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At What Price Social Media?


I noticed the other day en ex-colleague is now on Twitter.  The interesting part about it: For a number of reasons I’m certain this individual is not sending their own Tweets, but instead tasking interns and/or PR vendors to do it.    

Is that ok?

On one hand, it’s the company/brand that’s trying to gain followers, not the individual – although the account is under the individual’s name.  On the other hand, it’s not disclosed that the conversations/ information could be from others within the organization, thus nullifying the experience.

Putting a dog in the fight

As a Social Media strategy becomes the norm in corporate mandates, how best can a bootstrapped company manage the effort?  Certainly, you want an individual who is passionate about, and knowledgeable of, the company’s core competencies to be the “face”.  As such, IMHO you don’t place that much power in the hands of a green, business newbie intern.  How can an intern represent a company in the conversation if they aren’t empowered to respond, nor can they do so properly?  Or worse, what if the intern doesn’t engage, but simply posts, breaking the most basic rule of listening.  I don’t cook, but that seems like a recipe for failure.

Does reality change loyalty?

How would you react if you “discovered” the presence of a faker?  Would you feel betrayed?  Would the trust be broken?  Would you shrug it off, or would your pendulum swing completely the other way, disassociating from or no longer doing business with the company? 

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Does it depend on the company?     

If it’s a technology company that really doesn’t have you interacting with people, does that change things?  What if it’s a high-touch service business?  More important, what if the service (be it technology or personal) is essential to your business?

Tell me, tell me!

I’m really interested in how – if at all – you would react to this.  Please leave your comments for me below.

P.S. How funny is the image?  “Faux Call” – text yourself out of a bad situation!!

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Written By

Brandie is an unapologetically candid marketing professional who was recently mentioned on BusinessWeek as a Top Young Female Entrepreneur. She recently co-founded consulting firm MarketingTBD. She's held senior level positions with GE and Fidelity, as well as with entrepreneurial start-ups. Raised by a real estate Broker, Brandie is passionate about real estate and is an avid investor. Follow her on Twitter.



  1. Ben Roberts

    May 28, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Great article Brandy… I think my personal reaction to the discovery of a ‘faker’ would really depend on a couple of things:

    1. What they tweet about?

    2. Am I looking to their tweets for advice, council, or inspiration?

    If their content is bland and simply informative, I might not give a rip, especially if none of #2 apply. If I feel some sort of bond with the twitter user and find out they are not who I really have a bond with…that would tick me off.

    I think it comes down to trust. Social media IS great because people are transparent when they are involved. If you are misrepresenting yourself or your company, then all that falls out the window. Thanks again for the article.

  2. Ginny Cain

    May 28, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Brandie, I agree. Companies that are not well known corporate brands should absolutely put a real face to any “transparent” media. Even big corp giants should have a personality…it might not be the CEO but someone who represents and embodies the brand.

  3. Matt Stigliano

    May 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Brandie – I agree with Ben up above. There are certain “people” I follow that I know are just corporate drones doing their latest PR. Some of them do it well enough that I look to them for news, information, or the latest. However, if I think I’m talking to the CEO and find out I’m talking to an auto-tweet set up or an intern or anyone but the CEO, well…then I’m going to be let down and probably feel a little differently.

    I think we’ll see more and more of this in the coming year as more social media clubs form in towns and cities across the world. These clubs are great when they help advise newcomers on how to use social media to their advantage, but of course what you learn is only as good as the person teaching it. If a social media club forms with it’s main focus on “how to get 100,000 followers in 10 days” – we’ll see businesses adapt those policies. I’ve seen several people tout different ways to approach social media already and I’m sure there’s a few ideas out there I haven’t seen.

    At REbarcamp Denver I watched (online) Rob McNealy speak about social media and one of the things that I disagreed with him on was that he feels you have to use your name as your account ID. I disagree as I am building a “brand” (I still hate that word) around the whole “rockstar” thing, so to me it is more important to get that in there then “Stigliano” (a name no one spells right half the time and one that gets butchered more often than not). Although I disagree with that particular point, I agreed with much of what he said. I use that as the example of where did they learn it from.

    I think some companies need to use their corporate identity and some should use the names of the people doing the updating. Look at everything that happened when @tcar stopped by to add his thoughts to the Google/MIBOR mess. Because he is affiliated with NAR, it was quickly assumed that he was speaking for them and a good portion of the conversation then was used to sum up that this or that was or was not official NAR doctrine. Perhaps there is a middle ground that will be found – ie, Bob Dobbs from ABC Company speaks as both “bobdobbs” and “ABCbob” – one account for the more personal social aspects and one for the more company line aspects.

    A good example of who to let speak for you would be a hotel (this is my example). In the case of a hotel, let’s say the luxurious Hotel Atlantic Kempinski in Hamburg, Germany – if they had @hotelatlantic and were tweeting about the hotel, great. If I needed a question answered and wanted a great response I would sure hope that the hotel concierge was doing the tweeting (they have/had a great concierge who can tell you all about the hotel and Hamburg). Concierge’s always are the best resource at a hotel and often know more than just about anyone in a hotel. So in that example, I wouldn’t mind if a person was doing the tweeting for the hotel…now if the maids were doing it or someone 5,000 miles away at corporate headquarters…well, then I might.

    Sorry, I rambled way to much on this comment, but I hope you see where I’m coming from.

  4. Joe Loomer

    May 28, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Finding out the tweeting was done by the intern/auto responder would be one thing – just stop following them if it bothers you. Finding out a Facebook or other site (Active Rain, LinkedIn, etc.) was delegated would kinda piss me off.

  5. Brandie Young

    May 28, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Hi Ben! Great feedback, thanks. I couldn’t help but think of meeting a blind who is NOTHING like their pic or description. Yeah, that sucks…

    Miss GC – Good point about the personality. That does help define the brand. Thanks.

    Matt – Thanks for always providing so much feedback. Appreciated! I agree, I think we will see it more and more – as companies want to jump on the bandwagon. I like your hotel analogy … you’re saying you want an expert that is empowered to speak on behalf of the hotel. That’s authentic … and relevant.

    Joe – Hi! Thanks for chiming in. interesting perspective, thanks. Sounds like you ‘expect’ more authenticity from Facebook et al . Interesting …. If you have a chance to explain why the difference, I would love to understand it at a greater level.

  6. Becky Ferris

    May 29, 2009 at 3:42 am

    Hi Brandie,

    This issue is near and dear as I offer SMM as a service to my clients. I would never mislead any of our friends or followers by “faking” direct messages, emails, messages, etc.

    How does VMS handle this moral/ethical situation? We handle all of the status updates, general tweets, etc. We then notify our client each day if they have direct messages or questions/tweets that need to be answered. That way there is no misunderstanding or misleading on our side.

    Does that make sense?

    In a nutshell, that is VMS’ standard. Are there any other solutions that you or anyone else has come across? I am always open to new ideas!

    Have a fabulous weekend!

  7. Joe Loomer

    May 29, 2009 at 9:25 am


    I guess what first popped in to my mind about Facebook was that if I connect with you on a “friend” level – not as a “fan” or “follower” – then I’m expecting some authenticity and more of a social interaction.

    There is also the ability to creat a corporate Facebook profile under your personal account, and then folks can follow that too (and expect more of a business approach to the content – from any source within that corporation).

    Maybe I’m just not twitterated enough to see the difference.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  8. Mark Eckenrode

    May 29, 2009 at 11:03 am

    i’ve put some thought into this and looked at who i follow and it’s become pretty clear to me – i don’t want brands to engage with me. i’m simply not interested enough in a brand or service provider to hear what pours forth from their PR machine. interestingly, i do follow brand advocates. these folks actually tend to supply more value than the brand itself.

  9. Brandie Young

    May 29, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Hi Becky – Seeing as your company provides SM marketing services (and probably more) it’s very interesting to hear from you. I personally don’t know anyone that is providing those services so I can’t share other solutions. Do you Tweet primarily as the brand, or as the individual? If I can ask another Q – how involved in what you Tweet is the client?

    Joe, thanks for coming back – I completely see your perspective and I agree, it would be a bigger letdown to discover a fake Facebook(er) than Twitter(er) because of your definition. There is a different expectation/commitment there. You rock.

  10. Brandie Young

    May 29, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Yay Mark – always a pleasure to see comments from you. That’s interesting, no brands, but brand advocates are ok. You like to follow people (I’m mostly the same) Question: what about news source brands a la CNN or entertainment brands? Or brands that sometimes offer discounts like@JetBlue

  11. Mark Eckenrode

    May 29, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    i also thought it interesting when i looked at how i follow 🙂 while i don’t necessarily follow news sources such as CNN i do follow a number of folks that are members of what i call the “linkerati”. they’re twitterers that dig through the net and uncover interesting news stories and articles and link to them. while not belonging to any one news service, they find some great reads. so again, i don’t follow any company brand but i follow advocates. and if i was in need of a coupon, i’d go searching for it.

    i’m glad you brought this up because i hadn’t necessarily looked at “who/how” i follow before… i’m going to think more about this. thanks 🙂

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