What Happens When Your Social Media Star Leaves?

Earlier this week I spoke at the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association annual convention. More than 800 financial folks attended, and I had the pleasure to lead a panel on social networking for the equipment finance industry.

I spent the summer studying how social media and social networking can be incorporated into equipment financiers’ marketing plans. The research findings – including a survey of equipment finance professionals, three case studies, and a plethora of best practices — can be found in our report, Social Networking for the Equipment Finance Industry, from the Web site of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Foundation (a different organization from the association). The executive summary can be accessed at no charge.

But, I’m not here to sell you on the report (okay, well, maybe a little), but rather share what I heard at the convention. As we heard during our summer research, businesses are interested in social media. They just don’t always know what to do with it. Regardless of the thousands of articles, books and advice available today, it’s still hard to get one’s mental arms around some very important pieces — including calculating return on investment, metrics, and security and privacy concerns.

During the presentation, I received numerous good questions. But, the one that evoked much discussion was the fact that social media can make an individual a star. So, similar to your favorite sports figure, what happens when they switch teams? Do they take all your social media cache with them? Do all their followers (read: prospects) go with them?

Well, yes and no. 

Yes, individuals take themselves, their contacts, their enthusiasm, and social network know-how with them. They also take their positive online reputation (that you hope they built and you profited from) with them. People follow people on social networks, after all.

To avoid having a social media superstar’s departure mean the end of your online presence, a few precautions can be taken, including:

  • Ensure a mix of both corporate face and personal face is distributed. This means allowing the real person to have his or her voice online, but perhaps tweeting and posting under a corporate logo (the extreme) or making it known in their profile who they work for (the least they should do). If the person is responsible and accountable for social media for the company, then one should never eclipse the other. 
  • Make certain your social media star references your company frequently and isn’t just talking about themselves like they  – and they alone — are responsible for all the terrific resources and connections they offer. If the goods really are theirs, then they should say so. But, if the information is produced by a company, then it should be obvious to the reader who the author is.
  • Ensure a social media team is in place. This may seem obvious. But one very enthusiastic player can easily cause other employees to “lay back” a bit and not develop their online presence. Frequent rewards and support will ensure a team of tweeters, posters and bloggers maintain their desire to use social media. If a social media star departs then at least the organization has a set of individuals ready to go when the screen goes dark on the superstar’s computer (or smart phone).
  • Have a formal policy in place for a social media “hand-off.” If a superstar decides to leave, then you can rely on a procedure and system for organizational memory and social media knowledge to be transferred to the team (that we hope you developed by then).
  • Collect passwords of corporate-led social media channels and accounts. Be sure that your departing social media evangelist doesn’t walk out the door with the only keys to the castle(s). After all, institutional social media channels and blogs should be readily accessed by whoever is in charge of updating them — even someone who has to take over relatively quickly.

Yes, cultivate those social media celebrities, but remember what that fame is really for — advancing a mission.

Comments
  • Marijean October 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    It’s really difficult to harness the social media superstar for long. This isn’t a new issue, though. It’s the same as losing the salesperson with the hefty Rolodex from a few generations back. The people who are really adept at relationship development will be sorely missed, but that may allow a new relationship star to step into her shoes, or the opportunity for the business to hitch their wagon to another rising star. Several social media consultants have helped firms figure out their social media strategy by hiring in for a few years, giving the firm a leg up, then moving on. While they are there they help the firm learn about social media and how to develop relationships. Ideally the firm learns from this and is able to continue independently after their mentor moves on. If not, then they need to find a new role model to adopt.

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