Don’t Hire One Person To Brand You Online, Tap Your Employees’ Goofin’ Off Time

Many in the online space remember Heather Armstrong, better known as Dooce, and how she was one of the first people to get fired for their blog. That seemed to be in keeping with the corporate climate then and now, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: that needs to change. Almost every company should be tapping into the resources they already have to reach this new online space, especially in these times of a tight economy.

One of the first things I tell a new client is that part of the evaluation I make of their office is determining the existing resources they have to create a successful social media presence without undue expenditures on their part. I consider the employees of a company part of a company’s social media resources. I always recommend having me help them set a policy in their employee handbook that handles online presence and covers issues like privacy and basic conduct online, then include their existing staff in my training sessions.

Every employee has down time. Even the most over worked have a few minutes each day to play around online. I think companies who frown on corporate time used for a bit of personal fun are missing the mark. Yes, clear guidelines should be in place to make sure that your employees aren’t posting confidential information, and I do recommend choosing one or two “point people” to become the bulk of the company presence online, but there is no reason why your other employees can’t also disclose that they work for you, talk a bit about what they (and the company) do, and help make your brand more accessible.

The one or two “point people” you choose should be people able to get things done within the company. These people should become your help channel, your news conduit, your marketing source for social media. Think of them as the @comcastcares or @zappos for your brand. Then you should have other employees as minor points of information and news (Zappo is a great example of this in action as they have a number of employees on Twitter and other platforms). Above all else, everyone in the social media space for your company should be personable and make sure to include fun, personal tidbits in with the corporate. It makes your brand seem more likable, more accessible and creates a fan base for your service or product.

It is my opinion that anyone telling you to hire one person to be your company spokesperson online is leading you astray. Yes, you absolutely need social media training, a guide, if you will, to come in and help you and your employees learn the best practices of social media. This includes helping you pick the social media platform (or platforms) you are most comfortable with (not everyone needs Twitter, people) and learning how to use them in an effective and efficient way. It is much more cost effective to pay someone (yes, someone like me or others who do what I do) to come in and teach you how to help yourself online than it is to spend loads of money on an annual salary for one person to “brand you”. You are not a cow. Brand yourself – use existing resources, get some outside training and best practices in place, and let your employees really be part of the process. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.