Social And Your Team: Don’t Burn Bridges

Today I wanted wanted to start a discussion about your team members participation in social media on behalf of your brand. Specifically, I want to chat about basic philosophy of how you handle putting people forward.

I think some companies pay lip service to the notion of being a “social” brand in the sense of activating team members. Some do so as an activity simply aligned with getting as much from team members as possible, then adopting a scorched earth policy for those no longer with an organization or who a company decides should no longer represent them.

This is, in essence, burning bridges with old team members.

I do understand why some think this might be a good idea. Things change. However it is an action that is almost assured to generate negative sentiment from those people without communicating to them what your plans are. When building a community of any sort those participating personally vest themselves in that effort. So when parting ways, it should be crystal clear what happens to that past participation.

That is why if you’re going to tap team members for content, connections or other outcomes for your brand, and have them do so under their own name, it is imperative to set expectation up front. Be transparent about your process and what you plan to do in after they are gone. If you don’t do this you are setting yourself up for digital reputation issues.

To do this also marks a philosophical misunderstanding of the social web. Those people participating in social thread the past with the future. If you hurt someone’s ability to do that, it inevitably will upset them as it disrupts their natural flow of work on the web.

Remember if you tap those who participate in social media because they have a passion for their category and then take some action that later makes them feel like they have been exploited (even if this isn’t the intention) you are going to inspire the opposite reaction.

Deciding to remove / delete / change content, connections or privileges without explanation is probably about the worst thing you can do on the web. Further, you are being disingenuous to your community itself to not tell them what you’ve done. I’d highly advise against this, or if you must – talk with your team members and your community about what you’re going to do first.