If you’re getting your feet wet with social media, you’ve probably considered or hired a social media manager, community manager, or other person on your team that can lead the charge and help become the voice and face for your brand. Maybe you have several.
You’ll spend a great deal of time empowering them to speak for you, to raise awareness for your brand, to get out there in the community and build the all-important relationships that are so key in this and any other business. You’ll send them to events to speak. You’ll give them the keys to the kingdom and charge them with building your presence, enhancing your reputation, making your brand and your company more human and accessible through their interactions with past, present and future customers.
But what’s inevitably on your mind – and the minds of many who are adding this kind of talent to their teams – is:
What happens when they leave?
In order for your social media team to really be able to do its best for you, you have to be willing to give them the freedom to make decisions for themselves, and to infuse their unique self and personality into their work.
After all, part of what makes social media so special is that it peels back the curtain a bit on logos and corporate mission statements, and instead shows the people and the personalities behind a brand. It makes those people real instead of imagined, and gives your customers the sense that Bob or Susan are really there to take care of them instead of some nameless, faceless someone in a call center.
So to make sure those people can react and respond nimbly, to ensure that they can make a call on the fly that will create an outstanding experience for your customer or community, you have to let them run with it a little bit. And if you can’t trust the employees you have to do so with good judgment and in a way that’s appropriate to their work and the company, you have a hiring problem, not a social media one.
Like any other pivotal role in your company, it can be a little uncomfortable to make someone indispensable. But in order for you to really take advantage of the power of individual connections, that’s exactly what you need to do.
Whether you call it “personal brand” or something different, the reputation and character of the individuals you put in these highly visible roles is going to bleed into their work. And it should! That’s what you want it to do. Demanding that individuals in social media adhere to a rigid set of rules, conformed standards and overly groomed “brand voices” takes away the very individuality that can make them successful in the first place.
The relationship you have with your engaged individuals ought to be a symbiotic one. They’re investing in you, the company, their networks and their ability to forge strong, trust-based ties with individuals on a one-to-one basis that would be really hard to pull off as The Brand. (This isn’t entirely unlike the rockstar sales reps we used to admire in the day for their ability to build a rolodex that was spilling out of the plastic cover, but perhaps with a little less polyester).
In exchange for that, they’re drawing from your company’s professional reputation, recognition, and industry standing. As individuals, they’ll benefit from the platform you provide for them in ways that go beyond the day to day functions of their role and job. And increasingly, individuals seeking these kinds of roles will want to align their reputation with a company that both understands the value they bring, and to whom they would feel passionate and enthusiastic about lending their own abilities.
There is one solid way to be sure that the investment you make in these individuals is something that’s sustainable and that will provide resonant benefits on both sides of the equation even after individuals move on from the company:
Build a Bench.
By that, I mean that you need to be cultivating a mentality and a culture that promotes this kind of relationship between the company and all of its employees. Your social media team may be the obvious ones because they’re the most obvious right now, but it won’t always be so. The more pervasive social becomes in business, the more of your team members will have the opportunity to be visible as it relates to their work with your company.
So it’s to your benefit to never stake your wishes for your business’ social media success on the head of one particular superstar. Instead, look for superstars throughout the company, in lots of different roles. Find them and empower them. Create a superstar culture, and the inevitable departure won’t upset the entire apple cart, because there will be lots of people willing and able to step into those pivotal roles.
And as an added benefit? Building that kind of culture makes your business an inspiring place to work. Which means you might just find less turnover in the first place.
What Are You Contemplating?
As you consider or are building social media teams, does this discussion concern you at all? Do you feel nervous about this evolving dynamic between employees and companies, and what discussions do you have about it internally? Or are you energized and empowered about the potential for all of this?
Would love to discuss more with you in the comments.