Guest Post by Megan Totka, Chief Editor at ChamberofCommerce.com.
We all know it doesn’t take much to reach celebrity status these days. With the explosion of social media in the past five years and the inexpensive nature of setting up an online persona, people are finding ways to grow their individual brands.
Places like Facebook and Twitter can build up the brand of individuals but can also bring unwelcomed consequences for companies. Sometimes co-branded employees are harmless but in some cases it can mean a clash with the goals of present or future employers.
The Wall Street Journal recently called this trend the “latest management headache,” especially considering how much money businesses are outputting to build, maintain, and control online reputations. As individual employees garner a following in personal online circles, companies are put in an awkward position and often have to ask the question of whether it is professional to blend business and politics.
Media outlets have long banned employees from political commentary or sharing their personal views on social media platforms to avoid bias. Most companies, however, are unsure of what to do.
The good news is that co-branded employees do not have to be a liability. There are some ways to capitalize on individuals’ fan bases and make it a win-win situation for your company. Here are a few suggestions:
- Write a company policy regarding social media and blog personas. Decide whether you want to take a more liberal approach to employee online activity or place tighter restrictions. Keep in mind that some new employees may already have a following in their industry and have material that does not fit your corporate governance, so, in order to avoid the appearance of favoritism, write clear expectations for existing and new employees that may differ in scope. If a social media call comes into question, refer it back to the policy.
- Follow your employee on social media and blogs. If you want to know what an employee is doing right in the way of branding, become a fan yourself. Think of this as serving a double function: monitoring what is said, and learning from his or her success. The ideas that these co-branded employees have may inspire a company-wide effort. While you are at it, find other online personas to follow too. The more knowledge you have of your industry, the way that other people view it and the latest business news, the better shot you have at social media success.
- Join in the fun. Consider partnering with the employee or linking directly to his or her personal sites from the company’s official one. By embracing what they have to offer, you stand to gain a greater following. You can always end the relationship if the employee and company part ways, but you might as well maximize the leads and customer interaction that are already in place. While some employees might not welcome the partnership, most will see the mutual value in supporting each other’s efforts online.
(Photo Courtesy freedigitalphotos.net)