The foundational components of any effective Social Media strategy are authenticity and transparency, especially if blogging and microblogging are part of that strategy. But what if a company doesn't have the the internal resources or talents to execute that strategy?
The power of a blog comes from the personal brand that is being built by the author, and the benefit a corporate brand derives by having that blog on its site. A ghost-written blog is not a blog... it's PR and needs to be renamed as such and moved to the appropriate area of the site.
Our company has been the online services partner for one of our area's most visible brands for nearly a decade and a half. While they know their brand better than anyone else, we know their brand in the online space better than they do. If they could afford to pay me enough to leave the company I own and be on their payroll, I'm probably the most qualified person in the universe to BE them in the Social Media sphere. They can't. And so for blogging, we have told them that unless it's actually the corporate face of the brand who's doing the blogging, they really shouldn't do it. And so we use an integrated installation of Wordpress on their site to post their press releases, giving them the RSS benefits of blog, but clearly labeling it as "The News" and not a blog.
However, as an already popular location on Foursquare, not being on Twitter isn't an option for them. That puts me in a weird position. Having developed their Social Media strategy, voice, rules and roles, and needing to accommodate their lack of time and internal resources, we decided to make Twitter a co-effort. Initially, I posted each Tweet, but only after their review and sign off. It was a clumsy process with some of them taking several back and forth edits prior to posting. However, that process has resulted in an even better understanding for us, and an educational process for them. The eventual goal is for them to actually be doing all the Tweeting, and we'll just continue to monitor for brand mentions and let them know when they need to respond to something. But for now, most of the Tweets are still coming from me without their review, although they are now also occasionally Tweeting themselves, and doing a good job when they do.
If we decide to have a Tweetup, or some other type of Social Media-based event there, I would be there, along with the other two folks there who are part the process. So everyone would actually meet the people they've been following, and in some cases engaging with. I don't think that will be a problem for any of them if they'd find out that one of the three is not an actual employee, but instead a "contract individual." If we don't even disclose that, it may be regarded as a violation of the authenticity and transparency that Social Media requires. But the alternative is a brand eroding silence in the Twitter-sphere.
It's a tough decision that many are faced with: outsource or not participate. But because not participating is not an option, this creative approach may be the only solution available.
Tom Snyder is Founder, President and CEO of Trivera Interactive, a Midwest New Media firm. Tom is a Web guy, wine snob, music junkie, Ex-Milwaukee Radio Guy, HDTV expert, and political wonk.