The Social Web – Be yourself… or find someone who is.

I recently read and commented on one of the many great blog posts out there that give advice on how companies approach the social web, in this article Kevin Gibbons lays down some basics – have a purpose, write well, be transparent and to basically be nice to your audience.

All great points. My comment was to be yourself, be a person.

In my experience, the social web seems to be much more people centric than the rigid old days of communicating over the web through fairly static ‘brochureware’ sites and brand engagement built around established channels of marketing, sales and support.

Over the social web people will respond to you being you rather than a faceless corporate. There is also the old saying that ‘people buy from people’ and the social web gives you a great opportunity to return to this personal engagement.

But a few days after making the comment, it occurred to me it’s not as straightforward as that – who best represents ‘you’ as a company, as a brand?

Your CEO? Whilst he probably embodies ‘you’ as a financial entity, the acceptable face of ‘you’ to the city, to the accountants, he may not resonate with the people who buy your products. Alright, there are exceptions, but not every company has a Steve Jobs at the helm. Similarly one of your talented engineers may be able to out geek a darkened room of Metallica fans – but is he you?

How about this from the blogs of ZDNet – Is it time for a Chief Social Media Officer? of putting someone at the C-level to sort it all out?

The answer will be different in every company and is probably dictated more by the kind of audience you have – but it seems to me that companies should invest time in finding and enabling whoever is ‘you’ in the organization and encouraging them to contribute to your website, tweet, blog, set up discussion groups etc, give them the time and maybe the title to do that.

There is inevitably more than one ‘you’ – a social web strategy should consider relevancy as of course ‘you’ are different to different audiences and those different audiences will be on different channels.

The stock exchange know you are innovative, but ultimately safe and the CEO creating a MySpace page will do nothing to enhance ‘you’. But if you sell skateboards and your cool new intern likes to video himself throwing himself off the steps of the town hall for some ‘gnarly’ moves – then his MySpace page probably will.

So, be yourself and if you can’t do that, find the people who are.

Cartoon kindly contributed by Tom Smith,  see more from the drawing board of Tom Smith here

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