3 Criteria for Your Social Media Spokesperson
Pat Rhoads - Nonprofit Marketing & Social Media Professional
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Another 'Expert', only I'm not

3 Criteria for Your Social Media Spokesperson

One of the questions I hear being asked is "Who in our organization should handle our social media?" In my case, I usually hear this asked by those who aren't active in social media and are from small businesses and nonprofits. I have actually heard a number of people say things like, "I was thinking of having our intern launch our Facebook page/Twitter profile and get it started." Wow, bad idea.
 
Here are three key criteria I think you need to keep in mind when deciding who is going to handle your social media. Now keep in mind that I'm referring to the person (or people) who will actually handle the day-to-day posting, monitoring, and responding on your social media channels, not necessarily the people who will determine strategy and direction.
 
1. They need to be able to accurately and skillfully deal with and communicate to the general public.
Picture this: your organization is about to hold a press conference. Who do you send into the room? Of course, it's probably going to be someone who is knowledgeable about who you are and the topic to be addressed. And they'll probably (hopefully?) also be someone you're confident is skilled in communicating to the public. Sure, it might be a small room of local journalists, but if that spokesperson makes a big enough flub, a small press event could turn into a much bigger debacle.
 
Would you send an intern who'd been working for you for a week into the room? Probably not. So why allow someone inexperienced to speak, via the VERY public internet, to the general public where what you do and say can become permanent as soon as it's out there? Seems there's a lot of risk. Better to have a professional in that role.
 
2. They need to know your organization well enough to speak intelligently and answer questions, or at least know who to go to to get the answers.
No one likes to appear ignorant. Sometimes, this leads people to giving information they think is accurate as if it is confirmed to be so. As I said before, once it's on the internet that you said something, it's pretty tough to take it back. Better make sure that the person posting your social media content or answering questions knows the answers or where to get them, and that they are disciplined about making sure they do so.
 
While this can happen even with long-time and experienced communication professionals, it's a lot less likely than if you have someone in this role without the right background or experience.
 
3. They need to be versed in your company's 'voice', and be seasoned enough to know what that is and how to find it.
One of the skills I am expected to utilize at my job is to speak with my organization's 'voice' - the tone, language, and terms used consistently by all of our communications staff regardless of the channel. So staff who answer the phones, send emails, or post to social media all speak consistently. This is an important part of brand identity, and social media absolutely needs to be a part of that.
 
So it is critical to have someone in your social media role who is experienced in learning and consistently speaking in an organizational voice. This doesn't mean they can't have a personal touch - after all, we're still real, live people dealing with other real, live people - but overall they need to be consistent with the communication and branding guidelines set forth.
 
Please note that while I did not specifically state that this needs to be an employee of yours, I personally don't see how an outside agency or short-term contracted individual can effectively follow these guidelines for very long. If you're outsourcing the setup and training of your social media efforts, fine. But longer-term, I feel like it needs to be someone on staff who handles these potentially delicate communications.
 
Am I wrong on that last point? Or about the guidelines?

6 Comments to 3 Criteria for Your Social Media Spokesperson:

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Aileen on Monday, July 16, 2012 8:28 PM
I think you're spot on with the recommendations. However, as a consultant I am often hired to be an extension of the in-house team. Many companies are stretched too thin to handle their own social media channels effectively. I don't hog the role, though. I do offer training sessions, try to establish guidelines and set a voice for them. Once they ramp up, I actually encourage clients to manage it on their own, but they are hesitant.
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patmrhoads on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 12:20 AM
Aileen (and Christine), I agree that it's typically fine, sometimes preferable, to hire an outside expert to get your social media presence planned, set up and, started. Better to do it right at the beginning. But I do feel like for most organizations, it needs to be handed to them to do on their own at some point fairly soon. If you are going to retain an outside party in an ongoing capacity, it should be an individual consultant or small dedicated tea, that can stay with you over the long haul. The organization's voice needs to come through, and I just don't think that can happen if there isn't consistency in who's managing those social media presences. Thanks for the dialog!


Christine Weiss on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 8:49 PM
Pat, excellent article. The points you make are spot-on. However, I think I agree with Aileen on hiring someone who can be an 'extension' of your company. I work with small businesses who are in continual 'startup' mode and don't have the focus to give energy consistently to their social media efforts. What they value about my consulting is the commitment to learn about their company, and actually become an 'employee', so I'm qualified on their behalf. Of course, no consultant can give this kind of attention to 50 different companies, so who you select to work with long-term should be a careful process.
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Social Media Marketing In Orlando on Thursday, July 26, 2012 10:39 AM
In order for social media to work for you company it has to be done right. I think you nailed the criteria for anyone to have a chance at social media success.
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patmrhoads on Thursday, July 26, 2012 10:45 AM
I completely agree that in order to work, it has to be done right! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.


Regent Park revitalization on Thursday, July 24, 2014 10:36 PM
Good post thanks for sharing with us keep posting.I subscribe it.
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