Lots of people talk about their personal brands online and how they are important to social media. Beyond the obvious self centered narcissism and the off-center marketing theory behind this pop ethos, organizations needs to be wary of personal brands harpooning their social media efforts.
The dangers range from the obvious to the experienced-based hidden results of personal brands. Here are some of the top ones I’ve seen:
- A departure by the said personal brand creates an irreplaceable void. Worse, the online community, one built using the brand’s time and resources, departs with them because they are vested in the individual and not the organization.
- Personal transgressions not only tarnish the personal brand, but also the nonprofit or company backing them.
- Stakeholders only want to interact with the personal brand instead of more qualified organization members (depending on the request).
- Internal voices get angry with the personal brand for seeking to dominate online media or becoming the center of attention. Worse, if the personal brand is a true diva then they demand to be the center of attention, creating even more conflict.
- Inauthenticity in using a personality to represent a “social” brand becomes apparent as people try to have interactions with the culture elsewhere and find silos and barriers still exist.
This creates a tension for companies; the need to embrace personality and conversation into their online communications versus controlling and stifling individual voices (mistake). The reality is that leaning more towards enabling freedom of expression is always the right path, but at the same time protecting the company with savvy communications guidelines and human resource approaches are also in order.
From an HR and capacity perspective, particularly with smaller organizations, I believe in team social media approaches. Ironically, the week after the personality dominated Lebron James, Dwayne Wade & Chris Bosh teaming, it’s important to note that online you will always have individuals propelling brands into the spotlight.
However, the best corporate social media strategies offer teams of people interacting on the Internet. Consider some of the biggest winners so far: Dell and the Humane Society. All of these social media efforts feature teams of voices. Some personalities naturally rise to the top. They are your star (Lionel Menchaca comes to mind), and every winning team has stars.
Yet the truth of the matter is they are still team players, and they intentionally focus on building a greater whole rather a personal brand. Further, individual team members are allowed and empowered to excel as well.
Community Centric Management
Beyond team approaches, the purpose of social media should be fostering community. In that sense, social media efforts for great brands foster the community and its efforts, not the individual personal brand. When it becomes about the personal brand and what they are doing, a community becomes rudderless from an organizational standpoint.
One of the best personality laden brands that does this is the LIVESTRONG community, which has the obvious Lance, LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman and community manager Brooke Mcmillan. Yet, when it comes to LIVESTRONG social media it’s really about the community and that’s clear from tool to tool, from Gowalla to the blog.
The best way to manage community expectations versus personal branding (beyond hiring well) is well structured social media guidelines. These guidelines should be community centric in their approach, and communications staffers who are versed or will be using social media tools should be on-boarded (meaning a meeting to discuss the organization’s approaches to online media).