Dealing With Employees Who Are Social Media Celebrities

social media viewpointsOne of the big promises of social media is that literally anyone can become a celebrity now because of cheap and easy access to social media tools. We all have a shot at our 15 megabytes of fame if we can create compelling content.

But what are the implications for businesses that get serious about social media? Are there hidden dangers lurking for companies whose employees are “too good” with social media? This article will explore five benefits and five threats of celebrity employees.

The Employee Celebrity Is Born

Organizations around the world are wisely trying to dive into social media to take advantage of the new opportunities. The promises of “crowdsourcing” ideas and creating “viral” success stories have a huge appeal to companies of all sizes and industries. However, in doing this, companies are also creating something they never anticipated: the employee celebrity.

The Shift to Managing Talent

An employee celebrity is someone in your organization who has a positive reputation apart from or in addition to your corporate brand. Social media allows for great personal branding in addition to corporate branding, so a shift in power and need happens when employees become celebrities and begin to see themselves as talent rather than average employees.

When you’re working with talent, there are inherent benefits and potential landmines. Just ask any coach or owner of a professional sports team. Here are five opportunities and five threats with employee celebrities:

Five Opportunities of Celebrity Employees

#1: A Human Connection

Customers and prospects get to connect with a human they trust at your company who’s genuinely worth giving attention to. As a result, brand awareness, customer service and increased engagement opportunities occur. (Example: Frank Eliason at Comcast, known as @comcastcares on Twitter.)

#2: Enhanced Credibility

Your celebrity employee brings your company credibility it never had or hasn’t had in a long time. (Example: Robert Scoble during his Microsoft days.)

Robert Scoble

#3: Better Insight

Your celebrity employee knows the heartbeat of your customers and can accurately anticipate reactions to policy changes, new products or brand adjustments. (Example: Lynsay Caylor at Pilot Travel Centers listens, learns, reports and acts because of their Facebook page.)

#4: Enhanced Influence

Steve JobsYour celebrity employee has the attention and trust of interested and potential customers. These are the first people likely to spend money with your company. All they have to do is talk about it and watch the fans run with it. (Example: Steve Jobs is the ultimate celebrity employee.)

#5: Crisis Management

Your celebrity employee can set the record straight if a PR crisis occurs because the platform is already in place and trust exists between the employee and his or her following. (Example: Steve Rubel has addressed specific situations when his employer, Edelman PR, came under fire.)

Five Threats of Celebrity Employees

#1: The Power Player

Your celebrity employee develops a following that is more loyal to him or her than to your brand, products or services and attempts to wield that power to make changes the company doesn’t want to make. The celebrity knows he or she has influence with customers and they’re willing to use it for personal benefits rather than corporate benefits.

#2: The Gunslinger

gunslingerYour employee celebrity angers customers with an idea, opinion or mistake that then reflects badly on the company and creates a PR crisis. Often this kind of celebrity employee will apologize but also relishes the additional attention that comes from the controversy.

In 2009, James Andrews, an employee for Ketchum PR, was flying into Memphis to do a presentation to their client, FedEx. After he arrived in Memphis to go to FedEx headquarters, he tweeted that “he would die if he had to live here“.

The people at FedEx saw it and called him out on it. Then the whole thing went public and Ketchum PR had its own PR situation. Ironically enough, Andrews was going to talk to FedEx about the power of social media.

#3: The Chatterbox

Your celebrity employee accidentally or unknowingly reveals secret corporate information and your company has to decide how to deal with the information leak. The tendency will be for the leadership or employee celebrity him- or herself to pull back from the public discussion after a situation like this, but you want to deal with it proactively and likely publicly through the same means that caused the trouble in the first place.

#4: The Free Agent

Your celebrity employee decides to leave the company for a new job and take his or her following along. The opportunity for the company is to decide if they did everything they could to retain the employee. This also supports the idea of getting more people in the company involved so if one person leaves, you haven’t lost an entire segment of your conversations.

#5: The Diva

Celebrity employees may get so focused on celebrity status that they’re difficult to work with or merely uninterested in the normal work because they’re so focused on growing their tribe. Unfortunately, this person has seen your company as a stepping-stone to greater things for a long time. Now it’s just more obvious. Despite the potential frustration, don’t burn bridges here because you might have a relationship with a rising star.

The Adjusted Reward System

The thing that makes celebrity employees unique within the structure of your company is that previously the employee’s primary rewards were a paycheck, occasional encouragement, and the hope for a promotion someday.

Now, however, they can create a following that cares more about them than their own manager probably does. The company keeps on supplying the paycheck and the employee keeps on fulfilling his or her role, but the attention from the customers creates a reward all its own.

You Need Each Other More Than You Think

The irony in most cases is that the employee attained “celebrity” status in large part because of the company he or she worked for. The company name backing them gave immediate authority to the public.

The employee’s own abilities, however, took the company name and endowed authority to the level that made it truly beneficial to both the company and the employee. They need each other more than they think they do.

The pressure social media and employee celebrities bring to the workplace is mostly positive. It changes the dynamic from “human resources” to “talent management” and that’s really a good thing for everyone.

Businesses will get better people, employees will be better people, and customers reap the benefits from the whole arrangement. Employee celebrities will be viewed as a threat in some companies, but they’ll be rock stars in other companies. Social media gives every organization yet one more thing to consider for the future of their business.

So, do the benefits outweigh the threats? Does your business have a celebrity employee? Let us know what you think in the comment box below.

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About the Author, Bill Seaver

Bill Seaver is the founder of MicroExplosion Media, a social media marketing consulting firm based in Nashville. He's an active blogger and podcaster. Other posts by »




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  • @Beckysocial

    This is a great post… Thanks Bill.

    It’s true that there are some pros and cons and I feel you have outlined these well. Another pro I would add is that they can be a great window in bridging the gap between you and industry influencers. Not only helping you better understand/connect with your customers but opening doors for collaboration and partnership.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks for the comment Rebecca. Great insight into connecting with industry influencers. Very good point.

  • http://whatleydude.com/ James Whatley

    Good post Bill.

  • Iain Haywood

    An increasingly common issue, well broken down. Though I must say even the phrase “social media celebrity” makes me feel rather nauseous.

  • http://www.skillett.com Keiron

    An interesting post.

    The part I think that is really interesting is that many medium to large companies may not even realise they have a social media celebrity in their midst!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Bill – Please reply directly to folks by clicking the reply button below their comments–otherwise they will not know you replied. You can copy and paste your reply. I will remove this when you’ve done that.

  • newspapergrl

    I can identify with a lot of these issues from the perspective of being the employee with a lot of visibility.

    Pro: I get special treatment and more respect for my status (and can’t say that I don’t love that). However, what can come with that is jealousy from coworkers. They may feel like your voice is heard enough and exclude you and purposefully cut you out of discussions or projects.

    Or the employer may think that you can do everything and put you in charge of strategy and implementation of everything social media – which is tough to do on your own and with no staff. Plus maintaining existing accounts.

    Then there is the brand confusion. Sometimes I’m talking as me and other times the company wants me to talk in their behalf. On LinkedIn when I ask questions or participate in groups I’m speaking for me. It could be confusing if I log in to that same group and speak as an employee. There are different goals and I don’t want to dilute my brand. Plus if the brand gets a bad name then it can rub off on me (there’s the challenge of having a stronger reputation than your company has).

    My current company is good at working with me and allows me to talk about my book and be myself. There are times it’s a little dicey but overall we’ve made it work. When I speak or consult and it makes sense I refer people to them. They have given me opportunities for greater visibility through partnerships they’ve established, which I appreciate.

    Overall it’s a benefit from both but does demand more consideration. I’ve faced some ethical dilemmas as I try to navigate it but always try to figure out the best outcome. It’s not always clear cut.

    I think I’ve just written my own blog post.

    Janet

  • http://www.topbusinesswriter.com Stacey

    This is a great list of benefits and disadvantages. I would think that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages that are listed in most cases. I can think of a few people that I follow on Twitter that I originally followed because of their relationship to a certain company but I will follow that person even if they leave. I think it is a definite threat but in the meantime, companies can take advantage of the celebrity status and use it to increase their own social media status.

  • http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com olivierBlanchard

    #4 in your threats. There’s a procedural hurdle there that needs to be addressed (even with non-”celebrity” employees) and it’s this: Preserving social equity. Say that individual has acquired 100,000 followers on Twitter during her tenure. She leaves tomorrow. What happens to that network?

    This is something that needs to be addressed long before the employee announces their departure. Continuity planning is more important than ever now that corporate communications also live in the SM world.

    Here’s a tip: The question isn’t whether or not the followers belong to the employee or to the company. Because of the “partnership” between the SM celebrity and her employer, they belong to both. Arrangements should be made (as early as possible during the individual’s employment) to regularly transfer all of her followers to a database so that if and when she leaves, those tens of thousands of contacts aren’t lost. If a so-called “celebrity” employee refuses, they probably don’t need to be there. Cut your losses before it’s too late.

    When the individual is replaced (and a new account created), the company can then contact all of the former employee’s followers and let them know who the replacement is, what the new SM accounts are, and the company’s SM activities in this particular context can resume.

  • http://twitter.com/StartupSidekick Jason Sullivan

    Dharmesh Shah mentioned in his fantastic book (Inbound Marketing) that an employee’s social status (how many friends they have) will soon become an important deterministic factor in their employment. Companies are going to hire employees who possess a strong social network presence (in hopes of leveraging this presence for their betterment). What Dharmesh did not mention, is that this employee can possibly hurt the company, if they use their social network credibility to damage the company. Very interesting article Bill

    Jason
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/StartupSidekick/148793365130702 (Follow me on Facebook for more entrepreneurial advice)

  • http://www.explorethebruce.com/ Explore The Bruce

    Here at a tourism based operation “ExploretheBruce” in Bruce County, Ontario we are diluting the single star status by filming multiple staff members for a Social Media Star Group. Seems to be working well and creating a larger sense of trust for our brand then pivoting the whole brand on one person. Check out some of our videos on youtube to see the diversity: http://www.youtube.com/user/ExploretheBruce

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks for the comment Rebecca. Great insight into connecting with industry influencers. Very good point.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Done. Thanks!

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Iain, I get that. Celebrity is a loaded term but it gets the point across and raises the issue. If there’s a better word/phrase we can use I’m all for it!

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks James.

  • http://twitter.com/StartupSidekick Jason Sullivan

    Interesting to see how you and your company co-exist. I imagine that as you say, it is not always “clear cut” trying to navigate that type of path, and this must provide for some interesting choices. I suppose that flexibility on your employers’ behalf is quite a necessity

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Keiron. Agreed! That’s actually what got me thinking about this whole topic many months ago. One of my clients is a medium size company that had just learned a particular employee had significantly more influence over a segment of their business than their company did. It created quite a stir of reactions inside the company. Some people loved it and other hated it because they felt like the guy was overshadowing their brand. The “celebrity” was had internal enemies from out of nowhere and didn’t know why. He was viewed as a threat even when he wasn’t.

  • http://twitter.com/lisaweser Lisa Weser

    RE: Oliver Blanchard. WHAT HE SAID!

    It will be interesting to see what happens now that Frank Eliason (who should probably be shuffled from your “Human Connection” section to your “Free Agent section) has left Comcast for Citibank. He will once again blaze new trails (and ignite another round of conference case studies, surely) as one of the first corporate social media heavy hitters to transition to a new brand, and I for one will be watching how his followers and his former employee bounce back (or don’t).

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Yep. That’s a great blog post! You’ve clearly articulated the tension that exists for someone in this position and I think we’re only seeing the beginning of this sort of thing. It requires trust and patience on everyone’s part.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    I agree Stacey. I think the benefits are far greater than the disadvantages. I just know the reality of that perspective is not as widely accepted as you and I would like!

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Jason. I haven’t read that book but sounds like I would like it. I’ll check it out.

  • http://dannybrown.me/ Danny Brown

    Got to disagree here, Olivier. No company “owns” or has “rights” to the connections you make. That’s like saying you can’t speak to any of the friends you made while working there because the company “owns” the employee.

    A personal account that you use to promote the company in occasional tweets, and answering questions, is still a personal account and you have no right to any of the connections I make. Any company that thinks this way should ask why the heck they aren’t better at communications themselves.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Great perspective. I haven’t thought about this from the standpoint of putting the followers/friends into a database in case the employee leaves. Even then, the people will have connected with the person and not a new individual to come along. I think it would be a very interesting case study to see what percentage of people would follow the new person if the original decided to go her own way. Interesting to think about for sure.

  • Laura Schaub

    To add a new twist, what if companies contract their social media to someone who also manages communities for other companies? Done well there can be a lot of synergy (esp. if the companies are in complimentary fields that benefit from cross-pollination) but there could also be major conflicts of interest. Do you think social media should only be done by employees? Any advice for contractors who wish to manage multiple clients?

  • Alex Risser

    I am CEO of a relatively small company. We made decision to hire full time social media person. He started out great and I quickly realized he was becoming a primary face of the company which concerned me of the power created in these positions…it is a 2 edged sword. Rather than squelsch it, I took an active role by sitting in on weekly mktg dept mtgs. I admired the intellect and creativity of our guy and realized we just needed to harness and direct this power for the benefit of both the company and our guy. It has created a great working relationship and I have enjoyed the brainstorming discussions we’ve had in those meetings. While I’m still concerned in the amount of power resident in the position, I know you have to have a strong personality to maximize the benefits….so we need to do what we do every day…manage it!

  • Public Relations

    Hi Olivier! You spoke at our SPRF Conference in Tunica last year. Good to “run into you” here. My input is I’m seeing more and more companies not allowing a partnership and in turn, keeping going back to being too corporate. Because of co-workers getting jealous, I actually had the Facebook and Twitter responsibilities taken out of my job description and had to train other people how to do my social media job. I didn’t have a choice. It was presented as take it or leave it if you want to continue working here. I am hearing this is the norm more and more from friends, although they are the ones who started the social media in their buisnesses. What advice do you have for people who become social media “gurus” in their company? Is there a way to keep it where a corporation can not take it from you, or do you think this is just the nature of what a corporation can/should be able to do? Hope you are doing well! Keep up the great work. I love this site and read it almost daily.

  • rickbakas

    Wow! It’s like you wrote this specifically for myself and the winery I work for. You just accurately described the past year where I’ve been the Director of Social Media Marketing for St. Supéry winery in Napa.

    Everything you wrote was spot on. Kinda creepy how accurate this was :)

    For my situation, I’m going to be 40 years old, and with that comes a higher level of emotional maturity. If I were younger, and not as mature there could be potential for problems, but at this point we have settled into a happy balance that has had very positive results.
    I’m also fortunate to have one of the coolest bosses in the world who gets it. She gives me autonomy to do what I do and for the most part it’s really working.

    I wonder how many other social media personalities who work for an employer have a hard time quantifying all the value they bring, because we know it’s there, but not in black and white. Thanks for the post!

  • http://www.b2bmarketinginsider.com Michael Brenner

    One of the most popular articles EVER on Fast Company magazine is “Free Agent Nation” highlighting Dan Pink’s successful book so this concept is not new. But you are right to point out that with social media this is available to any employee. And to provide a great example of what you said, Frank Eliason has famously announced his departure from Comcast. Excellent post in showing the pros and cons and the need for companies and employees to figure this out.

  • Laura Schaub

    Exactly, doesn’t it really boil down to the attitude of management about social media?

    If they are old school and only doing it because they’ve been told they must, without embracing the new model it represents, then new media will continue to be evaluated by old school methods.

    I’ve been fortunate that my clients allow me the flexibility to roll with the changes, develop strategies and learn as I go. And by following an ‘others first’ guideline I’ve been able to keep from overshadowing my avatar too much. As my client base grows that might be trickier to do. If they lose me, they lose their voice?

  • http://j-town.co.il Charlie Kalech

    This is an issue I’ve been discussing with my colleagues who are social media professionals for a while.While we all agree that there should be a person behind every business’ social media presence, there also needs to be some accountability to the business. On Twitter, for instance, we usually recommend that if it is truly a business account, the name of the account is the company, but the name and bio are a person who states that they are tweeting for the company.Facebook makes it much harder and I wonder what others are doing to address the issue.Many of Facebook’s features only work through a personal profile. While you can post something on another page in the name of your business by posting on your biz page using the @ followed by another group/business page name, you can not really engage in a CONVERSATION with others on Facebook except as a personal profile. The best solution we have come up with is to use a social media team, and not just one person (at least on FB) so it is not always the same person speaking in the name of the company when having conversations (commenting on posts, etc.)Any suggestions?

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Alex, you nailed it. I don’t think there’s an precise method that works for every case and every business but you wisely recognized the benefits while addressing very real concerns. It sounds like you could teach a lot of other CEOs how to walk that very fine line well.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Yes, you’re right on track here. The key to this whole thing is that the employee respect the company leadership and brand while the company leadership respect the employee. It’s nothing new but the social media tools have given “average” employees significant voices and that’s moving the cheese of traditional management all over the place.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks for the comment Michael. Frank’s move over to Citigroup wasn’t public when I turned this post in a few weeks ago but it certainly shows the power of one employee with these tools. It’s yet another wrinkle in this new world of business.

  • Samantha

    I am the SM Marketer at my workplace with our companys Facebook Page. I only post as the company – Never reference myself or say ‘I’ in any posts and it works well. I build relationships with customers by being professional AND personal (by ansering questions, taking part in ‘conversations’ as the company), and it means when I leave the company, someone else can take over my job with no loss of followers. And I know that I’m doing a fantastic job, we’ve gained over 600 fans in two months (We only operate in parts of Australia, and a very niche target audience); I’m a ‘celebrity’ in my own mind which suits me fine :)

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Good questions Charlie. I also recommend brands create their Twitter accounts as the company but state who’s behind it in the bio. I’m 100% on board with you there.

    I’ve recommend clients do a similar thing in the info box under the company profile picture. It sort of serves the same function as the bio on Twitter and then the admins can just state their name whenever they add something to the conversations.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    I gotta admit, Laura, I’m pretty biased on this particular issue. I think companies should seek to bring their social media efforts in-house. I think it’s the most effective way to ensure that messaging stays consistent and that the social media efforts are being used as fully as they allow. I don’t know anyone outside and organization who can represent them as well as someone who lives and breathes it from the inside every day.

    All that being said, I do think outsourcing social media efforts as a temporary solution is sometimes necessary to get a client up to speed and teach them how to eventually take it over themselves.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Lisa. Just heard about Frank’s job change myself. Timely and interesting development within this discussion.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Good idea to spread the love around a bit. The challenge for you guys will be to decide whether you push further with one or two “stars” who seem to connect better than the other people you’re using on the videos. If you trust each other and have a good working relationship I think you should use all the advantages that come with that.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Danny – Appreciate your voice here! – Mike

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Olivier – Great to see you commenting here! All my best and thanks for your response

  • http://www.sheersocial.com Alice Fuller

    GREAT POST! Definitely RTing this! Have a social media celebrity that’s an employee is similar too that one employee that’s an influencer offline within the office. He leads and the office follows. He’s the life of the office Christmas party and star player of the company softball team! But piss him off and he leads the strike or walk off. Whether offline or online, how corporations perceive them is key.

  • http://www.bagladiesradio.com Lady Erin

    Interesting post about the dynamics which are on point. There are definitely pros and cons that have to be considered and realized as social media increases in popularity.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Samantha, glad to hear it’s working out for you but I can’t help but wonder if your brand could be even more successful if there were a person (like you) who was more clearly associated with it. Check out my recommendation to Charlie above for an idea to balance the brand and personality.

    It sounds like you’re engaging people personally but do people trust your brand enough to converse with the unknown person behind the Facebook curtain? Perhaps they do but in my experience I’ve seen even better results when people know who they’re connecting with. People put the social in social media, and in order to do that best you must know who you’re engaging.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Yes! You got it. It’s the same situation online and offline. There have always been influencers within every organization. Now it’s just not internal influencers who the other employees follow, but external influencers who the customers follow.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Well said. Thanks for the comment!

  • http://www.stampendous.com Laura

    Our company does this as well. We have company facebook and twitter accounts and always speak and act as the company. Our owner films our YouTube videos and is the face of our company, but she doesn’t have time to be the social media guru. We reinforce her views, direct folks to her videos so they can put a face with our brand, and try to keep everything else light, fun, and relevant so that they perceive the quality content without the personal celebrity status. It works really well for us, but we’re not exactly Comcast or Microsoft either.

  • Christine Udeani

    I’m with you on this.

  • Carrie Corbin

    This is something that needs to be addressed long before a corporation infiltrates a personal network. :)

    If it’s a corporate account set up during the course of employment where an employee is acting on behalf of the company & actively managing a page as “the” spokesperson – then this makes perfect sense & can even be executed flawlessly when implemented proactively. But to claim ownership of an employee’s personal network under the guise of a “partnership;” unfortunately, still reeks of “corporate and presumptive” entitlement. It’s simply not the same principle as an employee developing a product or a patent that is owned by the company… and even then, those agreements are in place before anything creative happens.

    So while I completely understand your point from a theoretical perspective – I completely disagree in practice that the company would or should have ownership into that person’s *personal* network & I’m fairly certain it would be a lost cause for any company to pursue. The only exception might be if it were a true sales role where we are talking actual customer relationships and there are non-competes in place.

    We can’t be so selective as to allow an employee to have their own opinions (in which we don’t want liability for) and create their own brand (even if on the company’s coattails) and then expect that our “partnership” gives the employer full rights to their personal network should they leave?

    Quite frankly, my opinions are on my own; therefore, my relationships are mine as well – regardless of whether people follow me because of my industry knowledge, what kind of dog or hobby I have, or because I work for a Fortune 10 Co.

    We know a large part of the appeal of social media is the relationship and transparency. I could pull all the followers of my celebrity employees into a database and suggest they follow a new person; but…

    1) Those followers don’t have a (perceived or otherwise relevant) relationship with the new person
    2) The new person may not engage followers the same way the other person did…
    3) If we, as the company, try to dictate engagement style, then we lose the transparency and relationship aspect and instead are subjecting social media to *corporate droneship”
    4) At the end of the day, we end up with just another marketing list of names and it truly still just is – a database.

    So my question becomes: Is it really worth all the effort and the risk of pissing off both the said celebrity employee and/or alienating their followers at the risk (vs. for the benefit) of your corporate brand?

    And from an HR & purely business perspective – social media aside; any company that takes the approach of “If the employee doesn’t see it my way, they aren’t worth their salt” needs an ego check. How many case studies and life lessons do we have to experience before we realize the 50′s corporate parenting style isn’t going to fly?

    Just because I’m the boss, doesn’t mean I’m right… and just because I can, doesn’t mean I should…

  • Carrie Corbin

    Charlie,

    Since you already have a team vs. an individual – check out co-tweet.com. This is what we use for our team to manage our twitter stream and FB page so that the replies aren’t linked to an individual account. You also have the option of including the person’s name, or a carrot with their initials. ^CC

  • http://twitter.com/socialphill ✔ The Epic Blogger ✔

    Wow what a Post1 I loved this Bill! i am currently a one mad band having 2 blogs and a Web Design company of my own! So in a way I am a Social Media Manager, Blogger/Writer, Tech Wiz, Accounts Keeper, Book keeper and Internet celebrity in one!

    He he he it looks like I am Bigging myself up, sorry about that! I loved this post Bill as I am trying to build my following and I hope one day to be employing people myself instead of just me (man its hard work trying to do multiple jobs at once)!

    Lover the post dude and look forward to the next one!
    Until Next Time

    -Phillip Dews

  • http://www.bookmadam.com Julie Wilson

    Super article. However, with the comment “the attention from the customers creates a reward all its own” you point to a dangerous trend that encourages “celebrities” to do extra work for no additional compensation. I was in a similar situation at one point in my career and was fortunate enough to have an employer who unable to appropriately compensate me financially did so in a manager’s title. It held far more value than a token raise, and resulted in me taking my job even more seriously. Having a unexpected “celebrity” in-house is a bit like a tree falling through your roof. It needs to be dealt with, but no one plans for a tree to fall through their roof, not even the tree! And while I certainly felt a debt of gratitude for the opportunities that prepared me for the next phase of my career, I was never comfortable with the notion that I was a safe bet in any future business plan that didn’t eventually include financial reward.

  • http://www.publicrelationsprincess.com Claire Celsi

    Laura: I’m against having an outsider managing a company’s social media presence. There are many disadvantages, mainly: Having a low-level employee handling your account, not having control over your message, and the risk of turn-over. Even though it’s my business to handle social media accounts for clients, my main goal is to teach them how to fish. Long term, it’s the only thing that makes sense.

  • http://www.publicrelationsprincess.com Claire Celsi

    Alex, you are so right. The social media manager has a responsibility to share his/her new influence with others in the company and share the spotlight. There are many experts in your company that can share knowledge. It’s the social media manager’s job to introduce his flock to those experts.

  • http://www.1stwebdesigner.com Dainis Graveris

    Really , good post! And interesting discussion about all this – read some of them!

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    That sounds like a good way to keep the owner out in front as the face of the company and still retain the team of support around her. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://JackieUlmer.com/ Jackie Ulmer

    This is great food for thought all the way around. The Internet and Social Media has really changed the landscape of our world! I always say – Google leaves a trail. Always think before you post anything.

    EXPECT Success!

    Jackie Ulmer

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks for the kind words Phillip. My next post with SM Examiner will be in a month or so. Until then you can find me at: http://microexplosion.com

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks for commenting on that particular statement. My intention with that particular line of thinking was that employees typically look toward the rewards within the job itself like the pay, retirement plan, vacation time, corner office, etc. With an “employee celebrity” discovering a status outside of the company but has benefit for the company, there is the discovery of power and autonomy. It’s a hop, skip, and jump away from the person thinking, “I wonder if these people would go with me if I did my own thing…” That’s the kind of reward I’m talking about, but your point is well taken. A smart company will always compensate its most valuable employees well to keep them happy and now more than ever, to keep them on their own team.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Dainis. Yes, great discussion on this topic!

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Well said Jackie. Thanks for the comment.

  • icanewfriend

    It’s the same old story. If senior execs treat all of their employees with dignity and respect, there are usually few concerns. Policies and understandings must be made clear from the get go. If there any agreements to be signed, sometimes that is best for all parties involved. Aside from all of this, if the human resources employment people do their due diligence, upfront, a “celebrity” employee will devote himself or herself to the company’s team effort and not just the personal one.

    Marc LeVine
    Director of Social Media
    Proudly for RiaEnjolie, Inc.
    http://www.RiaEnjolie.com

  • http://twitter.com/engine140 Engine140

    I really like this idea. It sounds the safest for the company and the celebrity employee. The company retains the accounts if the employee leaves and can place someone else in charge of managing them. For the employee, their personal brand is less likely to be negatively impacted if something goes wrong at the company.

  • Sue_Corralz

    Great post Bill! Business are slowly picking up on your points that managing social media isn’t a one dimentional effort. It’s not simply a legal, marketing, or HR perspective. It’s a blend.

    Sue Corralz

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Yep, it’s that simple…and equally that unusual.

  • http://microexplosion.com Bill Seaver

    Thanks Sue. Yes, social media has much broader implications in business beyond the web team or marketing department. They’re just not as readily obvious until you really get into it. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.Launch.it/ Trace Cohen

    I think it really depends on the company and how they handle it – and as you mentioned, there are lots of good/bad examples.

    It is really hard to determine the impact that someone can have on a company, while they may seem to be a celebrity or champion for that company.

  • http://twitter.com/ed_han ed han

    Wow, this is a prospect I never considered. Thanks for this treatment of the matter!

  • http://twitter.com/smashadv Jim Mitchem

    It seems that this dialogue is wrapped around the benefit of having an employee who happens to be a social media “celebrity.” But what if they’re a “celebrity” for reasons that don’t align with corporate goals and cultures? What if there’s no way for the organization to exploit the “celebrity?” Let them run with it anyway? Shut them down? Make them change their bios so that it’s clear that their updates are in no way affiliated with the organization (something you see often in bios)? Ask them to not update during work? Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve always used social media as a way to connect with people (not just a target audience) by sharing direct and personal experiences and observations rather than advancing commercial endeavors. If ABC company hired me tomorrow, and my stream started containing mostly the kinds of things that are in direct alignment with my new employer’s corporate strategies, then I’m losing most of my network who like me for other reasons. There’s more to social media than business.

  • maryhenige

    Very good post that balances the pros and cons. Well said. Clearly a hot topic now.

  • http://my168project.com/ Matches Malone

    As my own employee, I have no choice but to be all things to everyone, therefore, the answer to the question you posed at the end is a resounding, Maybe.

  • http://l2tmedia.com/ Mr. Gordon Gecko

    While a dangerous game to play, as suggested throughout the reading, the decision not to get involved can leave you vulnerable to your competitors. As a general rule of thumb, the more involved your target market is, the deeper your products/services have the ability to become.

  • http://stefparkspeaks.blogspot.com stephanie parkinson

    I like your style….

  • Toni

    Hear Hear!

  • Maxxy

    Really interesting article. Thanks. Will be interesting to see how recruitment strategies change to accommodate “celebrity employees”. I wonder how potential recruiters look at how a celebrity employee has behaved in the past balancing brand and personality when considering offering job roles and how important this aspect will be in comparison with skills and experience to do the job.

  • http://AgencyFirebox.com/ Karl Sakas

    Even as work and life bleed together, a company’s corporate account(s) shouldn’t be specific to a particular employee. While they’re an employee, encourage them to post with their company and personal account, but as soon as they leave, the company account remains the company account. Sure, the company may lose some followers along the way, but the company name belongs to the company, not the employee.

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org Paul Steinbrueck

    Interesting post, Bill.

    I think the analogy of the sports team and sports celebrity is a very good one. I think we can draw a lot of lessons from it. Often, for better or worse, a sports star becomes the face of their team. When the team and the start are on the same page, like Michael Jordan and the Bulls it can be phenomenal for both. Sometimes, when they’re not on the same page like T.O. and the 49ers/Eagles/Cowboys/Bills, etc it can be rough. And then there’s the situation where a player becomes the face of their team and then leaves for another team like Donavan McNabb.

    When the relationship is rocky or a celebrity player leaves, it can be tough, but ultimately every team would love to have a big-name star on their team, and I think every company would love to have a big-name social media celebrity on their team too. The benefits far outweigh the pitfalls.

  • http://twitter.com/carlchristensen carl christensen

    Interesting article. Celebrity employees indeed. People who blog and spend half the day on facebook and tweeting are now celebs ? Half my company are celebs then :)

  • Pingback: Social Media Is Creating Employee Celebrities: 5 Threats and Opportunities | DePalma Studios Test WordPress Blog







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