The next social media challenge for brands

Personal branding isn’t new, but changes to social media platforms are creating expectations for individuals to build and maintain a personal brand online.

While some organisations continue the ‘head in the sand’ approach to social networking by blocking it from the workplace,  the momentum of social media and enterprise social networking cannot be ignored. More progressive organisations have both the internal culture and the governance structures in place creating online-savvy workforce and guidelines on what should and should not be publicly shared, for example on Twitter or Facebook.

While this framework provides structure for our current state of social technology in the workplace, the rise and rise of personal brands for individual employees is set to redefine the relationship between employees and employers.

The ongoing evolution of social media platforms is encouraging us to embrace the personal brand. In June 2011, Google+ launched with circles to group influencers and brands. Taking a leaf out of Twitter’s follow model, Facebook launched subscribe to influencers in September 2011, meaning that we can now get updates from Mark Zuckerberg and check on Sheryl Sandberg’s work-life balance. Most recently, LinkedIn has launched follow influencers (October 2012) with a focus on updates from business and thought leaders, encouraging us to stay up to date with Barack Obama’s policies and seek out motivation from Tony Robbins.

With social platforms continuing to drive personal branding, both individuals and organisations need to be aware of challenges and risks.

Aligning with your employers brand.  While your Tweets may be marked  as ‘own and not representative of my employer’, the personal brand of individual employees is of increasing importance to employers. While far beyond simply a social media presence, the brand of Richard Branson is strengthened on Twitter and is separate, while remaining closely aligned to the Virgin Group as a whole.

Reputation management. Employees must set expectations with employees around online behaviour and reputation management. The recent case of Twitter rants by a Vodaphone staffer criticising customers, negatively impact the company reputation.

Challenges for HR. Employers need to understand what is (and isn’t) legal with their employees social media presence. While we still need more cases to understand the rulings and implications, recent cases including Linfox and Commonwealth Bank provide some background.

Social media policy. In line with challenges for HR, the recent “Social Media in the Workplace Around the World 2.0 Report” by Proskauer found that one-third of businesses have taken disciplinary action against an employee for the misuse of social media. This can be avoided by having a clear social media policy, understood by all employees and tailored to suit the needs of the company.

Managing the personal and professional divide. From an individual perspective, employees can be challenged with managing multiple social accounts and managing their personal and professional divide. While some CEO’s and online influencers can outsource their Tweets and blogs to their PR team, for most of us social media create multiple personalities online.

Online security. Employees and employers must be increasingly aware of their online security including hacking, trolling and spoof accounts. Online activism can leave brands at risk; imagine if the Twitter account of an online influencer or executive hacked. While these instances have been isolated to date, employers must be increasingly aware and prepared.

As social platforms and our use of them continues to evolve, both employers and employees have a responsibility to understand both technical developments and the changing landscape of personal branding. How prepared is your company for the challenges of personal branding?

Image credit: EraPhernalia Vintage . . . (playin’ hook-y ;o) CC-BY-SA