Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why an army needs to build an army

So, before I begin with the official post, I need to put something out there. I abhor people who always say, "Oh, I would have done that THIS way" when they really don't know what they're talking about. Non-parental types should probably not tell parents how to care for children. Unless you have dated the person previously, you should not tell someone how to deal with a significant other. Along these lines, a person who has yet to publish a book (like me, for example) probably should not tell New York Times Best Seller authors how she would have approached a chapter of said best selling book.
Now that we all agree on that, I thought there were 2 missing elements in the "Build Your Army" chapter of Trust Agents.

Some people are missing from the staff

The chapter, in essence, is about how to leverage a lot of people and technology to spread your word, which of course makes all the sense in the world. Brogan and Smith mention the General. They mention the army. But in my limited experience, you need some other staff members in there too. One could say that maybe you need a Lieutenant Commander who you can send out there. He or she can get your army riled up and maybe can ask them to spread a message or a link so that you aren't always having to go out there and ask for favors (Brogan and Smith talk about how to ask such favors of your army, but it's nice sometimes to have someone else ask for you).

I was thinking a Drill Sargent might be good too. The chapter talks about a sponsored blog post Brogan did that earned him a lot of consternation from his army and his army's friends. If you have a person who can go out there and say, "Listen, you weasels, this is what it is, this is the right story, now go and tell your friends," wouldn't that be kind of nice?

I'm kind of joking. I'm also horrible at remembering the proper martial order of titles so I'm not even going to try to carry this analogy further. But my point is that every general, if you want to be literal, needs a supporting staff. Even if a general has an army, it's still the general by him or herself, but now with a lot of people to guide. It seems to me like delegation would become increasingly important and helpful in this scenario. You don't want to end up like George McClellan from the American Civil War, who thought he really could do everything by himself and then realized he had been held hostage by "Quaker guns." Bad PR, that.

Sometimes it's an army creating an army

Another thing I was hoping to see in this chapter was how a company or corporation could or should use employees to help build the army.

One of the things we have been talking to our clients about is that when it comes to Social Media, research and preparation are utterly necessary. You should not even sign into Facebook until everyone in your company has marching orders. The more employees you have, the more complex this can be, but here's why it's important.

* Do you know if your company is going to be represented via one central page or account or whether every individual will have a company-related account?

* Can individuals use their existing personal accounts to drive traffic to your corporate account(s)?

* Do you want individual employees to even have individual accounts that can't be monitored?

* What kind of persona do you want your corporate social media identity to evoke? Everyone has to understand this. You don't want a CSR to answer a tweet with "Hey dude" if you are trying to be button-down professional

These are just a few of the questions to which there should be solid, understood answers. And it's important to make sure that everyone within your company or corporation (your real-life army) understands that each of them have the power to build an army, but it perhaps should be an army following your company as the general, not just one person. This becomes a very difficult dance, because social media is innately about person-to-person relationships, and too many mentions of a company can come off as being "selly."

Because of these complexities, I was hoping that the chapter would cover a company's role when the general of a growing army. There were corporate examples, like GM asking people to submit photos or videos of their favorite GM car. But to me, that falls more into a promotion kind of relationship. Who was commenting on those photos and videos? Who was spreading the word about the opportunity to submit those materials? Was it a corporate GM account? Was it "suzyatGM"?

Even though Brogan and Smith are right in that our current society is increasingly based on individuals rather than companies with lots of employees, the fact is that there are still a lot of companies and corporations out there, and they are all running big risks if they are jumping into the deep end of the Social Media pool without considering questions and answers to those questions first. I think the chapter could have been enriched by delving into this side of things a bit more.

What do you think?

Image by Stephen Davies.


Anonymous said...

What do I think? Since I seem to lack the prerequisite experience, I don't want to dare opine and then be abhored.

Real Life Mad Man said...

Oh, that was a hit at me, as I am completely unpublished!!