Should internal brand advocates truly be themselves online?
Recently there’s been a heated exchange between RichardatDell and Amanda Chapel on Twitter regarding the lines between personal and professional when representing a company in the social media space. Without getting into the, ahem, personality conflicts between them and taking sides, I do think it’s an interesting and relevant subject to explore.
Where is the line between a “community evangelist’s” personal opinions and the company they represent? Does it matter in our new digitally connected world? I’d like to say no, but I tend to land on the Amanda Chapel side of the fence that it does.
Every interaction a corporate employee has reflects on the company while they’re “on the clock”. That’s standard thinking and it goes from the person in the call centre to the CEO. Why has social media changed that reality? Do brand advocates or community managers need to be “the brand” 24/7? Can they really do justice to what the company stakeholders want (profits & positive awareness) by being “real” and airing their own personal thoughts and opinions (and prejudices and biases) whenever the mood strikes?
When I’m interacting with someone who is clearly online in their capacity with the company (i.e. X@DELL), everything I read and every interaction I have with them reflects back on the company brand. Not to say that I don’t want to interact with a real person and that I begrudge them having a personality and a life, but when they are acting as agents of their brand, whatever they do reflects back on the brand/ company itself. That’s part of how human beings see things and it is something that we, as business people, need to recognize as we navigate this brave new frontier of constant connectedness.
We’re all human and we all have bad days of course, but they are paid employees, not organic consumer advocates and they, by necessity, have an agenda to promote a positive image of the brand, otherwise they would just be a regular Jane and post as themselves without the brand standing behind them. In reality, I could really despise company X’s evangelist because of their personal politics, or ego, or what have you, and that would reflect back on the company itself for no good reason other than they’re out there on the intertubes.
(And to clarify again, this isn’t meant to pass judgement on RichardatDell, but his interactions with Amanda Chapel, a fictional character, have spurred my thinking)
My thoughts on how to mitigate this are still evolving, but I think it does no one a service to ignore human nature and the pitfalls of being a high profile company representative who is “always on” and mixes the truly personal with their professional capacity.
What do you think?
[photo credit: dadawan via Flickr]