The Undiscovered Country of Presence Management

ghosts We asked for it. We wanted companies to come to us on our turf, to speak with us on Twitter, to participate with us on our blogs, to be on Facebook, and the like. But this doesn’t come naturally to many companies (especially larger), and it also doesn’t line up all that easily with existing internal work flows and job descriptions.

I mean, who is the right person at GM to Twitter? (They put Christopher Barger in Comms). Who’s the right person at BestBuy to be everywhere? Keith Burtis is everywhere (no idea what his official line of command is). Should the CEO blog? Not always. Not unless they’re Jonathan Schwartz.

Who runs all this is a huge issue to companies. It’s also the blood in the water that agencies smell from miles away as an opportunity. (This includes me, by the way.) And then there’s “we, the people,” those consumers that want to feel a genuine connection to these companies, not just marketing-ese pretending to be part of the fabled conversation.

Let’s rip into this a bit. This will be part 1 of 2. (Part 2 is about casting your nets.)

The Phone Tree Analogy

In thinking about who should man the various potential positions that social media provides, the question comes back to how you want to use it. Customer service? Marketing? Sales? This isn’t the same as putting up a website. In fact, think of it like this: a website is more like an automated phone tree, you know, “for English, press 1.” Social web presence is more like giving out everyone’s direct line.

Let that sink in. It’s every bit as much work to manage the relationships that come with online presence as it is to answer your phone without the robots to block people’s attempts. The payoffs are about the same, though. People appreciate the human touch of reaching someone online and having a “real” interaction. It might cost a little more, but it really shows a different level of care and service.

Is your company ready for that? Could your organization see shucking the phone tree in exchanged for a heightened sense of business contact? That might be a good gating question to consider. Hint: just having one person on the “phone” will rarely be the right answer.

And as for which employees should be involved in this, let’s get there a bit at a time. Because in lots of cases, the answer is “more than one,” but we’ll come to it.

Want to go a little deeper?

The Name Game: Who IS This?

How should a company identify itself online? Should you use the corporate brand? Should you be an individual representing the brand? What happens when the individual who’s built up all the credibility leaves?

I’ve seen it done all different ways:

  • @JetBlue – run by @MorganJohnston says it should be the brand first. He says it shouldn’t be about him.
  • @LionelAtDell and the rest of the Dell horde all use first name ATDell as their nomenclature. I prefer this, but have heard why that’s harder for people to search and find.
  • @WholeFoods tweets interesting things, for a grocery store. It kinda works, and yet, I always am left wondering “who.”

If you’re going to do a multi-person-using-one-account kind of implementation on a service like Twitter, use CoTweet, which comes with the recommended nomenclature of having ^CB at the end of tweets, so that you’d know “@chrisbrogan” was the driver of the @ShatnerRules group account (for example). This, at least, lets people know who’s at the helm.

Now, where should you be?

Where Are Your Fish?

Just because Oprah’s on Twitter doesn’t mean your customers are here. They might be hiding in forums, or very big into YouTube. Does your company need a Facebook group? Not always. Who’s there that you want to connect with, and what are you going to do for them there?

Deciding where to establish presence on the web is every bit as important as who should be at the helm of the various presence points. This also relates to understanding what you want. Are you there just to put a good face out for the company? Great. Then pick one or two places to start, see how people respond, get involved where you can, and work on it from there.

One way to find where people are talking about you is by using listening software. Tools like Radian6, Techrigy, and Scout Labs (to name a few that I like) can help you find where the conversation about you is hiding. (Oh, and if you don’t find much, don’t feel bad. It’s a good time to start stirring up some.)

Start with no more than 2 or 3 places for your presence. Maybe that’s “blog + linkedin + facebook.” It could be “linkedin + twitter + special forum.” And from the moment you start an account, think hard about what you want out of that point of presence. Are you there to answer customer service issues like @ComcastCares or are you hoping to just be a warm presence, like @LenDevanna of EMC (who has no actual “requirements” on him for Twitter, that I know of – correct me, Len) ?

Expectations and What Comes Next?

Let’s say you build a pretty decent stream of conversations on Facebook. Maybe it’s your junior comms person and they’re just drumming up excitement for a new product that the people want. Everything’s going great, and there’s an active group, and people feel like they’re being treated like humans. Know who comes next?

Marketing. In some companies, they come crashing down from the hills like angry Mongol raiders, set on converting people from interested community members into hot leads to purchase. They start asking to push materials down the community channel. They ask for lists. They push for opt-ins for email marketing.

Is it the right move? Not as listed above. Not if that’s not how you set the presence up to begin with. It will feel like horrid bait and switch. People will flock away pretty darned fast if you switch them over into convert mode. They’ll also hate you if you just pull up stakes and run after the product is launched. If they’ve committed to talking with you at those points of presence, they want you there for the long term.

Be wary of this. Think further out than a single campaign. If you set up the direct line, you have to be willing to answer it for more than the short term.

Checking In

Tomorrow, we’ll talk a bit more on how to get your feet into it, and where agencies can help, should you need/want that. We’ll also talk about what I think agencies shouldn’t do for you (but that’s my opinion).

What’s your take on this so far? Scary? Good? What you expected?

Photo credit peasap

ChrisBrogan.com runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Theme Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you're a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides you with the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

With automatic theme updates and world-class support included, Genesis is the smart choice for your WordPress website or blog.

Become a StudioPress Affiliate

  • http://len.devanna.com Len Devanna

    Insightful commentary as usual, Chris.

    My role is to facilitate the adoption of social tools, while helping our global employee population understand the value. I engage with our audience through a variety of channels to find ways to better the relationship. Sometimes it’s simply a ‘warm presence’ as you suggest, other times it’s proactively finding issues or questions and working within my internal network to lend a hand.

    When we started our journey 18 or so months ago, we really focused on establishing ‘employee proficiency’ within the social web. My goal is to get every employee to serve as representatives of the brand – offering their own unique expertise and talent through a variety of social channels.

    This ‘viral’ approach has worked wonders for us, as you’ll now find hundreds of employees out on Twitter proactively watching for brand mention – and engaging with the audience when something crops up that they can positively influence. Some sharing new job postings, some dealing with support issues, others helping with interoperability, etc;.

    I guess I’d equate it to when you have a friend in a particular company… You may look to that person to help gets answers quicker, help understand processes a bit better, etc;. Social let’s us scale this exponentially – where Chris Brogan will someday have tens of thousands of ‘friends’ at EMC… Each ready and willing to lend a hand.

  • http://len.devanna.com Len Devanna

    Insightful commentary as usual, Chris.

    My role is to facilitate the adoption of social tools, while helping our global employee population understand the value. I engage with our audience through a variety of channels to find ways to better the relationship. Sometimes it’s simply a ‘warm presence’ as you suggest, other times it’s proactively finding issues or questions and working within my internal network to lend a hand.

    When we started our journey 18 or so months ago, we really focused on establishing ‘employee proficiency’ within the social web. My goal is to get every employee to serve as representatives of the brand – offering their own unique expertise and talent through a variety of social channels.

    This ‘viral’ approach has worked wonders for us, as you’ll now find hundreds of employees out on Twitter proactively watching for brand mention – and engaging with the audience when something crops up that they can positively influence. Some sharing new job postings, some dealing with support issues, others helping with interoperability, etc;.

    I guess I’d equate it to when you have a friend in a particular company… You may look to that person to help gets answers quicker, help understand processes a bit better, etc;. Social let’s us scale this exponentially – where Chris Brogan will someday have tens of thousands of ‘friends’ at EMC… Each ready and willing to lend a hand.

  • http://www.iangilyeat.com Elizabeth

    Thanks for this post! I agree, just because some outlets like facebook or twitter work for some companies, it may not work for you because your customers aren’t there. Do you know your customers well enough to know what forms of social media they use? If not, then you don’t know your customers nearly well enough and that increasing that knowledge and that relationship is something you need to work on before you spend your time blindly trying to network.

  • http://www.iangilyeat.com Elizabeth

    Thanks for this post! I agree, just because some outlets like facebook or twitter work for some companies, it may not work for you because your customers aren’t there. Do you know your customers well enough to know what forms of social media they use? If not, then you don’t know your customers nearly well enough and that increasing that knowledge and that relationship is something you need to work on before you spend your time blindly trying to network.

  • Anonymous

    Twitter and social media in general is what you want it to be.
    If you want it to be press releases and your followers are ok with that, so be it…they either knew what they were signing up for or their bots do. :)
    We will keep our circles & let in who we want, when we want.
    My prediction (probably won’t happen for at least the next 6-12 months) is that you will see our “followers” list have a huge spike and outweigh our “following” list. (this is for the non-autoFollowers that is).
    I don’t care who follows me or why…just when I give out the cry for help, they are there.
    -jen
    @jenharris09
    @Consilio
    @PerfectOrder

  • http://caffeinatedmarketing.com Jen Harris

    Twitter and social media in general is what you want it to be.
    If you want it to be press releases and your followers are ok with that, so be it…they either knew what they were signing up for or their bots do. :)
    We will keep our circles & let in who we want, when we want.
    My prediction (probably won’t happen for at least the next 6-12 months) is that you will see our “followers” list have a huge spike and outweigh our “following” list. (this is for the non-autoFollowers that is).
    I don’t care who follows me or why…just when I give out the cry for help, they are there.
    -jen
    @jenharris09
    @Consilio
    @PerfectOrder

  • http://tiffanymonhollon.com/blog Tiffany Monhollon

    Working for a franchised company is interesting when it comes to these questions, and I’ve faced them a lot, because my role is both corporate (as far as “brand management” – or whatever you want to call it – in social media) and agency (as far as equipping our franchisees on engaging in social media themselves).

    It’s no small issue that social media blurs the lines between communication, customer service, and marketing in any large business. But it’s complicated greatly when you have 600 people who have such a stake in your brand. That said, it’s not impossible, and I know first-hand that it’s absolutely critical to be talking about these issues internally and working together across departments to put solutions in place…. and more importantly, that it’s possible :)

  • http://tiffanymonhollon.com/blog Tiffany Monhollon

    Working for a franchised company is interesting when it comes to these questions, and I’ve faced them a lot, because my role is both corporate (as far as “brand management” – or whatever you want to call it – in social media) and agency (as far as equipping our franchisees on engaging in social media themselves).

    It’s no small issue that social media blurs the lines between communication, customer service, and marketing in any large business. But it’s complicated greatly when you have 600 people who have such a stake in your brand. That said, it’s not impossible, and I know first-hand that it’s absolutely critical to be talking about these issues internally and working together across departments to put solutions in place…. and more importantly, that it’s possible :)

  • Pingback: Edmonton & Other Social Media Thoughts « Bridging Two Worlds

  • Michael Bailey

    Great post Chris – I’ve forwarded it on to a colleague of mine.

    Because of the initial technical knowledge required for most of what (we all) we do online, I expect that as the years move forward, this will all become one big “well duh” to a majority of the companies. I can say that because as the “online generation” continues to get older, this technical stuff will be as second nature to them as ringing doorbells was to the Fuller Brush(people) of the past.

  • Michael Bailey

    Great post Chris – I’ve forwarded it on to a colleague of mine.

    Because of the initial technical knowledge required for most of what (we all) we do online, I expect that as the years move forward, this will all become one big “well duh” to a majority of the companies. I can say that because as the “online generation” continues to get older, this technical stuff will be as second nature to them as ringing doorbells was to the Fuller Brush(people) of the past.

  • http://blog.creativenoggin.com Tracy Marlowe

    Very thought provoking post Chris. Thanks. I’ve actually pondered this same point for myself and clients. Who should we “be” when we’re engaging in social media? Especially if your purpose is to develop a brand or presence for your business.

    I’ve come to the conclusion (at least, as of today! That may change, as this is definitely an evolving medium!) that it definitely depends on the business and what they’re trying to accomplish. And most importantly, what relationship do your consumers already have with you?

    For instance, I subscribe to tweets for @NYTimes because I want the latest, breaking news. Or @spurs because I want to know how my favorite sports team is doing. I don’t necessarily need to develop a relationship with them. I just want to stay on top of them via the channels that I frequent.

    But for companies looking to deepen their relationship with their customers, it can definitely help to have a face–and cruicial, a personality–behind the name. Dell and Rackspace have done a good job of getting their employees involved at all levels, not just marketing and/or senior executives, to be brand advocates through social media.

    For my business, we started out with just individual Twitter identities to better connect with our market. But we’ve found that adding a company Twitter identity to work in collaboration with our personal handles has better helped get our company name out in the public, enhance our brand and expert positioning.

    Again, it definitely depends on the company.

    Thanks for interesting topic. Will stay tuned for part two!

    –Tracy

  • http://blog.creativenoggin.com Tracy Marlowe

    Very thought provoking post Chris. Thanks. I’ve actually pondered this same point for myself and clients. Who should we “be” when we’re engaging in social media? Especially if your purpose is to develop a brand or presence for your business.

    I’ve come to the conclusion (at least, as of today! That may change, as this is definitely an evolving medium!) that it definitely depends on the business and what they’re trying to accomplish. And most importantly, what relationship do your consumers already have with you?

    For instance, I subscribe to tweets for @NYTimes because I want the latest, breaking news. Or @spurs because I want to know how my favorite sports team is doing. I don’t necessarily need to develop a relationship with them. I just want to stay on top of them via the channels that I frequent.

    But for companies looking to deepen their relationship with their customers, it can definitely help to have a face–and cruicial, a personality–behind the name. Dell and Rackspace have done a good job of getting their employees involved at all levels, not just marketing and/or senior executives, to be brand advocates through social media.

    For my business, we started out with just individual Twitter identities to better connect with our market. But we’ve found that adding a company Twitter identity to work in collaboration with our personal handles has better helped get our company name out in the public, enhance our brand and expert positioning.

    Again, it definitely depends on the company.

    Thanks for interesting topic. Will stay tuned for part two!

    –Tracy

  • Pingback: Who should we “be” when we participate in social media? « Musings of the Creative Noggins

  • http://www.ryancmiller.com ryancmiller

    Chris,

    Many many thanks for the followup to my question on the previous post. Really looking forward to the 2nd part of the story. I think a lot hinges on keeping the conversion folks at bay. Its incredibly tempting to just dive in and ask people to buy stuff. Its also hard to convey why you SHOULDN’T do that to a client – who is rightly concerned with during conversations into dollars.

    SM isn’t just a cheaper way to do advertising, and its not a megaphone. Its a tool and can be used in all the different ways you pointed out above, depending on the barnd. Its a telephone, suggestion box, and market research. And that needs to be driven home right from the moment a company wants to engage.

    Way to be an example of a person AND and a brand (afterall i think like it or not, you are a brand of sorts) that is heavily engaged, responsive, and useful in this space.

    @ryancmiller

  • http://www.ryancmiller.com Ryan Miller

    Chris,

    Many many thanks for the followup to my question on the previous post. Really looking forward to the 2nd part of the story. I think a lot hinges on keeping the conversion folks at bay. Its incredibly tempting to just dive in and ask people to buy stuff. Its also hard to convey why you SHOULDN’T do that to a client – who is rightly concerned with during conversations into dollars.

    SM isn’t just a cheaper way to do advertising, and its not a megaphone. Its a tool and can be used in all the different ways you pointed out above, depending on the barnd. Its a telephone, suggestion box, and market research. And that needs to be driven home right from the moment a company wants to engage.

    Way to be an example of a person AND and a brand (afterall i think like it or not, you are a brand of sorts) that is heavily engaged, responsive, and useful in this space.

    @ryancmiller

  • http://www.titleist.com Liz Valicenti

    Chris: As usual a great post with comments just as interesting. I echo what Keith, Beth and Len say. I think every company or brand needs a different strategy that makes sense for them. While I believe it’s important to have a personality behind a brand, most big brands are much, much more than any one brand and unless the CEO is at the helm of their Twitter or Facebook id, you’re never going to have a true voice of the brand. Larger companies require multiple points of contact for marketing, CS, leadership, promotion to truly engage with their consumers. While I agree that you should have a top down strategy before jumping in, sometimes you need to just dive in because there are conversations about your brand taking place without you!

  • http://www.titleist.com Liz Valicenti

    Chris: As usual a great post with comments just as interesting. I echo what Keith, Beth and Len say. I think every company or brand needs a different strategy that makes sense for them. While I believe it’s important to have a personality behind a brand, most big brands are much, much more than any one brand and unless the CEO is at the helm of their Twitter or Facebook id, you’re never going to have a true voice of the brand. Larger companies require multiple points of contact for marketing, CS, leadership, promotion to truly engage with their consumers. While I agree that you should have a top down strategy before jumping in, sometimes you need to just dive in because there are conversations about your brand taking place without you!

  • Pingback: Casting Your Net and the Beauty of Fish | chrisbrogan.com

  • http://socialenchilada.com Jeremy Hilton

    Great post.

    I recently attended the Frost & Sullivan executive MindXchange, where social media, and in particular, business applications of social media were the hot topic. Almost every conversation eventually turned to the legal implications of social media. It was a concern that obviously had alot of executives nervous about venturing into the social space.

    We’ve heard alot about keeping lawyers out of the day-to-day conversations that happen, but there just isn’t alot of information on the legal ramifications of those conversations.

    Is this something that you frequently encounter in your business? What is your advice? [possible blog post?]

  • http://socialenchilada.com Jeremy Hilton

    Great post.

    I recently attended the Frost & Sullivan executive MindXchange, where social media, and in particular, business applications of social media were the hot topic. Almost every conversation eventually turned to the legal implications of social media. It was a concern that obviously had alot of executives nervous about venturing into the social space.

    We’ve heard alot about keeping lawyers out of the day-to-day conversations that happen, but there just isn’t alot of information on the legal ramifications of those conversations.

    Is this something that you frequently encounter in your business? What is your advice? [possible blog post?]

  • Pingback: links for 2009-04-21 - Ryan Markel

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Some incredible thoughts and analogies here, Chris. Great insight you're bringing back from the Big Company battlefields

  • spryka

    Thank you for writing such a thorough and rich article. I learned something new and hope to give this technique a test drive soon. Really fantastic article.

    Matt
    http://www.epostmailer.com/

  • Pingback: Today's Best - Companies in Social Media by Premier Social Media | Premier Social Media

  • http://www.fabulousphotogifts.co.uk Fabulous Photo Gifts

    Hi Chris.

    Re your phone tree analogy – in my opinion, the best person suited to the task of co-ordinating and overseeing (or writing) any social output needs a certain carte blanch – a special licence so to speak to operate 'outside the law' (by that I mean normal management structure of a company).

    If it's customer services, then the power to look into any record, offer a settlement and deliver it…. my neigbour recently had his very posh car stolen (not recovered). The insurance company were dragging over payout – kept requesting extra documentation etc. In the end he got so fed up, he tweeted that he 'was phoning the car insurer again'.

    Same day, he got a reply asking for more information which he forwarded. 2 days later he was choosing his replacement car and had it delivered that weekend.

    So someone in that company has the 'go anywhere' power to resolve issues quickly ensuring customer satisfaction.

    I'm not suggesting all social media is about responding to complaints but it will increasingly play a part and those of us who use social media as a means of publicising our companies will have to respond because there's a big audience out there now.

    That's why the person responsible in your organisation has got to have the authority to begin with.

    The other quality has got to be enthusiasm for the 'cause' (product, service, customer, topic) as real enthusiasm carries a far greater conviction than someone just 'employed' to do the job.

    Jonathan.

  • Pingback: Internet Marketing, Strategy & Technology Links - Apr 22, 2009 « Sazbean

  • http://www.netwitsthinktank.com frank barry

    Makes a lot of sense @Chris. We're sort of figuring this out where i work … well … maybe not 'figuring it out', but working on and trying to figure it out. It's exciting, but identifying those who should be involved, what our purpose/goals are, what tools we should focus on and what we should be focused on (support, sales, comm, etc…) is a never ending story. We're learning weekly.

    http://twitter.com/franswaa

  • Pingback: Get a Handle on Twitter... A Good One - Choosing a Twitter Name | michaelbertoldi.com

  • http://www.caspiaconsultancy.co.uk Pam Vick

    All excellent points to think about

  • Pingback: Social media puts your customer service level on a mile high billboard.

  • Pingback: Comment Tracking Smackdown! Disqus versus Backtype | Social Media Explorer

  • http://kuncimarketing.com/ Internet marketing

    promotional or corporate news events using bercicit.I think Public Relations or marketing department should do it

  • Pingback: Social media advertises your customer service.

  • codruta

    This post helps me put some order in my head. It's like having a lot of puzzle pieces that now I'm putting together.

    thanks

  • dcy0588136

    Wow gold Wow gold buy wow gold buy wow gold cheap wow gold cheap wow gold cheapest wow gold cheapest wow gold buying wow gold buying wow gold sell wow gold sell wow gold wow gold for sale wow gold for sale wow gold sale wow gold sale wow buy gold

    wow power leveling wow power leveling world of warcraf power leveling world of warcraf power leveling wow leveling wow leveling wow gold us wow gold us wow gold eu wow gold eu world of warcraft us world of warcraft us world of warcraft eu world of warcraft eu world of warcraft eu
    wow co key wow co key wow co key wow buy gold wow cheap gold wow cheap gold wow gold for sale wow gold for sale world of warcraft gold world of warcraft gold wow accounts wow accounts wow power leveling wow power leveling world of warcraf power leveling

    wow leveling world of warcraf power leveling wow leveling wow leveling wow co key wow co key wow accounts wow accounts cheap wow power leveling cheap wow power leveling buy wow power leveling buy wow power leveling buy wow power leveling

  • dcy0588136

    Wow gold Wow gold buy wow gold buy wow gold cheap wow gold cheap wow gold cheapest wow gold cheapest wow gold buying wow gold buying wow gold sell wow gold sell wow gold wow gold for sale wow gold for sale wow gold sale wow gold sale wow buy gold

    wow power leveling wow power leveling world of warcraf power leveling world of warcraf power leveling wow leveling wow leveling wow gold us wow gold us wow gold eu wow gold eu world of warcraft us world of warcraft us world of warcraft eu world of warcraft eu world of warcraft eu
    wow co key wow co key wow co key wow buy gold wow cheap gold wow cheap gold wow gold for sale wow gold for sale world of warcraft gold world of warcraft gold wow accounts wow accounts wow power leveling wow power leveling world of warcraf power leveling

    wow leveling world of warcraf power leveling wow leveling wow leveling wow co key wow co key wow accounts wow accounts cheap wow power leveling cheap wow power leveling buy wow power leveling buy wow power leveling buy wow power leveling