channels, because in our view they interact, reinforce and bundle. Google+ will also be interesting.
• For a company without social media activities looking for advice from an agency (the '‘experts’), what would you recommend?
Social media should be experienced, both by individuals and companies. Personally, I’d hate to put my life in the hands of experts. Unless I’m ill. But as I work for a very healthy company, I never really thought about this.
• Thank you very much for this interview, Charles, and all the best going forward.
Social Media: best practice at Krones AG - www.krones.com
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Social Media: best practice at Krones AG - www.twitter.com/#!/KronesAG
Social Media: best practice at Krones AG - www.xing.com/companies/kronesag