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Do you make this community-management mistake?

3 min read


This poll analysis was written by Jeremy Victor, president of Make Good Media and editor-in-chief of For more of his writing, visit 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, Does your community manager share personal details when speaking on behalf of the brand?

  • No, all social media content comes from a single brand voice: 62.82%
  • Yes, but only occasionally: 21.79%
  • Yes, the community manager’s personality is front and center: 15.38%

As with all things social media, there are not really any known best practices, per se, more so that all of us working to develop better practices for ourselves, our companies and our clients. The decision regarding the amount of personal details shared by a community manager is a matter of preference, comfort and company culture. Sure, industry does also come into play, but deep down at the core of this issue is employee empowerment, trust and the fear of offending even a single person.

Forgive me, but what the heck is a “single brand voice” anyway, and have you ever met one? We don’t talk to brands or companies; we talk to the people who represent them. People have feelings, emotions, personalities and shared common interests. And, ideally, between you and your online community, one of those shared common interests is your company.

So if your company ran a television ad during an episode of “Dancing with the Stars,” let your community manager talk about the show. Or if your community manager is a graduate of Syracuse University, allow the person to share that he or she is upset about not reaching the Final Four. It’s these simple personal touches blended in with your social content that strengthen the bond between your brand and your community.

Now, I am not advocating rogue, misguided (or misdirected) online behavior by your community manager. But I am advocating the expression of self as part of the role of community manager. The limits of a “single brand voice” have me hearing and reading tweets directing me to “visit us at trade show booth #1234,” or “join our upcoming webinar,” or “download our new product sheet.” None of that to me is educating, entertaining or engaging. There must be a balance of personality and substance; allow your community manager to develop the right mix for your company and brand.

If a community manager gets too personal, train the person to act more appropriately. Give the person the job of developing your company’s online community-management guidelines. Make the person the owner of defining what is acceptable and what is not. Hold the person accountable. But whatever you do, don’t let the policy prevent personality. As human beings, we want to connect with other human beings, not “single brand voices.” Don’t you agree?

To conclude, I’ll leave you with a quote to ponder from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s book “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose”: “Let your employees take risks and try new things. Let your employees bring all of themselves to their job.”

Whatever mistakes they make, they can be overcome — even the big ones. But if you limit your employee’s sense of contribution under the guise of a “single brand voice,” you are ultimately limiting your ability to build a thriving community of advocates both inside and outside your company.