social media

Iron Chef – Social Media #3: “Who is your chef?” (Who represents your brand via social media?)

Why is a personal brand important for a company in social media? Because consumers don’t want to interact with a “company” or  “brand” they want to interact with the people behind a brand.  That’s why people won’t follow “Dell” because it’s a company, but they will follow Richard at Dell or Lionel at Dell because they give that company the personal interaction with their consumers.  As a result of that, people will want to become connected with your company or organization, look at the iCabal, the Apple fanatics who are incredibly tied in with the Mac brand, because they have probably been influenced by the Mac Evangelist crowd (and/or they are easily led by shiny things. 🙂 )

(Just kidding, relax y’all.)

Companies can’t interact with people. The people in your company can.

You have to make sure that the right people in your company are interacting with those people.  That’s one of the strengths of PR people working on your social media team, PR people are great at connecting with people – it’s our job, heck it’s in the job title “Public Relations.”  Who in your organization can you trust with the social interactions with your customers?

What are some of the ways people in your organization can get involved in social media? Here are a few of my ideas, what would you like to see your organization do to open up and engage more online?

  1. Set guidelines, not restrictions – you want to have guidelines that people blogging/tweeting/etc for your company need to follow (think of them as talking points for your evangelists, why do they rock?) But you don’t want to restrict what they can say too much.
  2. You don’t need to vet everything that’s said – your employees, check that, the employees who love your company (and these are the ones who should be representing you) should not have to run everything by the legal department.  You trust your customer service team in India to represent your company without running every statement through the mothership, you should trust your social media employees to do the same.
  3. Who in your company is already blogging? – Who’s already doing it?  Can you pay them to be part of the social media team at your company?  Why reinvent the wheel? Take these people on a long weekend retreat to Vegas, or the fun destination of your choice and intersperse some workshops on developing your social media team in between visits to the casino/park/hiking trail/etc.
  4. Are there any free agents out there? –Is there anyone in your organization, or someone that one of your employees might know, who is already active in social media and social networking? If so, you might want to consider offering them a job to produce your content. They have an audience already established, and you might be able to attract some of them to your new brand. And at the same time, if you are working on your own personal brand, you can learn quite a bit from your new free agent star.
  5. Who should represent the company? – Your new free agent? How about the guys you have on the team already?  What about the CEO?  Is he/she tech savvy and interested in this communications medium?  If not, it would be better for them to give up the reins here and let the people in the know take the lead, then report successes and concerns to the CEO.
  6. Experiment, experiment, experiment! There are a lot of kinds of social media out there, what works the best not only for your company, but for your team?  Remember, there are some pieces of social media that work best as entrees, and others as appetizers.  Maybe your video person loves working on video but has a voice that would only be improved by gargling with rusty razor blades.  Then he shouldn’t lead the podcasting.  Your podcast guru has that smooth radio voice but can’t hold a camera steady long enough for a picture, then you don’t need them leading up your Flickr stream.  Different people have different strengths, what tools are out there to augment them and how can you combine them?
  7. Training – Cross train your team, turn them into backpack journalists – able to develop news across all kinds of new media.

What other advice would you add for leaders interested in getting their people involved with their customers, competition, and colleagues?

6 thoughts on “Iron Chef – Social Media #3: “Who is your chef?” (Who represents your brand via social media?)

  1. I like the idea of giving your social team a flip camera or an awesome cell phone. Make sure they carry it everywhere like they would a cell phone. Those impromptu moments can be the best side of your company to show. Don’t want to miss that “Kodak Moment”.

    1. I agree, giving everyone on the team an iPhone, Blackberry or Droid will allow for people to not only get pictures/videos, but to also send them to the corporate blog, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc without having to go back to their desks. That way those Kodak moments can also get up quickly 🙂

  2. Great post, Benson. I agree totally about guidelines and about not needing to vet everything ahead of time. The flip side of that for me is the need for a “critique culture” (to your “experimenting” point) that does a lot of constructive reviewing and thinking about how people are doing in terms of the overall goals. That’s pretty tricky for most organizations and can easily become personal without experienced mediators, especially since it needs to involve people from various functional groups. Further compounding that is that this is, by and large, uncharted territory.

    Part of the solution may be building into the organization’s budget some allowance for high-level social media PR people to connect with their peers for development. At the very least, leaders within organizations need to realize this is a process they need to take part in creating.

    In any case, thanks again–good stuff.

    1. You’re right Will, there is an opportunity for things to get personal without others to bounce ideas off of before posting. That’s why putting together a social media team, from various facets of the organization is very important. And I think, given PR’s ability to create responses based around key command messages, PR should be one of the groups at the head of the mythical “table” we are always trying to reach.

      Budgeting for PR people to connect with their peers is very important, and often overlooked – especially in this economic downturn (you can kiss the conference budgets goodbye for the most part).

  3. Comment for “Stop Censorship”

    I’ve deleted your comment from here because it’s not related to the post above. I understand your concerns about the Web site, but have you spoken with the moderator in question about what happened?

    1. Sophi Martin “is” the moderator and yet she espouses her blog (Duke City Fix) to be be open forum to the community for ideas. That is anything but “open” nothing was said by me or others that was derogatory, defaming or indescent. Anyone who differs from her idealogy is deleted and banned. I would appreciate if you would keep the post as a method of response for “free speech” and unorthodox forum for stopping idealogical censorship. Please support this cause.

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