Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Can you Tweet with your Hands Tied Behind your Back?

I met with a client last week to look at their networking strategy. They were particularly interested in how online networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, could benefit their business.

As we looked into opportunities open to them, it became clear that they were well set up to use online networks very effectively to engage with their customer base, make key connections, boost their profile and reputation and to drive traffic to their website. They also had the advantage of a member of their team who is a very talented writer and a freelance journalist in his spare time.

One key strategy I recommended was for this member of staff to start a blog about their industry and share some interesting, challenging, funny and possibly the odd controversial story. They could then use Twitter and other sites to signpost the blogs and, assuming the copy was engaging enough, spread the word.

A major obstacle then became clear. The UK/European office of this company has its hands tied by their head office in Australia. There is already a company Twitter account, but if they want to add to it, they have to send the tweet to Australia first for approval. This loses any advantage of spontaneity and engagement that Twitter offers.

Any other blogging or social networking is also restricted by Head Office, who are more concerned with protecting the company brand than the advantages offered by new media.

I do not wish to dismiss the importance of a company's brand and the threat posed by social media. However too many companies are focused more on the control of such media than on the opportunities they offer the business. Those that have taken a risk have, on the whole succeeded.

With the media coverage of Twitter recently, more companies are creating their own Twitter Feed. While brands that automatically have a following may benefit from this, others lose the point. With a few exceptions (such as news feeds) people want to follow people on Twitter. They will warm to and engage with an individual sharing their thoughts, actions and responses more than they will with the one-way broadcasting approach taken by companies.

Why not allow more than one employee to each have their own Twitter account? It shouldn't be difficult to set ground rules to protect the company from damaging behaviour. In the meantime, potential customers are more likely to build brand loyalty from the relationships they build with those individual employees.

Control over social networking hampers their effectiveness and perhaps it is time for companies to trust their employees rather than control them.

No comments:

Post a Comment