Could a Company Successfully Create a Social Networking Personality Across Platforms?

Twitter, Digg, Friendfeed, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. – these are all incredibly popular social networks with useful services connecting millions globally.  Notice all of those links take you to my personal profile page within each of those networks (feel free to friend me on any of these sites). 

Within those networks, I am connected with countless others to share news, information, and essentially my life with those interested.  Now, simply put, I wonder what would happen if a company (private or public) took an active roll across social media platforms as a branded personality. 

Image credit:  Don Hinchcliffe

They would have to be completely authentic, submitting and sharing stories, news and photos not purely of their own company but of anything and everything that vibes with the philosophy of the company.  They would also have to be consistent, use the same avatar across platforms and the same username.

Whoever was maintaining the profiles would also have to take an active, continued role in those networks and contribute to the community positively, not letting the profiles gather virtual dust. 

I am not talking about merely creating a fan page or a profile page, but creating a full-on personality behind a brand that takes an active role in all the popular social networks, just like popular bloggers do.  Do you think the network would be hesitant at first, but eventually come to accept that company/personality?  Do you think there would be pushback from the communities to ban the user?  Would people accept them as a friend or see it as fake?  Would the brand be ignored altogether?

It would be an interesting experiment for someone to bring a branded personality behind a company into the Web 2.0 scene across platforms.  Even keep a blog to consolidate their presence all in one place and to document their journeys throughout the social web.  How a company comes about developing this personality is something to be deeply thought out and planned, but it should be positioned in a way that is creative, authentic, and transparent. 

Image credit:  futureexploration.net

The personality would have to contribute in ways everyone else does:  leave comments, reply to personal messages, share links, post images, write on walls, digg stories, remix content, and essentially take on an active life within the network just like any other user. 

Subway has the obvious example of “Jared,” being their spokesperson and a branded character for the company, but I don’t think you even need a national figure to try this out.  You just need something clever that works for your brand and is accepted as authentic by the web. 

There are tons of obvious examples of companies merely creating profile pages on Facebook and MySpace and littering them with “approved” photos and text.  They don’t, unfortunately, contribute much to the networks (probably due to permission and corporations wanting to maintain control).  What if an on-the-edge company reliquished a little of that control to experiment in the social web?

The only way this can work properly is if a trusted person (who really understands both the brand and the social web) was given free reign to publish content, share news and images, and represent that company in the social graph across services. 

Ideally, this person would work to broaden their reach and influence as the personality behind the brand and continue to function as an early adopter of new services on the social web, keeping their company at the forefront of what’s happening online and a part of the organic conversation.