How real estate franchises are using Facebook Groups to encourage teamwork

Facebook Groups can help create a sense of teamwork within real estate franchises.

Creating a sense of teamwork takes a lot of effort. In franchises that span state and national boundaries developing a supportive and positive culture demands that CEOs and boards look for new and innovative ways to help people within their organisation to connect and build relationships. Often this involves considerable expense. Team building events, such as annual awards dinners and training days, impose a heavy cost on already over-stretched head office staff.

For these reasons, many C-level executives are looking to make use of social media as a cost-effective solution. Rather than investing in expensive intranet technologies, some are turning to Facebook Groups as a way to encourage collaboration and teamwork within their organisation.

This strategy makes sense; after all, many of those that would be active participants on a corporate intranet are already active on Facebook. Using Groups averts the need to provide users with new logins and expensive training.

Because Groups can be set up – for free – within minutes and populated within hours they are an appealing alternative that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

Yet for all their appeal, the use of Facebook Groups pose significant risks that must be addressed if the initiative is to have any chance of success.

Before starting a group, consider these policy issues

  1. Weigh up the risks. Everything that’s placed on the internet exposes a business to risk. Even though a group is set to Secret or Closed posts, comments and photos can be copied. The risk of members posting libellous or slanderous comments that could land the group administrators and your company in court are very real and always present. The same is true as a result of inadvertent breaches of the Competition and Consumer Act arising from conversations about commission rates, territory allocations and vendor paid advertising.
  2. Be clear about what will happen if things go wrong. A company Facebook group also exposes your organisation to claims of discrimination, harassment and bullying. These can arise when individuals are left out of conversations, subjected to passive/aggressive communication, or are the subject of sexual innuendo. Prior to starting a group these forms of communication should be made explicitly off-limits and group administrators should be trained about dealing with posts and comments that breach the company’s policy.
  3. Add a line item into the budget. Creating a group that’s affiliated with your company means you’ll always have a responsibility to manage and maintain it. Depending on the size of the group it may take a number of moderators. These will need to meet regularly and work as a team, especially to moderate a large group. The cost of managing the group will increase in indirect proportion to its size.
  4. Decide who is going to act as the group administrator. This person (or persons) should be provided with clear, written guidelines that set out their duties and the amount of time required by the role. In a large, multinational group, where interactions take place across multiple timezones, being a group administrator can be an onerous task. Choose the person wisely.
  5. Develop a membership system. It’s important that only people who are current employees remain in the group. Failing to remove previous employees exposes your organisation to the risk of leaking important company information to the competition. In the initial stages, building the number of people in the group is easy and fun. However your system will need to address how people who no longer qualify for membership will be removed. In this regard, Facebook doesn’t provide an easy export function so you can match group members with current employees, and that makes keeping your list updated a tedious, time-consuming task.

Maximising the effectiveness of your group

There are a number of techniques to use that will boost the quality of interaction on your Group.

  1. Be clear about the group’s purpose. Articulate that purpose in the About section.
  2. Be clear about the group’s guidelines. Make those clear in the About section, too.
  3. Provide a model of the interactions you expect within the group. Enlist the support of a group of employees who are willing to lead by example. Ideally these will be members of your team who are passionate about your brand and are great online communicators.
  4. Use this modelling behaviour to encourage collaboration, cooperation and knowledge sharing. Show your appreciation when team members answer questions or help those in need of support.
  5. Use the Events application to create awareness for awards functions and training events.
  6. Brand your group with a relevant cover photo. Change it regularly.
  7. Encourage people to create informal offline meet-up style events in addition to formal functions. Use the group to create offline connections.
  8. Create photo albums for awards events and other functions.
  9. Reward people for the positive contribution they make through their online leadership. This might include a special mention at a breakfast sales meeting or an awards evening. Let people know that their contributions are valued and appreciated.
  10. Keep things light. Although it’s a work group it’s still a social network. Make it too strict and you’ll drive people away, too loose and you’ll derive no business value.

Have you had any success using the web to encourage teamwork? Let me know in the comments.

Image by Luigi Mengato via Flickr.

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About Peter Fletcher

Speaker, trainer, and consultant helping real estate agents sort out their online communication strategy.

@peterfletcher - Google+

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