Entrusting someone with your brand voice is a big deal.
When you make someone a manager on your Facebook page, or hand over the password to the Twitter account, you entrust them with the right to speak on behalf of your brand. Publicly. On a platform that (depending on your online visibility) could be heard by upwards of hundreds or thousands of people.
It’s kind of like hiring a press spokesperson. You wouldn’t pick just anyone to go out and talk to representatives from television, radio, and print media… because, through them, you are talking to the public at large and trying to impact the way they see you. Social media is basically the same concept, but even more direct.
Last time, we talked about some of the different ways that businesses try to manage their social media presence: hiring an intern, taking a “whenever we remember” approach, and hiring an agency. We talked about the strengths and weaknesses of all of these options, and how they may compromise key elements of social media success, like professionalism, consistency, and authenticity.
What it really comes down to, at the end of the day, is that your brand needs at least one dedicated, consistent individual to speak through its social media profiles.
In essence, your brand needs a voice.
What is a brand voice?
In the crowded Internet marketplace, it is easier to market effectively by building a trusting relationship, so ‘personalizing’ the brand with a public representative is a good idea. There is a greater sense of trust between two social media users who talk to each other, which is why personal endorsements are the lifeblood of social influence.
Most companies who get started on social media eventually realize that they need some ongoing help to keep up with the need to produce content and engage with other users in order to grow.
That’s where a brand voice steps in. From a logistical standpoint, a company can decide to hire a brand voice into any number of roles. You get to determine whether your budget will allow for someone to work with you on a part-time or full-time schedule.
The best part? You are hiring someone to not only act on behalf of the organization through its brand page, but also to become the public face of the company through their personal pages, so you get the benefits of their personal voice and reach too.
Depending on your budget and social media goals, you could hire:
- A brand ambassador – usually a blogger and/or social media personality with existing popularity on a particular platform. They write and talk about the brand, increasing its visibility among their ranks of followers.
- A part-time community manager who comes in to work with the organization a few days each week, creating and scheduling content, taking photos on-site or at events, and engaging with other users on behalf of the organization.
- A full-time online marketing manager, who works every day as part of the marketing or development team. They perform all the same roles as the part-time community manager, but also focus on developing a long-term strategy, report success metrics to management, and build long-term relationships that can yield professional benefits for the organization.
Of course, there are pros and cons to hiring someone into any of these roles.
Brand ambassadors will give you flexibility (and depending on who you hire, possibly less expensive rates), but you may or may not have much control over the message.
Good brand advocates pride themselves on their ability to give their opinion independently, in a way that appeals to their existing and growing audience. In order to get the best results, your message should ideally fit into that, so it’s in your best interest to make the effort and choose a brand ambassador who is truly a fan of what you do.
With brand ambassadors, you even have the option to set the terms of the duration of your agreement—it can be anything from a series of blog posts or videos that gives your social presence a boost, to actual long-term social media management and personal promotions at a set number of hours or a set number of posts per month.
- Gnocchi with Brown Butter Cream Sauce & Kale by Julie Deily of The Little Kitchen
- Organic matcha green tea powder reviewed by Katy Widrick of KatyWidrick.com
- Rachelle Lucas of The Travel Bite is a Viator Ambassador for 2014
- Melanie Edwards, the Modern Mami, is participating in the Walmart Moms program this summer
On the other hand, by hiring a part-time or full-time community manager, you bring someone into your organization whose voice you can influence. Their job is to deliver the brand message in the best light possible, from the brand’s perspective.
This means that your social media staff member (whether you call them a community manager or an online giving coordinator) should be actively engaging with other users as well as creating new content on the brand’s page. They should be creating a sense of trust and connection in the minds of potential customers, as well as reminding them of what the organization is all about.
They should also be active personally on social media, ideally acting as a de facto brand ambassador (though without the requirement to talk constantly about the company). Instead, the idea would be that by becoming a social media personality themselves, the company’s brand recognition can be augmented by the association.
Naturally, this relationship requires the development of a good deal of trust between a brand and its official social media representative.
In fact, it is normal for a brand to expect a high level of personal responsibility and good conduct when hiring a voice at any level. Businesses need to know that the person they are hiring will not do anything on social media (either their personal or professional platforms) that will damage or embarrass the brand. The comfort level will vary based on what the brand and its values are looking for—for example, a company that sells baby- and family-oriented products would be unlikely to hire a twenty-something who went out drinking and posted photos every weekend… whereas Bacardi might not mind.
Brands who are hiring a part- or full-time staff member should have a clear set of expectations in mind when conducting their interviews, especially if they have any desire for brand ambassadorship. Plan to look at both professional credentials and personal visibility—it’s as important to find someone who is a good fit with your company culture as it is to hire a professional who understands the nuts and bolts of social media.
On Google+, Michael Bennett of Michlin Metals in Chicago is the guy that comes to mind when I think of a full-time brand representative. As their sales and business development representative, he handles the company’s presence on social media as a central piece of his outreach strategy. However, he also has successfully built up his personal brand by developing relationships with other users and creating spectacular photos which he shares every day. Michael Bennett is known; and in part because of his public association with them, Michlin Metals is also known.
But What Happens When They Leave?
This personality element raises another question. A company’s page can be handed from one manager to another, and can even have multiple managers at any given point in time. This is not so when it comes to a person’s individual profile, which represents them alone.
So what does a company do when its popular social media personality moves on?
To continue with our previous example, what happens if Michael Bennett takes a job that takes him away from Michlin Metals? Won’t the company’s presence take a hit while they hire someone new?
Personnel turnover in today’s world is all too common, and so companies may feel that they take a risk by encouraging their social media manager to become popular personally. After all, it would be a wasted investment when they leave—or worse, one that could strengthen your competitors were they to hire this individual.
A couple of things to consider:
- Valuable employees transition all the time. Hopefully your social media representative is actually using their influence to bring in business, and if that is the case, your company should be focusing on trying to retain the talent they have hired. (If they’re not, you may not want them acting as your voice anyway, depending on what you expect.)
- They should also be focusing on growing your brand page. Unlike a personal profile, a brand page can be handed off to another social media manager. This makes it an important neutral ground, free of the identity of any one person’s voice…except the voice of the brand.
- You can look for people with an existing following when you hire a new social media manager. Again, your ability to retain a good social media manager will be largely dependent on how carefully you choose to hire them. One qualifying factor you can look for is an existing base of followers online. But again, it is far more important to choose someone who will be passionate about your brand online and a good fit in your company culture overall.
The Power of Personality
In the realm of social media, there is a pronounced cult of personality.
I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s actually pretty cool because the Internet has allowed us to personalize celebrity on a new level—and has allowed very ordinary people to become famous or just make a living doing what they love.
PERSONALITY + CONTENT = SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS
Successful brands need a strong voice online. And they need individuals—or at least one—who can speak on their behalf.
This often starts with short-term arrangements with bloggers to review products, and can stem into longer-term advocacy. Over time, many brands see the value and hire a part- or full-time social media manager to handle all online content.
These are both great ways that companies can grow on social media. And the one you choose is up to your budget, your comfort level, and your needs.
But what if I told you there was still a way to go one step beyond with social media in your company? Stay tuned for the next article in the series!