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Social media managers build and destroy brands: social media politics

Social media managers are very human, even the best of the bunch, and politics can stand between your brand and business opportunities if you’re not paying attention.



Social media managers and your brand’s social capital

It’s great to have an in-house social media manager. They’re out front with your corporate social capital, traveling from conference to conference, monitoring private and public groups on Facebook and forums, with an eyeball on Google alerts just in case someone says something mean or nice about your brand, and hopefully the social media manager will hop into the conversation and demonstrate the company’s corporate culture. This is ideal, but in actuality, there is a dark and seedy side of social media.

There is no doubt that the sophistication of people media has grown by leaps and bounds, from Yahoo chatrooms and IRC (Internet Relay Chat) before it, to the mainstream social networks of today – life online is no longer something left to gamers, hackers, and cheaters. It’s completely acceptable today to meet the love of your life online, connect offline, and possibly carry on very normal relationships. It’s social, right? But it’s more than that, it’s a society, with businesses and consumers, as well as haves and have nots.

Social media managers as high school hall monitors

The less the medium seems outside of this world, the more it is exactly of this world. Social media representatives, and even corporate or product ambassadors wear brands like a badge of honor, much like the hall monitor in high school, the decider of who passes through the halls, and who gets sent to the office.

Even worse for business, using this analogy, your ambassador or manager decides what relationships your company builds or those they don’t. Often, they act as a relationship gatekeeper, taking it upon themselves to single-handedly determine who may or may not interact with your brand, whether it is in line with your corporate vision or not.

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Social media managers can be seen as bullies

Companies or organizations that are less than popular and have reason to be defensive often are. Ambassadors and managers are seen as bullies regardless of whether it’s their mandate to do so. Shouting down constituents, non-believers, and avoiders of the Koolaid are scoffed at, belittled or simply silenced.

The problem here is that it’s their job to build fans and correct information, but in a way consistent with how the company would handle it, not necessarily the very human behavior displayed by the ambassador or brand manager employed to manage your social media. I use the word human because although they may be technically savvy and you as a Corporate Officer are not, you’re putting an awful lot of faith in that human to remain objective in a very sensitive environment.

I’ve personally seen corporate relationships die because the ambassador or social manager doesn’t understand the larger picture of a potential relationship of the other human they’re engaging.

Stopping your social media manager’s clique behavior

How do you stop this sort of cliquish behavior? How do you protect your brand from the short sighted product or brand ambassador, or even a low level social media manager with a big brand name to boost their ego?

First, you should be equally as savvy as your savvy social media manager, not just regarding technology but regarding what your employee is up to online, good and bad.

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Secondly, you should have Google alerts set up for your social media manager’s name and blogs so you can monitor their actions online for yourself. Additionally, you should join the same groups and forums as your social media manager, to at least have access to private conversations within those groups, where related to business. After all, you are the face of the company, aren’t you?

Lastly, depend not on your brand ambassador or manager to make decisions regarding relationships or who reaches the company – that’s never been their job. But it is certainly your job to trust but verify the advice and opinions of your manager – not all social media managers are bad, but are you certain about yours?

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Danny Brown

    January 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Or, you just hire good people. The role doesn’t make the behaviour, the person does. 😉

    • agbenn

      January 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      I’ll raise you “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”

      • Danny Brown

        January 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm

        I’ll see your raise and add “Only if the behaviour of that person would let them be corrupted to start with.” I’ve seen people get jobs they weren’t quite ready for but it made them grow up and the company grew because of it. Can power corrupt? For sure. Does it corrupt always? No.

        • agbenn

          January 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm

          I default to trust but verify 🙂 Hire/fire accordingly. We know more today than yesterday, and many decisions made early on should be evaluated. And as I said, not all are bad, but they just can’t help themselves sometimes. Learn a lesson or not, I’ve seen some pretty expensive lessons learned in real time. If pandering for brand fame (find the influencers, and co-opt them) is the objective, it’s already political.

  2. Annette Jett

    January 9, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    So true! I have seen this happen, and avoid the brands that have ‘clique’ ambassadors. I didn’t go for that in my school years, and I certainly don’t now as an adult. You point out the ‘ego.’ I would have to say it is the number one offender for ruining relationships- whether it is personal or professional. Keep that in tact, and everything else should run smoothly.

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