Here’s the deal, companies develop personalities just like people. Since this is football season and I’m a big football fan, lets take NFL football teams as an example. Go COWBOYS!! Just sayin… So Anyway… Each team has a personality and most owners recognize this. You can even look to the owners to see the personality type. The teams are careful on who they draft to fit the chemistry of their current team and image. Think about the Pittsburg Steelers, blue collar town, blue collar team…blue collar quarterback. Green Bay Packers, same thing, New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys, more white collar teams, Tom Brady and Tony Romo are for the most part white collar quarterbacks. There are plenty of examples! However, this isn’t ALWAYS the case, but the ones that see it and get it, use it and succeed. Look at the teams I just named…very successful “companies”. They just happen to be NFL Football teams.

So what does this have to do with social media? Plain and simple the social media person needs to “fit” the role of the company, naturally. In other words, they need to have good chemistry with the rest of the “team”. They are on the front lines and interact directly with the audience. I’m not one to say HOW they should act, but the authenticity of that person should come across in HOW they interact with the audience. In my opinion, the larger the company the more important this may be. Look at Scott Monty – The Ford Social Media Guy. He “fits” the role to a “T” and has been amazingly successful. He’s not an uptight “suit”, but he’s not a college kid either. He dresses casual with a polo shirt or jacket without a tie etc…in fact this is on his blog if you read it.

“Hi, I’m Scott. I’m the head of social media for Ford Motor Company. This is my personal blog, where I share my perspectives on social media – the convergence of marketing, advertising and PR on the Web – for marketers, agencies, the enterprise and the individual. This blog contains my personal views.” 

He says “personal views” – In other words, he’s saying look, I’m going to be myself. But notice how he still FITS the role of a Ford personality and the image for the most part. He fits the current messaging and perception that Ford is trying to convey. Weather he knows it or not, he is a “spokesperson”. He’s a spokesperson that directly interacts with the audience. To me, the role of the social media person will become more of a “spokesperson” role, especially with larger companies. He basically get’s paid to hangout on the web and talk to people.

The message of the company MUST remain consistent throughout the organization no matter WHO is sending the message. But, it’s perfectly OK to be yourself. Look, the right person must naturally fit that particular role, just like Brett Favre naturally fit in Green Bay. Ford is not going to bring in some 19 year old blond or some Grandma for that role…It wouldn’t make any sense with the image they are trying to portray.

The evolution of this role is already changing. Why? Well, a 140 character twitter message has become more credible than a 30 second commercial. It came for one source, unfiltered, unedited. Think about it. If that twitter message came from one person not a “corporation”, it can be trusted if that person built credibility with the audience. The audience knows that person can be held accountable by what he/she says. Not held accountable by the company they work for, but by the actual audience! If that person isn’t truthful, they may as well quit! With a commercial, the audience knows the company can always just buy another commercial. If the social media person builds up credibility with the audience, that only helps the brand and the organization build a positive image of transparency. I’m not saying you don’t buy ads, I’m stating the importance if consistency and perception. It’s important that that person have DIRECT contact with the crisis department and the PR people. The social media “spokesperson” could have more of an impact on the perception than anyone. Think about it. That’s the person the audience trusts now.

The other day I came across a job offer ad on the internet from a HUGE car dealership place here in Dallas. They had the name of the company, then the ad read, “Lookin for college kid to twitter, do our emails and facebook.” “You can do this from your dorm-room or wherever.” This was a “high-end” dealership mind you. NOT cheap cars!  I thought, OMG! This is your brand you dumbass! This KID would have front line interaction with the buyers and potential buyers!! Not just that, you have to do a number of things to make social media work, not just twitter and facebook! LOOK! It’s no longer college kids hooking up and finding parties online!! This is REAL! This is marketing, business development, crisis communication and PR ALL wrapped up in one platform! Until people realize that, companies will continue to struggle to find the right approach and truly get ROI from social media. This is why I state the importance of finding the right spokesperson for the role. It’s not a “short term” ad buy…it’s an investment into the position of your company. If it hasn’t already, social media will very soon become a college course or even a degree!

At the end of the day you want to make sure the social media “spokesperson” you have doing your social media fits the chemistry, the image and the perception of the “team” or company. They are a direct reflection of your organization and it’s image. Always keep them in the loop on what’s going on and never lie or tell partial truths. As the evolution of this role changes, the important thing to remember is authenticity. So, don’t hire some inexperienced college kid for your social media needs, hire a spokesperson that represents the personality of the company and its image.

Author: Richard Harmer, Brand Strategist – Brady Media Group