That title Corporate Social Media looks funny doesn’t it? I mean, some people still think of ‘social‘ as ‘party‘. Like, Corey from Melbourne on MySpace. They don’t realise that ‘social‘ means ‘society‘ – friends and family, yes, but also sports heroes and politicians and other leaders, and those we deem tabloid worthy – the Angelina Jolie’s and Britney’s of our social sphere. I wonder if we had changed from online communities to customer communities or consumer networks if it would’ve looked less jarring? Corporate Customer Media or similar?

I think companies will move their Corporate Social Responsibility front and centre in response to large communities online discussing their ethics and morals, going as far as to follow Japan in having a C-Level executive in charge of Social Relations. I think that Online Community Managers – a role that has been around almost as long as I’ve been alive – will handle three types of communities – enterprise (internal), distributed (MySpace, Facebook) and microcommunity (like microsites, or branded forums).

I see those three roles as distinct:

  • Internal Community Manager (At The Desk) – has to handle/negotiate politics of staff of one department snarking on the blog of the manager of another department. Yuck. Heh. I’m tempted to say someone senior that can, with one raised eyebrow, stop a flame war between departments from developing. Certainly a strong character, perceived as impartial and with strong negotiation skills. Could be a H.R. nightmare in the making if you don’t lock down behaviours in an appropriate way.
  • Distributed Community Manager (Take Away) – customer facing, probably trained in Public Relations but with a twist. Social Relations? Your brand being crucified on MySpace or Facebook or Whirlpool.net.au? Make sure they pull in a good resource of technical or knowledge workers, to add credibility. But the Exxon thing (below) should never have happened – don’t set up the I.T. geek to fail at P.R.
  • Microbranded Communities (Dine In) admin and moderators for forums and blogs and wikis on your own site. Definitely Customer Service here, with specialist training. Customer Service and Technical Support know the questions and answers and how to press consumer buttons. Heh. I once had the customer service department get themselves banned from the customer service forums by accident cos they created alts (private logons) to attack the customers, but that’s another story for another time….

There might be a fourth role – educating and assisting staff to understand that they are members of social networks too, and one small whisper can reveal the plans for obtaining capital from V.C.s – Human Resources maybe?
What do you do if you are Exxon, and your badged P.R/Community Manager/Twitter person says (see last line) to Tom Raftery (Twitter link) analyst with Redmonk no less:

…although the Valdez spill was tragic, it was only 10 million gallons, compare that to the 73mil in the Nowruz Oil Field in 1983

…wow, that’s a relief. Only TEN MILLION GALLONS. But, one wonders, do the upcoming generation care about ancient history? Today they would create an anti-marketing community with IHateExxon.com or something similar. But yesterdays’ accidents…? Look I don’t want to pan the poor schmuck they have set up to fail by putting him/her in live, real time, social network discussions on an old topic – everyone needs to start somewhere – but some guildelines might’ve helped. In Europe we say “don’t mention the war!” In Exxon, it should be “don’t mention Valdez in a light vein!”. Or whatever. If this Tweet gets out (oh irony), there could be blood on the social media floor 🙁


We discussed these things on the MIS Australia podcast on Enterprise and Social Media and a brief bit on Community Manager roles. You might enjoy it. There’s no direct link so this week only, it’s front page, next week, hunt around.
Podcast here called CIOs embrace Gen V reality. You can follow Mark Jones (host) on Twitter, as well as Stephen Collins of AcidLabs (trib), and Michael Specht (mspecht). Oh and me (SilkCharm). Here’s Trib’s post.

The previous week was an introduction to Generation V with Stephen Prentice (Gartner), Gary P Hayes (PersonalizeMedia or Twitter) , Michael Specht (again) and Paul Rush ( Talent2) .

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