A couple of years ago Ann Handley, the Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs, snagged the @MarketingProfs name on Twitter and started making fabulous use of the site to connect with and engage MP’s members. Everyone knew that if they had a question or issue with MP, that Ann was the person they could reach out to.
Since that time, several people on MP’s staff have followed Ann’s lead and joined Twitter. I would guess the virtual company has at least a dozen employees using Twitter every day to connect with its members, and they are a fabulous case study for leveraging Twitter as a channel to connect with customers.
But let’s play ‘What If’ for a moment. What if a year or two, when Ann was really starting to develop a following on Twitter and as becoming the ‘face’ of Marketing Profs on Twitter, what if she had left the company? She would not only be leaving MP, but she would be taking MP’s presence on Twitter with her. Suddenly Marketing Profs would have lost a channel that was becoming a valuable way for them to connect with customers.
Here’s another scenario: Let’s say your company over the last year has been outsourcing all of your social media efforts to an agency, or a strategist, and that person has become the online ‘face’ for your company on social sites. What if that person is suddenly hired by a larger company, or if that agency suddenly folds? Suddenly, your entire social media presence will disappear.
Now I understand that many companies are in both of these positions. You may have one person that really ‘gets’ social media, that volunteered to dip their toes in the SM waters for the company, and now 6 months later has really created a strong social media presence for your company. Or maybe you decided months ago that you definitely DID want to use social media, but just didn’t have the resources, and needed to outsource your efforts.
But even if your company is in these positions, you can’t completely isolate yourself and your employees from what is happening with social media. If only one person can handle your social media efforts fine, but if nothing else, have them give you a weekly/monthly report/training session on how they are using social media. If you are outsourcing your social media efforts, make sure that the consultant or agency handling your efforts keeps you as involved as possible in what they are doing. For example I offer outsourcing to clients, but we do it on a tiered basis, meaning I handle almost everything at the start of the project, we are splitting the work by the middle, then by the end they are handling almost all the content creation, and are ready to take over for themselves. But even at the start of the process when I am handling everything, the client is kept aware of everything I am doing, so they know what’s happening.
The bottom line is that if you put 100% of your social media efforts in the hands of one person or an outside group, if that person/group leaves, you are screwed. If nothing else, when the social media efforts from that one employee starts to bear fruit, start having that employee train other employees on how to use social media. Ann was smart enough to tell the MP staff that she was really starting to get some traction with @MarketingProfs on Twitter, and Marketing Profs was smart enough to listen, and now the company has a vibrant network of employees on Twitter, instead of just Ann.
So don’t put all your social media eggs in one person’s basket!
Pic via Flickr user andy_carter
olivier blanchard says
😀 You must have been listening to the conversation Keith Burtis and I about SM Continuity Planning yesterday. Very timely and a HUGELY important topic no one seems to have really spent a lot of time on yet. (Surprisingly.) Not preparing for this is going to turn into a huge headache for a number of companies pretty soon. (People change jobs. It’s inevitable.)
We’ll be devoting part of next week’s #mittpodcast to that very topic, if you’re interested.
Mack Collier says
Yep and companies are FINALLY starting to invest budgets into social media and are starting to pay decent salaries. And obviously the people that do well are the ones that get snapped up the quickest 😉
And please come back and add a link to #mittpodcast when you get one!
Keith Burtis says
Mack, this is a timely topic now. Much of what Olivier and I talk about on the podcast is to think about what’s next! Seems many individuals and companies jumped headlong into the space without much planning. As they say, Fail to Plan and and Plan to Fail.
Some companies have even embraced the rogue social media operative and have given them pats on the back however I don’t think the importance is making it up to the C-Suite in many cases. For many companies the internet as whole has always been a bit of an afterthought. It WILL be interesting to see the weight they apply to these channels moving forward. Opportunity is abound for sure!
Thank you for letting us share the podcast here.
The title of the show is ‘More Ideas than Time’ and links are:
http://bit.ly/6A0lSM and http://bit.ly/6A0lSM.
iTunes Subscribers can do so here: http://bit.ly/75vrKD
Agin, very kind of you to offer us the ability to post the links here. We don’t normally like to do that. Keep up the great work as always.
Don Lafferty says
The scenario you describe is a little more immediate, but not much different, than a key producer from a company’s sales organization taking his book – and relationships – across the street to a competitor.
I guess what I mean is, overworked, understaffed – oops, I mean LEAN, organizations are just plain lousy at engaging their key customers, much less their general market segment in a multi-tiered fashion across all levels of management.
I could go on and on about corporate organizational dysfunction, Mack, but the truth is, only the very best organizations will foresee this and implement strategies and tactics from day one which require broad-based, multi-level engagement in the social web by every level of their face to the market.
Mack Collier says
Yes I agree, but I think most companies have a ‘don’t rock the boat’ mentality. If Tim has started a Facebook fan page and it seems to be working, then leave him alone and let him do it is what most companies think. But if Tim leaves tomorrow, suddenly those customers that were engaging with Tim on behalf of his former employer, are going to expect that former employer to keep engaging them, even though they will likely have no idea how to do that.
Don Lafferty says
I think we’re in agreement, Mack, although that ‘don’t rock the boat’ mentality your refer to is more likely ‘I can’t see past my own nose’ or “I wish I could clone myself”.
Most of the executives I work with have no problem rocking the boat when it serves their needs. They do it for all manner of reasons, some good, some not-so-good, but usually when there’s a systemic organizational failing like the one you’re describing, it’s a case of incompetence or a lack of resources.
Like I said, we’re in agreement, but unless a company has the policies in place to maintain a robust organization, and the resources to maintain it, failures like this will continue in all aspects of companies’ relationship-based face to the market.
Alana Joy says
You raise a good point here, however I’m not sure I agree. When you are hired to build a social media presence for a company or brand, you don’t actually get to take that with you when you leave. That’s like saying if an advertising company is hired to run a campaign for a brand… let’s say Coke-A-Cola… the consumer has *seen* that advertisement, it has made an impression on them about the brand. If for the next round of advertising another company is used, the prior company isn’t “taking with them” the progress made with the consumer. The same goes for a Twitter presence. Though “you” may be the voice, the face… the things you are saying and doing is making an impact daily on what the consumer thinks and feels about the brand and that isn’t something you can take with you. If you did good work, that will remain. The next person who takes over is then responsible for maintaining and advancing what you accomplished.
Further, companies should require their Community Managers to sign an agreement stating that all accounts regarding their company/brand belong to the company/brand and that they retain the account regardless of the CM’s employment status with the brand.
The consumer isn’t building a relationship with the individual. They are building a relationship with the brand via the individual. If this is not the case, your Community Manager is doing it wrong.
Just some thoughts! Excellent post!
Mack Collier says
Hey Alana, I wasn’t talking about an employee literally taking the Twitter account with them when they leave a company, but rather the connections made with customers. If the customers are used to connecting with a company via Jason, and Jason leaves tomorrow, that company will still be expected by those customers to maintain those connections.
Which means that company will suddenly be left in a lurch if Jason leaves, and no one else has any idea what he was doing. The customers are still going to expect that company to connect with them, even if they are no longer in a position to do so.
Alana Joy says
Yes, I think I addressed this in some follow up comments below!
Thanks for a great post!
Sean Scogin says
I couldn’t agree more with this post. I think many companies haven’t even gotten that far, and aren’t really thinking about it because they’re not taking it seriously enough.
I think once companies begin to understand where social media fits in their marketing strategy, they’ll begin to devote some real resources to it.
Until then, as social media strategists, it is our responsibility to build and install processes that allow for others to help manage and eventually take responsibility over the social media strategy, if “we get hit by a bus”, as my coworker so affectionately calls it.
I know this is counter-intuitive for freelancers and “gurus” that make their living managing other companies social media strategies, as it seems that you are “giving away all your secrets”, but in the long run it builds trust and goodwill with the client, which is more valuable to the freelancer than holding a Twitter account hostage.
Mack Collier says
Bingo Sean, great points. And I agree, as consultants and strategists, if we do our jobs and as I call ‘work myself out of a job’, then we’ll be fine.
John Heaney says
Yet another reason why I tell clients to create hybrid corporate/personal social media personas along with social media policies that clearly state that the company owns those identities, not the employee. The value that individual builds is done on company time, for the company and should be viewed and treated as you would any other company asset.
It’s also important to know that you should NEVER let one of your employees create your company’s Facebook fan page through their own account or they will always have administrative access to that page. You should create a fictional persona on Facebook then create your company fan page through that persona and issue access to whatever employees you like.
This is your brand. Protect it.
Mack Collier says
John that is a GREAT point/reminder about not letting your employee create a FB page for your company since they would then have admin access to it.
Catherine Savage says
Creating a fictional persona on Facebook is against their TOS. Better answer: no single person should have sole admin rights to the agency Facebook presence. And when a person leaves, their replacement/colleague/supervisor needs to revoke their admin rights to the company’s page.
Jamie Favreau says
You bring up very good points. I heard a really great presentation by Chris Barger (@cbarger) at Social Media Club Detroit. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/2588494 here is where he demonstrates the value of the team and using that approach. You do bring up valid points. You need to train people and have more than one person on the team. Everyone needs to have a plan B.
David Wells says
Awesome Post mack!
Really good food for thought for companies out there putting their efforts into one persons hands. I think it applies to every part of business but especially with sales and the marketing/social side of things.
Jamie, Thanks for this video! Really great stuff in there on building a SM team and the process behind it.
Adam Covati says
Great post, I agree with you that the most important part is making sure the company knows what they are doing in social media – you don’t want a gap when the person leaves… or worse, complete cessation of presence.
Alana, I think you missed the point here, you argument is valid, but we are talking at more strategic level. Yes, we want to ensure that the company owns the name – this isn’t any different than servers, office space, or other resources – that’s a no brainer.
What is more important is that the company knows what is currently being done with their resources and has some idea of how to continue utilizing them properly once the current custodian leaves.
Alana Joy says
Just last night I was at Startups Uncensored #13 here in Los Angeles, and at the mixer afterwards I spoke with numerous individuals/founders who expressed quite frankly: that they don’t *want* to learn how: they want to hire someone who *knows* how. As founders they have 3895403859034 other things to do and be responsible for. If they didn’t already grasp the importance of what a Social Media presence can do for them they wouldn’t be looking for someone to fill that kind of position in the first place.
It is my responsibility as the person they have entrusted with that role, to consistently report to them my results and methods in a concise way they can understand. It’s my responsibility to chart results and to somehow show how what I am doing is bringing them a ROI (or how it will, in the long haul).
So what would they do if they hired me, I did great work, and then I left the company for whatever reason? Take over the Twitter themselves? Likely not. They would find another me ( good luck with that 😉 ) to pick up where I left off. You’re right in saying there shouldn’t be “gaps” in time or a drop off in presence. However that is true for *any* position of value. A professional gives appropriate notice and a replacement is found in time, ideally.
Unless I am hired specifically for coaching (which I do offer), I don’t coach. That doesn’t mean I am secretive about what I do. I explain what I’ve done and I show results. Does a sales person teach their employer how they sell? Does an attorney teach their clients how to say, file a lawsuit? Or do they just perform and explain their process?
Mack Collier says
Alana I agree that some companies simply have no interest in doing the work themselves, even when they understand that it will be more costly to let someone else handle it. It happens. As you say companies outsource their advertising and other business functions, so they don’t see social media as being any different.
But I think the difference lies in the fact that social media involves more direct engagement and interaction with customers. And that leads to connections and relationships. When you start talking personal connections, those are difficult to replicate, and harder to fix when broken. If one person is the social media face for a company and that person leaves, those customers aren’t going to be mad at the person for leaving, they will be mad at the company for not having that Plan B in place.
Which means the company’s image and brand equity takes a hit. And while I prefer to provide coaching and training when I outsource, I will agree that the company should be asking you for that training.
Alana Joy says
More so than a lack of interest on the part of the company, I’ve always found that it’s best to know what you are expert at: and to know what you are NOT expert at. Odds are, a founders area of expertise lies elsewhere. It is beneficial for a company or brand to hire someone who is an expert in their field. Especially for a role like this! The individual they hire needs to have a complex insight as to just how quite literally everything they say is a part of how the brand is being marketed in an infinite context like the internet. It behooves them to hire an expert in this niche. Even if their interest is there.
A bit OT, but an annoying trend I’ve seen is companies looking for “social media interns”. They don’t understand that you do in fact get what you pay for and cutting corners by having an intern “do the Twitter thing” can do severe damage to their brand. It’s impossible to unring a bell, and it can be very challenging for a brand to undo the mistakes of a wet-behind-the-ears intern.
Something that comes to mind regarding the image or brand equity taking a hit is… Many brands have a spokesperson. Most of the time, this person is not there for life. For example, Carls Jr. is currently using Kim Kardashian in their ads. A couple of months ago, it was whats-her-face the brunette from The Hills. I don’t think Carls Jr. took a hit changing things up.
If a SMM is doing their job correctly… and they have good ethics… they will be sure to assist in whatever ways they can in a smooth transition when leaving the position.
Reputation is everything, after all.
Rob Ungar says
This is on the right path to something I’ve been trying to iterate at my agency and something I’ve written about (http://robungar.com/blog/2009/11/5/yer-doin-it-right-kodak.html)
I think the best path forward is to educate your clients, whether you’re a consultant or an agency. You need to train them to be able to take over the reins when you leave. They can’t be dependent on you for a number of reasons: One, if you leave they’re screwed, and Two, it’s extremely difficult to be a champion of a company you don’t work for. Participating in social media can be challenging enough to do for one person/brand, let alone multiple. You need that passion and that always-on drive to succeed. That’s very hard to sustain if you don’t directly work for a company and know all of its ins-and-outs.
An agency or consultant can get you up and running but they can’t do it for you. You can’t outsource ‘real.’ It just won’t have that authenticity and true connection that people are looking for. Consultants and agencies should look to be teachers of how to use the tools, best practices, sounding boards for ideas, and experts on what’s going on in the landscape and identifying trends. I don’t know how any ethical agency or consultant could think they will do a better job at running a client’s program better than the client could themselves if they properly educate them.
@AlanaJoy, I think Mack is making the point that if you don’t educate and train the people who actually work at the company, the company is going to be in trouble with their social media activities when you leave. Yes, you will leave a good perception of the brand if you’ve done a good job. But the next person who takes over those responsibilities has to know what they’re doing before you leave otherwise they’re not going to be able to handle it when you do. Ideally, you’re making cultural changes to how the company views engagement and communication, therefore making it easy for anyone in the company to step up as necessary.
Alana Joy says
To clarify, there’s a difference between consulting for a company and being the person who is the community manager or similar role for the company. From what I gathered from the post itself… the example given was someone who did in fact work for the company… and the idea was: what happens if this person leaves?
Please correct me if I misunderstood.
Rob Ungar says
I think Mack cites both situations as examples and they can certainly be different. But his summary seems to suggest that the moral of the story is not to rely solely on one person, whether they’re an outside partner or an internal employee. At some point, a company that’s using social media risks losing the person or persons who are in charge of that, as they do with any position. There need to be safeguards in place to address what happens when that situation arises. By spreading the knowledge firm-wide, you help ensure that you can still be active in those arenas when it happens.
I enjoyed your tumblr bio btw! 🙂
Alana Joy says
I think these are definitely points that a company should take into consideration as far as their overall strategy. It’s something they should think about before they hire someone really. Though to be frank, I’m not sure it’s something I would feel inspired to personally remind them of…
And thank you! I thought it was cute…
Mack Collier says
Alana you’re right, I was trying to touch on both examples in my post.
The latter example is if Company A hires you to manage all of their social media efforts, and you get an Offer You Can’t Refuse from Company B, suddenly Company A is left scrambling. And if you are as smart as you sound, Company A is REALLY going to be screwed in trying to find a suitable replacement 😉
Alana Joy says
Thank you for the compliment!
From your mouth to their ears…
Rob Ungar says
Sorry for the double post, but accidentally dropped my email in the website form!
Davina K. Brewer says
It’s the Catch-22 of social media. Social media is supposed to be personal, about real people connecting and engaging about brands, not faceless companies talking “at” people. So when a person becomes the face of the brand, there is risk involved with people connecting with the person, not the brand they represent.
Scott Monty is a name I see mentioned along those lines, and others have blogged for the need of a social media exit strategy. You can’t put all the SM eggs in one basket, or one person’s hands and you need a plan for how to carry on when they leave. FWIW.
Mack Collier says
Davina you bring up an interesting twist to this, if someone is LITERALLY using their face as the face of the company on social sites. It’s like customers would come to identify that person with the company itself.
In Ford’s case, Scott has of course done a great job for them, but Ford was smart enough to bring Scott in, and give him a team to run. So that way Scott isn’t doing all the work, but is instead managing all the work. This way, Ford has a TEAM in place, not an individual. They are smart enough to bring in a smart person to handle their social media efforts, and they are letting him bring the other areas of their company up to speed.
Mary Deming Barber says
What a timely topic and one I think we’ll be hearing more about this year. A lot of the tools are now and organizations have been in such a rush to “join” there hasn’t always been an understanding of the rules.
Even tactical issues such as ownership of Facebook fan pages are going to become critical to groups as the original employee leaves. I believe it’s all really part of the “growing pains” for our industry and how the obstacles are handled may determine each organization’s next exploration into social media.
Looking forward to more conversations and hurdles.
Marc Meyer says
Mack, I’m actually going through this now where I’m cleaning up the mess left behind by the previous person for a client. I’m stuck with hoping management can track down user names and profiles for all the top tiered social sites for that brand name. It’s also akin to someone domain squatting on the brand name.
Lets not forget about the opposite where you do great work, hand it off to the client and watch as they completely ruin it. Thats always fun too.
Lastly I strongly suggest as Mack does creating phased or tiered approaches. I’m here to educate and groom the client as much as anything. we want them to take ownership.
Rob Ungar says
I think you’re on the same wavelength as I am. I think the responsible, ethical, and most likely successful way to do this whole social media thing is to get the client to be comfortable enough to do it on their own and to take ownership. I don’t want to make clients completely dependent on me to do all of their work for them so I can suck them dry each month. I want to be able to empower them to do it on their own so that they can be successful long-term. A phased or tiered approach allows you to get them going, get comfortable, and set them free.
Mack Collier says
Marc it’s kinda like paying an ‘Ignorance Tax’, isn’t it? It’s like ‘I don’t know what he’s doing and don’t want to know, as long as he’s doing it and not me’. Well that works as long as ‘he’ is still around to do it.
Would seem to me that if your twitter handle is a business name, it is owned by that business. You dont keep your email address when you leave.
Tho I don’t know of anything litigated yet, I think the courts would find as they did with URLs.
Cathy Dunham says
Hmmmm, quite the conundrum presented here. On one hand, we are creating a branded presence for our employers, attracting interested individuals who may or may not partake of company’s services, but who are interested enough to subscribe, befriend, or follow). On the other hand (if we’re doing this right), we’ve humanized the social presence with our personality, opinions, communication style, and shared resources.
As all things change over time, plan some options into your “crisis plan” when you build your social media strategy:
WHEN POSTING SOCIALLY FOR YOUR OWN COMPANY
As “mentioned above”, have at least one or more co-workers listening actively to your profiles. You can document your strategies, tools, etc and review tactics with them. But, as many of us are already squeezing in time each day (often on personal time) to connect and collaborate regularly with our social communities, long-term handholding with our colleagues probably isn’t going to be anyone’s cup of tea. If co-workers are motivated enough to follow you, they’re going to have a fairly healthy understanding of the company’s customer base and how those relationships were built and maintained. At some point, encourage your co-workers to offer suggestions or to log on and get involved, buildilng their own relationships. Then any necessary transition will be more fluid…
Some profiles (like many out there, mine included) are directly associated with an employee’s name and face, and are filled with their expertise and personality. Finding a replicate personality, level of experience, and communication style would be astounding. So, why not set up a “pseudo-site” with the company’s branding; then customers can choose to follow one or both sites? If the “social” employee leaves, each party can still retain a presence within that social channel and the members within the social community now have TWO valued resources: one is an individual and the other is an open communication channel to a business entity. Just an extension of being “transparent” within social media.
Mack’s article was great for calling our attention to this quasi-proprietary issue. Let’s be proactive and have a plan in place. It might be interesting to see if there are any newsworthy social media separation anxieities that occur in the future.
Web Marketing and SEO/Social Media Strategist
K-Kom Marketing (www.kkominc.com)
Mack Collier says
Good thoughts Cathy. I think that’s the main point, that at the bare minimum, the company needs to have a small team that are at least AWARE of what that one person is doing with social media. So if that person leaves, they won’t be totally in the dark.
Obviously, making it a true team effort is best with multiple employees actively connecting with customers, but I think this scenario is better than nothing.
Cathy Dunham says
Egads! I meant to include that the individual’s posts would be duplicated or auto fed into the “company’s pseudo social profile”.
Sorry ‘about that.
Ari Herzog says
Kudos, Mack! As other commenters wrote, you’re on target.
But unless I missed something in the comments, there’s another angle missing: Suppose Ann did not create that @MarketingProfs account but was hired to do the tweeting. Over time, she gets promoted and Sally takes over the tweeting. Then, Jim joins the fray. From a reader perspective, wouldn’t one notice the change in style and tone? What would such a change mean to the reader?
This is why I like the tack by Comcast and Walmart, for instance, two companies I review at http://ariwriter.com/case-study-of-4-companies-on-twitter/ — both of those firms don’t use Twitter feeds in the name of their brand but have feeds in the names of their employees, e.g. @ComcastBonnie and @WalmartKelly. I like how this works, for if new employees come in, new accounts are created; if Bonnie leaves, @ComastBonnie leaves too and nobody loses anything for other Comcast employees remain. Whereas, @MarketingProfs is just one.
Something to think about.
.-= Ari Herzog´s last blog ..Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion: How Credit Reporting Agencies Use Social Media =-.
Leslie Linevsky says
This is always a concern of ours, and part of the conversation as we determine which social media vehicles, and which authors/staff, support our marketing agenda. It is important to keep our social media communication professional & personal – and personable – while being consistent with messaging.
Jerry Bowles says
The reality is that if Ann Handley was working for MarketingProfs at the time she started her Twitter account and was tweeting about the company’s business, the company almost certainly owns the account from a legal perspective. More important than that, however, is Ann’s knowledge of her followers and her ability to connect with them in a way that benefits the business. Marketing to and through the larger social networks is the single most important factor in growing traffic and membership in boutique online communities. Different people managing the same SNS accounts will get significantly different results. Some people are simply better at it than others and the numbers will reflect that.
.-= Jerry Bowles´s last blog ..Muzzling the Muffin Maker: It’s Not Just the Coke Formula That’s Secret … =-.
Jasmin Tragas says
Very good points raised here Mack and I agree that organizations need to think strategically about such things.
Of course, employees can also advocate your business and continue the conversation AFTER they leave your company. If they have felt valued and they appreciated working with you, the brand recognition can continue through alumni programs, continuing the conversation on Twitter through established relationships and the like 🙂 But as you say, leaving it in the hands of just one person to begin with is foolish.
.-= Jasmin Tragas´s last blog ..5 Ways to Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve Without Throwing Your Avatar in my Face =-.
Eric Brown says
To the point that a couple of commenters have made, this is no different than a sales manager leaving with your Rolodex. At our company, our folks are required to tweet and use twitter, but their twitter name includes our name, everyone is @Eric_Urbane as an example.
But moreover, most of the time the overall value of an employee and their alleged following is overrated. Most businesses aren’t all that impacted when folks leave, even though all of us who have once left want to think so.
I am not downplaying the importance of people or talent in an organization, just pointing out that we are all replaceable.
.-= Eric Brown´s last blog ..Yelp Ratings Virtually Showing Up on Your Door =-.
this is funny that you talk about this issue. about 5 weeks ago, I was discussing the issue with Keith Burtis and Thebrandbuilder.
that has been a discussion that I have tried pushing, because as we all build our on brand outsite/inside the corporation, social media will have to be build on solid strategy, including, think what if your star leaves. For example, LisaG from Express does a great job but if she moves on, does she leave with her followers and equity built on the brand?
vince jelenic says
Mack and everyone here has raised great point, about ownership, migration, handing off, and substitution plans.
As a long time sysadmin, the companies I worked for (either as employee or contractor) were always handed the logins, passwords, registrations and any special access points that I was privy to. It was part of the job == the eventual handover for when I left. When I left my employer, it was all neat and tidy. Transition to new staff was built into the contract, or a shared “gentleman’s” agreement as part of emplyment. (should have been written in, tho)
Not because the employer demanded it — It was an integral part of how I saw my job.
The same should apply today to ANY action taken by an employee (or contractor) today with SM.
First step any company should take is to lock down ownership of their “presence” online.
That alleviates the issues of access.
Insofar as presence or the “real” character of the social media presence, I think, as Eric Brown said, “we are all replaceable”.
To facilitate that, perhaps companies should look to “backup mechanisms” put in place so they can ensure they have a full transcript of online activity for future. IN the future replacing a social media “face” could be as simple as spending a few days analyzing past conversations, and then looking to hire a “clone” (or close 🙂
Basically, if you know what Ann’s up to , and which characteristics are most valued by your followers/readers/customers, just find another Ann. Whether you are doing that in house, or hiring out, matters little, so far as you maintain ownership and records.
Funny thing is…. I don’t see the issue with Social Media any different than that of so many businesses in the past who were left locked out of their websites, ftp accounts, email systems due to lack of totally forseeable circumstances. This should be old school knowledge by now. The fact that many companies do not yet explicitly write such requirements into employment contracts is a source of wonder for me.
The other day, I spoke at length with a Real Estate agent about the growing SM field and how his office could benefit. We walked through all the features, and benefits. Demonstrated value derived from sites we run in real $$ sales and leads, and developed a simple plan to expand their presence. All would be great — then it had to be developed on a NING (the best software currently available for the concept), and he asked “do I own it”. — answer is NO, it’s a “software as a service”. You could hear the silence in the room. Smart biz., just sayin.
Elja Daae says
Great article, Mack, this is definitely a problem companies will face more and more. I am trying to help out a small business with this exact problem. Employee created Facebook page, did a really good job, left, and we’re now unable to get a reaction from this person. Can’t change admin rights, can’t post to wall, can’t do anything. Can’t claim the name again…big problem!
David Griner says
Mack, sorry to jump in a little late on the conversation here. But this is a topic near and dear to my heart, so I wanted to get my thoughts in writing while you’ve got the pistons firing.
I worry less about the dangers of a one-person social media maven leaving an organization than I do about something bad happening to that person (accident, etc.) so that there’s no chance of transition.
If any company is even dabbling in social media, I’d ask them this: Does your IT department have all your company-related account logins and passwords? Do you have failsafes for who will post content or respond to customers if the primary person is out of pocket?
It’s perhaps a grim view, but it can be a good way to make organizations face how much they currently take for granted about their social media liaison.
In summary, any organization should ask themselves this:
1. Does our IT department have all our social media accounts and passwords?
2. Is our primary blog copyrighted and branded to our organization? Or is it a personal-yet-work-related blog that would likely transition with the author?
3. In the event we lost our social media talent, who would take ownership of branded accounts? Is this reflected in our written policies?
Thanks again for raising this topic, Mack. A great question at a pertinent time.
.-= David Griner´s last blog ..Day 23: Switch to Firefox or Chrome. =-.
Puja Madan says
Thanks for writing this post Mark, I definitely think the long term, sustainable angle to social media efforts needs to be taken into account by companies before they jump in. I liked the idea to have systematic reporting of the efforts undertaken by the social media manager/team/agency. My own approach is shifting towards training/empowering companies with the tools, techniques and understanding of social media to take it on themselves in the long run with my role being more of a facilitator at the start…
Great post. You and I have been on the same mental path recently. See my recent post on the 18th of this month titled “Crap. We’re Screwed.” (I even referenced one of your earlier posts in it!) http://451heat.com/2010/01/18/crap-we%e2%80%99re-screwed/
Alex Work says
We just (luckily, I am thinking after reading this) went through a relatively painless transition from one promotional manager to another. The former had the good sense (and good tact) to provide us with account information for the social media accounts far before he left. His departure had us write up guidelines for record keeping of such information.