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Is that the “real” you?

The great (read: addicting) thing about social media is the ability to connect with people from all over the world at a moment’s notice. During my time in the social space, I’ve made some invaluable connections that wouldn’t have likely happened without Facebook or Twitter.

Some of the perks of being on the Internet include the ability to interact with favorite authors, celebrities, politicians, etc. I remember being excited when Alyssa Milano responded to my tweet. It was a simple thank you but knowing she was responding from her iPhone somewhere in L.A. meant something to me. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out Ashton Kutcher was giving up the management of his account because of a mistake he’d made on Twitter.

We’re all human and we all make mistakes. It’s part of what keeps it interesting – the possibility that someone will have a real, uncensored or unedited moment in the public eye. I can recall times where I have tweeted from the wrong account, made a spelling error, or like Ashton, mistakenly tweeted out an incorrect fact and gotten into an hour long fight with an OC housewife. (True story.) However it didn’t make me want to retreat from my account and hire a ghost writer. Instead, I simply apologized and went about my day.

Unfortunately, now that Ashton has taken this step we’ll never know who’s tweeting on his behalf. Is it really him or his social media mouthpiece? This is a step that many organizations take. They know they need to have a presence online but they don’t want to figure it out on their own, or they are fearful of backlash so they decide to hire someone externally to own the presence who can also own the blame.

Consumers are sometimes duped into thinking we’re interacting with the brand when we’re not, in fact, even dealing with someone who is a company employee. Is it ever right to outsource your voice? My initial belief is no. People get online to interact with the real you or the real brand. This doesn’t mean that every CEO needs to personally manage their company’s Twitter and Facebook pages, but if you to turn over the management of your social media activities, it might be best to let your audience know up front. The transparency that they’re chatting with Jim in Marketing or Amy in Customer Service will let the public know you care enough to have a presence and allows them to set expectations of the person they’re interacting with according to their real role.

Automakers Honda, Ford, and Chevrolet are examples of companies that have hired PR companies to handle their brand image and aren’t ashamed to admit it. These people have identified themselves on the social space and sometimes tweet from their personal accounts. Their bios reflect who they work for and what they’re doing so there’s no mistaking what their role is online. Companies like Starbucks and Burger King prefer to keep everything in-house while launching creative campaigns to engage with their audience to better understand them.

Celebrities, like Britney Spears, have hired teams to manage their accounts. Spears’ social sites are managed by her publicist, personal assistant, a social media manager, and, on occasion, Britney herself. When managing an account with multiple people, it might be advised to indicate who is posting the update with a signature or handle (example: ^Sukhraj). Multiple accounts can be managed with clients like Hootsuite, CoTweet, or Social Oomph that allow a team to sign on and see who has responded to updates and if needed to schedule updates. Guy Kawasaki is another figure that has a team behind him supporting his brand. In an interview with American Express Open Forum, Kawasaki gave a detailed approach to his Twitter management strategy and methodology.

Essentially, your audience wants to know who they are talking to. If it’s not you, and it has been positioned that it is, they may feel that if they can’t trust you to tweet truthfully then how can they trust your product or service?

What are your views on outsourcing social media? Do you think Ashton Kutcher and others are making a mistake? Are you managing social media in house or have you considered outsourcing?

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