This poll analysis was written by Jeremy Victor, president of Make Good Media and editor-in-chief of B2Bbloggers.com. For more of his writing, visit B2Bbloggers.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.
SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.
This week we asked, Do you believe brands should be held responsible for the personal posts of their employees?
- No — an employee’s personal posts have nothing to do with their employer: 75.95%
- Yes — brands should be judged by the kinds of people they hire: 24.05%
Ha! I’d love to live in a world where I could agree with the 76% of you. But the reality today unfortunately is there is no separation in the eyes of the consumer. If employees are posting on the social Web, whether you like it or not, it has the potential to affect an individual’s perception of your brand and company. Period.
As human beings, as we process information, we make connections. So once you read about the polar bear hunting, airline customer service associate, the moment you find out what airline she works for, you are going to form an impression. Rightly or wrongly, you’ll either think that has everything to do with her employer, absolutely nothing to do with her employer or somewhere in between. But you will make a connection between the dead polar bear, the employee/hunter and the brand.
Ignoring that or denying that possibility in the social Web-driven world is a big mistake and leaves your brand and company vulnerable.
A key principle that I use to help explain this when consulting is something I picked up many years ago called “the cycle of service.” As defined by author and management consultant Karl Albrecht in his book “Service America!”:
In the cycle of service, the customer views the service experience as a unified sequence of events in which each moment of truth (MOT) connects to form a single chain experience.
The principle goes on to explain, no matter how big or small the event, any interaction a person has with a brand/company leaves them with an opportunity to form an impression. It’s never just the one experience that creates the impression of the brand, it’s each and every one managed to a positive outcome that creates advocates and keeps them coming back.
Enter social media and the number of possible moments of truth has grown exponentially. So it is not a matter of whether or not a brand “should be held responsible for the personal posts,” it’s more so that you will be held responsible (rightly or wrongly) and you need to be prepared to deal with it.
If your position as a company is that you “won’t” be held responsible and aren’t planning to do anything about it, then you are leaving those “moments of truth” to go unmanaged and potentially allowing each and every one of them to affect future purchases from your brand.
Now this all said, I am not advocating anything radical, like attempting to control the activity of your employees or requesting Facebook log in information of potential hires. But what I am advocating is developing an understanding within your company of how everything we say or do on the social Web has the potential to link back and become a reflection of the company. Don’t ignore this fact, embrace it.
It’s dangerous thinking to believe that employee personal posts have nothing to do with their employer. In an ideal world maybe … but definitely not the world we live in today. At work or not, employee social actions impact brand equity and value.