How to Choose the Owner of Your Organization’s Social Media Marketing Voice

By Shiv Singh, Stephanie Diamond

There’s no question that you need a social media marketing voice for the social web. It is instrumental to forging relationships with prospects, customers, and expert, positional, and referential influencers in addition to the industry at large. Make sure you know the difference between your SMM voice and your brand voice

It’s no use participating if you do so in a manner that’s in conflict with the fundamental ethos of the social web. You invariably do more damage to your brand than you may realize. Remember that whatever mistake you make in the social web gets quickly amplified, so set your objectives carefully, recognize how different your SMM voice is from your brand, and choose the right people to play the roles.

If you’re a small company, either the CEO (chief executive officer) or the CMO (chief marketing officer) should always be your SMM voice or at least one of your SMM voices.

Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, has his own presence on Twitter (with more than 1.3 million followers) and represents himself and his company. The airline Virgin America (which is part of the Virgin Group) also has its own Twitter presence that is used to interact with passengers, share special offers, and announce travel advisories. With more than 250,000 followers, arguably the Twitter activity makes a difference.

In the case of Marriot Hotels, its company blog “Marriot on the Move” is written from the firsthand perspective of its CEO, Bill Marriot. His posts are a mix of business success tips, information, celebrations of how Marriot is doing, and stories from his personal life.

CEO

A CEO can be an SMM voice. He’s representative of the brand but is recognized and noticed as an individual personality with independent opinions that happen to drive the business’s direction. This person is best used as an SMM voice providing industry and company insights. After all, he has the credibility and experience to do so.

In many cases, you can use the CEO SMM voice to forge deeper relationships with customers as well. The CEO of Forrester, George Colony, is actively blogging, and you can tell that it’s really him. The CEO participating in the social web and sharing his insights has done an immeasurable amount for the Forrester brand.

If your CEO does not have time to truly commit to the online community, whether Twitter or a blog, do not ask him to. It is better that he have no presence than an abandoned one.

Never let your CEO, or for that matter any employee, comment about your company on discussion forums anonymously. The CEO of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey, was caught commenting on an investor forum about his competitors. He got into trouble for trying to influence the stock price of his competitors.

CMO

Along with the CEO, another good person to play the SMM voice for the company is the CMO (chief marketing officer). Often, she is closest to customers along with the actual retail outlet employees, talking to them most often, hearing their complaints, and feeding insights from them into new product development. The CMO, as a result, is also a natural choice to be the SMM voice.

CMOs are typically useful for providing industry and company insights, building awareness for products and services, forging deeper relationships with customers, and in some cases sharing special discount and promotional information.

Recently, Target faced a major reputational crisis when a letter from a disgruntled employee to the Target leadership leaked out. The CMO, Jeff Jones took it upon himself to issue a public response via the Target blog and a LinkedIn post. Jones responded in his own voice, in a deeply authentic and transparent manner for which he won personal praise and helped redeem Target’s reputation, too.

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Social media lead

The social media lead is becoming a more common role within many large organizations. This person coordinates all social media activities across the company between all the different departments and to customers as well. She is of course the most natural choice to be an SMM voice or one of the key SMM voices.

This person knows the social web well, often has independent credibility within it, and understands how to strike the right balance between representing the brand and speaking authentically as an individual.

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PR manager

The PR manager typically manages relationships with the mainstream press. Arguably, managing mainstream press relationships and being a brand voice can and does conflict with the SMM voice, but that doesn’t mean that an enterprising PR manager can’t play the role of the SMM voice. He may need to choose to take on the responsibility at the cost of being the brand voice to do this authentically, however.

Agency

At the outset, having an SMM voice outside your company may seem inauthentic, but as long as the agency representative is transparent about it and is only building awareness for your product and sharing discount information, it’s not a problem. Sometimes the agency can monitor conversations and provide recommendations on how and where to participate.

But the actual participation with the objectives of deepening customer relationships, addressing customer complaints, and providing industry and customer insights must be conducted by someone within your business. The agency can also be used to help with training the internal representatives, monitoring conversations, creating reports for senior management, and providing strategy and insight.

Other external voices

Outside your agency, spokespeople for your company can serve as SMM voices. For example, if your company uses a celebrity or a series of celebrities to promote products and services, they too can serve as SMM voices. These celebrities can engage with your customers and build enthusiasm for your products and services.

Keep in mind that they may not be as loyal to your brand as you may like them to be. They could be representing other brands as well as your own.