I was at the store (you know, The Store, that place that's quirky, friendly, and has lots of chocolate, which shall for my amusement remain nameless) and I met a sample server who we shall (again, for my amusement) call Sara. Now, Sara loves her job, loves her employer, and is having a great time chopping up small bits of biscuit and jam for all of us hovering around. Someone is telling her that she should start her own blog about how much she loves her job and how cool it is to serve people samples. So I take a photo for her nascent blog.
It turns out, though, that The Store does not I repeat *not* like their employees blogging about said store or any experience in said store, however love-filled they or it might be.
This got me thinking about companies and social media, as so many things do. There seems to be no middle ground. Either the company says "thou shalt not blog" or they say "go forth and blog!" The Store says don't. But other companies, including (but not limited to) the Nominal Evil Empire (nominal because there are other evil empires, including the one that says don't be, but this one has the cool logo) says "go and blog!" (They do, check it out.)
But hark: their instructions are something like "be careful, because if you mess up we will screw your ass to the floor so hard you won't remember what it ever felt like to stand up." Okay, I made up that last part, but you get the idea.
So what should corporations do about social media?
You know what fabulous cats and great tango dancers have in common? They make a graceful movement out of every misstep. Not the right direction? Got an oops? No problem. That's what I meant to do all along.
What corporations should do about social media: clear and simple guidelines and a really excellent cat. Guarantee employees no retaliation as long as they follow the guidelines, give them a reason to blog, and open the windows and let the light in. If someone stumbles, well, that's what you've got the cat, or spin-Meister for, to clear things up. Any corporation worried about having the windows opened has someone who can write that well on staff already. Just get them watching the social media output. (And imagine what they'll learn about their own company.)
In the end, a corporation's brand is its public image. It's Sara, standing there grinning, offering little samples of biscuits and jam, with people like me mulling around munching and chatting, feeling - for just a moment - like community, right there in the village market.
Hey, The Store: If Sara wants to blog about how cool it is to work for you, you should let her. Think of it as samples of transparency, the sort of thing that makes a company truly beloved.
Besides samples of food. Yum.