Social media confidence is about hiring

So many executives are scared of stepping into social media – they’ll lose control of their company’s image, they need to route all comments through Legal, they’ll see a giant drop in productivity if they stop blocking Facebook on the corporate network. What they’re really saying is “I don’t trust our ability to hire the right people.”

Every time I give a talk about social media, someone in the audience says, “How can I convince my manager to let me use this stuff? She thinks I’ll get the company in trouble.” The answer I use, and the one I’ve heard others use, is “Well, does she trust you to use the telephone?” Invariably gets a laugh, as well as people nodding and taking notes.

You can create problems for your organization pretty easily, whether with a recorded customer service conversation, a forwarded email, or an update on Twitter. The solution isn’t to restrict the channels the organization uses to communicate, it’s to hire people with good judgment and provide communication guidelines. Good judgment shouldn’t be a special requirement just for spokespeople.

This is why I worry about the Pizza Hut Twintern. Sure, she’s great PR (NYTimes on the job posting, Slate’s The Big Money on her experience). But Alexa Robinson is one person, new to the company, out there at the sharp end of the stick. Pizza Hut could disavow her as the traditional “lowlevel staffer,” so she can’t build trust in the brand the way a broader-based presence could.

Centralizing an organization’s social media efforts in one person, however awesome (and carefully vetted) they may be, isn’t the right answer. Give a real picture of your work: look at the IBMers’ blogs list or at Zappos’s Twitter aggregator, for example. Your staff are your organization. Hire with that in mind, and trust the people building your organization to represent it as well.

About Jennifer Berk

I'm an analytics and data leader with a marketing and product mindset. I like online newspapers, science fiction and fantasy, and ugly fish.
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