Featured Posts

NSA Leaks: The Big Data Two Step for Businesses This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on June 10, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I expect we will be seeing a lot of dancing over the next few...


Coming to an Agency Near You! This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 23, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I am often pondering what is next in the world in which we...


Customer Service Week: Here's Your Call Center This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 7, 2013.  To see the original post click here. As we begin Customer Service Week I want to thank all those...


Defining the Customer Experience Role This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 2, 2013.  To see the original post click here. Customer experience is a term growing in popularity within businesses...


Apple's #Fail When Dealing with @MarthaStewart This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 30, 2013.  To see the original post click here. It feels like it was the Tweet heard around the world: "I...


  • Prev
  • Next

Twitter is the Pangaea, but it is Not Nirvana

Posted on : 19-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media

Tags: ,


Pangaea Image Courtesy of Solstation.com

I am in Las Vegas right now attenting the WOMMA Summit.  Last night I had dinner with a good friend, Pete Blackshaw.  Much of the conversation was about a piece that was in USA Today on Wednesday titled “Social Media, like Twitter, Change Customer Service.”  Needless to say when I read the opening discussing a missed opportunity for my team I was a little upset.  But this really started me thinking about Twitter and businesses that use it.  Expectations have been high as this new engagement tool has been developed for businesses.  I am proud to be one of the people that have really shown how it can be done.  At the same time I think there is a divergence between the expectations and the realities.

USA Today Picture Taken By Eileen Blass

USA Today Picture Taken By Eileen Blass

I have heard businesses and individuals discuss the space as nirvana for communications.  I do not believe it has achieved, or will ever achieve that level for anyone.  Nirvana is way too high of a threshold for a tool to such as this to achieve.  There are faults, like most means of communication, such as a fail whale once in a while (although much improved) or a tweet not coming through to the many tools that use the Twitter API.  Besides the technical things that can happen,  let’s face facts, we are human and at times we make mistakes. 

So if this space is not nirvana, what is it and how can companies use it?  Well have you ever heard of the theory of Pangaea (sometime spelled Pangea)?  This is the theory that at one time all the world’s continents were together as one; the continent of Pangea.  Twitter has proven to bring the world together for numerous events around the world, the most discussed probably the protests in Iran.  I have always seen the benefit to Twitter as a way of meeting new friends (Facebook being the space for the friends I already know).  Through Twitter search we can learn almost anything and connect with people that  have the knowledge we are looking for or the thoughts we want to connect with.  For businesses, it is not the space to force one sided conversations, as many people have sought.  First and foremost it is a space that is worth listening to in an effort to learn and obtain information faster.  Search is the key.  Through this your organization will transform into a smaller place because you are connected directly to the Customers thoughts.  In business it is impossible for every executive to review every interaction, but reviewing 140 characters will provide you the same information in a much easier manner to digest.  One of the keys to this is this is not a metric or number, but instead the Customer’s view in their own words.  Nothing is more powerful than that.

It can also be used to have actual dialogue with your Customers allowing them to be part of business solutions. Customers and employees of all levels have wanted a say in business operations for years, but there were no easy ways to do this, and in many cases it was not welcomed by individual leaders.  The dictator style of leadership. Well social media has killed that syle and today it is involving others.  It is a great way to do it because it creates immediate buy in.  Those involved also have a vested interest in success.  Twiter is an easy tool to involve your Customers.  As you build a following, you can ask questions, even provide business problems and the crowd will help provide answers.  This to me is probably the most enjoyable aspect to Twitter.  I know some will say not every Customer is on Twitter, and that is a fair statement.  At the same time there is no cost effective means to do this like in the same manner to all Customers. 

Twitter is bringing the world together, even in business.  Embrace this fact and strive to do the right things and your business will be successful.

Business Has Always Been About Personal Connections!

Posted on : 13-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media


So I just got home from the New Tee Vee Live conference in San Francisco.  I had a great time meeting friends that I have spoken with many times via Twitter.  This was not my typical conference, since normally I have the opportunity to go to conferences more centered on social media or Customer service.  I did not have the opportunity to stay in San Francisco long (just about 30 hours), but even though it was quick I did leave with a reinvigorated spirit and deeper friendships.  One of those friendships is with Om Malik, who I found to be simply a nice guy.  It is funny, because I have seen the fear he can instill in so many people based on his frank and honest writing style.  Instead I found a honest, quiet man that is open to laughing at himself.

I enjoyed the dinner the evening before the event.   At dinners like this there is always a few speeches and toasts, this was no different.   When Om Malik got up he thanked many that contribute to the success at night.  Among those that he acknowledged were many members from Comcast, my employer and the main sponsor for the event.  In his acknowledgement he went a step further to discuss the great connections he was making with the Comcast team members that were there.  I am not sure what he was expecting, but you can tell there was a genuine like on both sides.  This was not a surprise, because I know I work with a lot of great people.  I was not surprised at the public acknowledgements; let’s face it, that is the nature of these type of events.  What did surprise me was the deeper personal conversations I had with Om and members of his team at Gigaom.com.   These included advice and honest conversations that were very touching.  This was the personal connection that really mattered.

While I was at the event , CBS News played a piece based on an interview we did months ago (A copy of the story is below this post).  The piece was regarding the trouble companies have allowing there employees to use social media while at work.  To me, as I pointed out in my last post, it is similar to the debate I am sure happened when phones came into the office setting and I know the same exact debate happened when employees were provided access to email.  One of my friends, Beth Harte, likes to share a picture of a golfer when she discusses social media with senior executives.  She is making the point that social media is the new golf outing to attract clients.  I agree in many ways.  Of course social media is a little cheaper.  For those who point out that social media has a negative impact on productivity, I would ask how long a status update takes on Facebook?  How about 140 characters on Twitter?  Another question I would ask companies is if they expect their employees to answer their blackberry during off hours?  I think that is why they provide them in the first place, so why can’t a little bit of home be brought to the office?  Seems to me to be double standard.

If you are a business, social media is a great way to humanize your brand.  The only way to humanize your brand is through your employees.  They are the most valuable asset to any company and in many ways actually define your brand.  Teach them social media, help them engage in it, and create an environment that encourages it.  This has been proven to be successful, just look at Zappos.   So whether it is in social media, at a business function, conference, or meeting a Customer at a local store, it is all about building and maintaining relationships.  Your employees are the biggest company cheerleaders, so please let them go cheer!

I apologize if this post seemed to go in a few directions.  While I was writing it I was having a conversation with someone that believes that companies should block social media websites and forbid employees from speaking about the brand.  It caused me to go in a little different of a conversation, but, like that individual, there are many people that do not understand the potential positive outcomes by building a social business.  Of course the conversation with that person was on Twitter!  Some do not see the benefits in gaining Customers, or how this new communication can really help businesses find new solutions and answers.  The social web has a lot of potential if a company decides to fully tap into it.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The Social Media Fire, Will It Change Corporate Culture?

Posted on : 07-11-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Customer Service, In the News, Marketing, Social Media, Technology


This is the third attempt for me writing this post.  This morning I woke up and read my email like I do every morning.  One of the emails was a Google alert with a reference to this San Francisco Chronicle article about “Social Media Going Corporate.”  In the article it stated the following:

At Comcast, employee Frank Eliason took the initiative last year to use his own Twitter account to contact customers who were tweeting about service problems. Now known as “Famous Frank,” Eliason has been credited with almost single-handedly turning around Comcast’s reputation. He heads a staff of 11 who monitor social networks and offer help to customers.

During a question-and-answer session at last month’s Web 2.0 conference, Comcast’s Roberts said the Twitter strategy has played a big part in changing the corporate culture “from inside the organization, not just the top down.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/07/BU341ACLD3.DTL#ixzz0WE9gWzSR

In my opinion the change in culture was due to so many people inside and outside the organization.  Some of the people I work with I give huge credit to the change, including my team, Rich Roberts (my former boss, now VP of Customer Care in Atlanta), Tina Waters (SVP and my boss), Rick Germano (SVP of National Customer Service), Jenn Khoury, (VP, Corporate Communications), and D’Arcy Rudnay (SVP, Corporate Communications).  But it was so many more than these individuals.  Team members throughout the organization, from techs, Customer Service representatives, managers, directors, and VPs from all area contributed.  Our Customers, who are very passionate about our products, and simply want a great experience to go with it.  As Rick likes to say “They are cheering us on, because they want us to get  it right.”  In dealing with so many, I can say Rick is correct, they do love our products and they want the opportunity to cheer for us, we just need to make sure we deliver on that.  This post is not about Comcast, but for those that do not know, I agree our culture has changed.  I have been seeing first hand, including changes in reporting structure, new systems, the implementation of the Customer Guarantee and the overall attitude of the company has shifted to be about the Customer experience.  In fact the new corporate credo is:

“We will deliver a superior experience to our Customers every day.  Our products will be the best and we will offer the most Customer friendly and reliable service in the market”

I am sure some will say they have not experienced this fully yet, but I will tell you a lot is being done to ensure you do.  You will be cheering!  Internally the conversation is always about the Customer experience and how to make sure we get it right.  I see a much different place than when I started 2 years ago.  I do not believe it was due to me, but a lot of the discussions in various spaces that started to come together at the same time.  Many of the discussions supported greater transparency, Customer focus, and an environment that questioned how things were being done.  As this took shape, the culture of the company changed.

So I wrote this post numerous times I kept singing in my head the following lyrics:

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Aren’t these words so fitting regarding social media and corporate America?  Now I was not around when the phone joined the business world, but I can imagine someone saying they do not need a phone on their desk.  Yet today, many of us carry our work phone wherever we are.  I would imagine in the marketing space similar discussions happened with the transition from newspaper to radio to TV.  I remember email coming out and much debate over providing email access to all employees.  Today, I have work email 24/7 on my iPhone.  Even funnier was the reaction to using email for Customer Service.  Today who would not think to email a company for service?  Same was true regarding allowing employees having internet access on their desk.  This was done, but then many site were blocked due to productivity.  Of course I work on email at night and weekends, why would their be a problem if I updated Facebook at work?  So lets allow the song to continue:

Telephone, radio’s playing, newspapers, TV’s talking,
email, googling, paying bills, Pandora playing
Facebook Mafia wars, Blog updates galore
Following more Twitter stars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on…

Social media is about relationships, and ultimately relationships are good for businesses and employees.  Will social media change corporate culture?  Well have other forms of communication?  I believe phone, email and the internet have already changed the culture for everyone, especially businesses.  With each new form of communication we gain efficiency and we find new ways to speak with Customers.  Can you imagine someone typing and copying memos?  Ugh, I would hate that.  For those that say Twitter and Facebook take away from the efficiency of the workers, the same was said about email and internet access.  I bet it was also said about phone too (oh no, a family member better not call).  Social media has made the world a smaller place (there are numerous examples of this) and I know it can make the business world smaller too.

Blog World, 2009 – Let’s Have an Impact on the World

Posted on : 19-10-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Social Media

Tags: , , , , ,


A year ago I had an amazing time at Blog World, 2008.  In many ways that event was an out of body experience.  It was my first ever speaking event.  I was on a panel with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, Brian Solis, Toby Bloomberg and Becky Carroll.  I could never imagine speaking with such stars.  What I did not realize at the time (at least until the after parties), many considered me a star too. During the party, when people realized who I was, a crowd gathered around.  The whole experience was something I will never forget.  I am especially grateful for all the friendships that developed.

Well Blog World is about creating experiences people will not forget and 2009 was no different.  Again I was on an incredible panel for Social Media Success Stories with Samantha Gammell (Oscar Mayer — The wiener mobile!), Justin Levy, and Brian Wiegand.  It was great to be paired with such terrific people.  Blog World is so much more than a simple panel that I participated on.  Of course there were a lot of parties and meetings.  I had a terrific time at the Techset Party at the Bellagio, thanks Brian Solis!  AdvertureGirl also put on a great party at Lavo; thanks Stefanie (I also appreciated the burger!).  I also have to thank @WynnLasVegas for great conversation about social media and a terrific dinner at Wazuzu.

A big topic of conversation has been charities using social media to raise awareness and funds.  This is a topic that has been close to me.  As many of you are aware, I helped create the Comcast New Media Exchange, an event for non profits to learn how to use social media.  For Blog World, 2009 the topic came up the moment I was getting on the plane.  Behind me was a my friend Jay Scott, CEO of Alex’s Lemonade Stand (He and his wife Liz continued the effort of their daughter Alex, and are both hero’s in my eyes – read this prior post).  When I arrived one of the first discussions I heard about was setting a world record for conversations in social media.  The effort was to #beatcancer.  You can view some of the tweats on their website.  As you can imagine beating cancer is a big goal in my life.  When we ended my panel I put out a plea for the effort in memory of our Angel Gia.  Through the #beatcancer hashtag we reached a world record and raised a lot of money for cancer! Thank you Miller-Coors, eBay and PayPal!

The few days were a whirlwind of activity.  I met up with so many friends, and gained many new ones.  As it was all wrapping up, I was looking forward to going home.  I received a call to go on CNN to talk about social media with Don Lemon.  The spot featured Blog World found Rick Calvert, Jermaine Dupree, Tamara Knechtel, and my friend from Ford Scott Monty (The new Taurus SHO is very nice!).  It was an amazing opportunity.  I think I did okay, but looking at the tape I could see the nerves.  There is one clip online and it is the one I messed up the most.  Oh well, I was still happy with the experience, and hope to have it again some time.  After the driver brought us back, I went to dinner with Anthony Edwards (you may know him from Top Gun, Revenge of the Nerds, or ER).  I have met a few stars, and different than many, Tony was down to earth and a genuine nice guy.  I am so happy we had the chance to meet.  We were discussing his efforts to raise $10 from 500,000 people to help build a pediatric hospital in Kenya.  I provided a few ideas to create a viral campaign, but I know they would love more.  Please feel free to post them in the comments and I will share with them.  The effort is part of Shoe4Africa.  Visit their website to learn more about the effort. or watch the video below:

Social media, no matter if it is a blog, Twitter, Facebook or other space on the internet, gives you the opportunity to change the world.  Seize the opportunity and share your passion to make a difference.

Be Careful How You Market Your Product!

Posted on : 05-10-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Marketing, Social Media


I have been meaning to write this post since an event I was at last week.  One of the brand marketers had a great presentation that I agreed with many of the points, but one was, in my opinion, the wrong approach.  I am not mentioning the brand on purpose but I have a lot of respect for the presenter and the work they have done bringing their company to a new level in social media.

Well the reason I am writing this post now is because the NY Times posted an interesting article titled “F.T.C to Rule Bloggers Must Give Full Disclosure.”  I have never been a fan of giving bloggers products, or in the case of the presentation I was at, rewarding those that speak highly for your product.  The reason is easy, once I heard the company rewarded positive commentary, I no longer believed any positive post I have ever read about the company.  I now questioned the true motives of anyone that has ever posted about them.  I remember about 6 months ago I was approached by marketers (that did not work for my company) wanting me to identify bloggers and provide free products.  They were offended by my simple one word answer “No.”  The reason was not because I do not want people to see the great products from my company.  It also was not that I was afraid of what they may say, but it was really about what people may think if they did say something positive and someone later found out.

I admit, I am cheap and would love free stuff, but if you offer it, please do not expect a blog post.  Ultimately it would hurt my own credibility and that of the brand.  I will admit that I was invited to an event to receive free products and listen to pitches from people.  I was tempted to go, but I declined.  My temptation was to see the product and to truthfully people watch.  But it did not fit in with my own belief structure for the social web.

I am not a fan of government regulation in this area.  My preference would be to see the blogosphere self regulate this, but at the same time for events like the one I was invited to or presentations mentioning rewards for good commentary, we are not doing as good of a job as we should.  I expect many will disagree with my thoughts, especially those within the marketing field, but I will say, from experience, allow your Customers to say the good and bad.  Listen to them and continually work to improve your product to meet the Customer desires.  For the bloggers, I understand the temptation for free products, but think about your own credibility and long term potential.  It is so important to be true to who you are.  That will bring the best long term results.

Socialnomics: Is Social Media a Revolution or Evolution?

Posted on : 02-10-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Social Media


Land of the Misfit Toys

Posted on : 26-09-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Inspirational, Marketing, Personal, Social Media


I tend not to post when I have a lot on my mind that I am trying to work through.  Sometimes it may be personal, other times work or even career.  In the past few years I have had a lot of new things happening in my life that cause me to ponder many things, especially about the future.  Recently I have been thinking about my own career path and what it all means.  Social media has added an interesting realm to my life and I am not going to say it hasn’t brought struggles too.  I strive to be as open as possible with things, but sometimes you have to come to conclusions on your own.

I love leading the way, whether it be with a team or a movement for Customer Service.  I never strive for the status quo, especially with work.  We all need to continually evolve our abilities and companies need to broaden their horizons to meet an ever changing Customer.  My style is not playing politics but instead concentrating on the Customer story and what is in front of me at the time.  Sometimes in doing this people that are close to the process work off of their own historical information.   I am lucky to work with many that have great experience in the cable and telecommunications industry; I learn a lot from them every day.  My background is financial services, which provides more of an outsider view.  Sometime this makes me feel like a misfit.

I talk to many businesses regarding their efforts in social media.  In fact I have been approached by many companies about helping them build their efforts.  Most companies channel their social media through marketing or PR.  It is funny the reaction I receive when I tell them that I am just a simple Customer Service guy.  The marketers tend to be so stuck on the brand and sales, so they do not always see the community and relationship aspects in the space.  I have many friends in marketing that have built a similar view as mine, but they are already successful in the space.  Some in PR concentrate on the message as opposed to the relationship.  My view is this space is about the Customers, helping, listening and having conversations with them.  So as I talk to these different companies I recognize what a misfit that I may be.

I then look at all my friends in social media and I realize how different we all are.  It is these differences that make social media such a great place and a way to hear others perspectives.  As I was sitting pondering recent events, my own place in life, and how we all connect, I started to realize we are all in this place of misfit toys creating a home for all to enjoy no matter who they are, what they have been through, or where they are heading.  Being this misfit is a trophy we all carry because we are leading and doing things in a different manner.  Whether we are doing this online, at work, or within our home life we are carving this new path.  The misfit toys have found their home with each other.

The Basics of Service Still Hold True…

Posted on : 09-09-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Customer Service, Social Media


In social media, the basics of service are no different than any other communications channel.  I find it interesting to watch companies work within social media to try to engage with their Customers.  It is obvious to me that there is still a fight as to who owns the social media interaction.  In most companies it is either PR or Marketing, but isn’t Customer Service the area that talks to Customers?  Many can say this is a new space and companies are learning.  I agree with that, but there is enough information out there to know what approaches tend to work best.  If you are there for PR, or even marketing, it may not be necessary to personalize the interaction, but for service it is a different story.  The trouble is many in marketing or PR view this to be all about the brand.  I have a little hint for you, the company or department does not own the space, your Customer does!

So how does the basics of service matter?  Because this is how all interactions should be, no matter the channel.  When someone calls your business do you answer the phone “XYZ Company, What do you want?”  No, most businesses answer the phone XYZ Company.  This is Frank speaking, how may I help you?”  The first key aspect that you learn is the human connection is so important.  Unfortunately this space, companies are too focused on the brand not their Customers.  You do not have to look at my Twitter handle to see this success, just look at Dell, who was truly a pioneering company in the space.  They have recognized this for years.  Now Zappos provides an even more in depth look.  They encourage, and teach, all their employees to participate in the space.  Now that is personal.

There are many ways to personalize Twitter.  My preference is different ID’s for different people, but I can understand why that may not be the preferred method for some companies.  Below are a few companies that are doing it right.  Ford has Shawn handling the FordCustService account.  QuickenLoans lets us know via the bio section that it is Kelly helping out, and Office_Live demonstrates a way to have multiple people on the same account.  Charter, and the UMatter2Charter team have been doing a good job in creating that personal connection.  They use separate accounts and they connect with their Customers.  Don’t you prefer to interact with a person?  I know I do.

Other basics to serving Customers is to have a conversation, do not sit there marketing outward the whole time.  Also, just like a call, make sure you resolve the Customers needs prior to offering sales.  This is where companies really make it about them, instead of their Customers.  I applaud all companies for trying to find ways to have success in this space.  I am always happy to see new companies learn about social media and ways they too can participate.

Who are some other companies that you view doing it right on Twitter?

Let Your Passion Shine Through

Posted on : 02-09-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Social Media


I have had many discussions recently with people striving to be seen in this overwhelming world of social media.  They seem to want to be noticed, but find it difficult to be seen.  This caused me to think about what is different and similar between the world of social media and what we experience everyday.  I started to think about some of the people that are talked about in social media, such as Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Hsieh, Chris Brogan, and even myself.  What do these individuals have in common?  We are all very different, but we show our passion everyday.

Well it is not as simple as the term passion.  There are a few things to know how the world of social media is different than a normal day at the office.  In the office a lot of it is about playing politics or the internal workings of a company.  Rewards are based on many factors such as who you know, or how you portray your performance.  In social media it is different.  Those that are false in any way are called on it or people do not connect with them.  People love to connect with people they relate too.  This has been the success of most of the people I listed above.

As soon as I thought of this post, I immediately thought of the best example:  Gary Vaynerchuk.  What is interesting I did not even know Gary was coming out with a book until I went to link his name to his blog.  The name of the book is “Why Now is the Time to Crush It!  Cash in on Your Passion.”  I was lucky enough to see Gary speak at a number of events.  Each time I have left inspired by his passion.  He has demonstrated how businesses can be successful in this social media world.  His passion comes through in every Wine TV show.  It is about teaching people about his love of wine.  I first met Gary at Blog World, sitting at the Bare Lounge.  He was a down to earth regular guy that I enjoyed speaking to.  Of course this did not prepare me for the dynamic person that I would see on stage.  Both were the same person, but when we were chatting it was not about his passion, just things like travel, Vegas.  But when Gary was on stage talking about his business, wine, social media and football (I still hope he buys the Jets) he shined.  Literally within minutes I found myself watching Wine TV.  Watch and learn and you too can cash in on your passion.  Better yet, buy the book I am sure you will see his passion.

No one would dispute Chris Brogan’s passion for social media, and it shows in everything he does.  He is always trying to help people have the same success and he loves to have that conversation.  Some will say Tony Hsieh’s passion is service, but from talking to him, the passion I always saw was the Zappos culture; Customer Service is just part of the culture.  One of the first stories I heard from Tony was when he grew his first company, it lost the culture he loved when it was a start up.  Just looking in Tony’s eyes when he said he was determined to not let that happen again.  It was at that moment, I knew the passion was Zappos culture.  I have only met Guy Kawaski once, but I have read a few of his books and he has a clear passion for business.  I can tell by his tweets that he loves social media, and new ways to incorporate social media with traditional print media, but I still think the passion people love to connect with is business success.

We have all seen movies where the reporter is doing the story, and when the camera cuts they are no longer the nice person they were on camera or they storm off to something more important for themselves.  Through many other means it is possible to fake it, but in social media the camera is on all the time.  You can not hide it.  You will be noticed.  I also believe social media will continue to change the culture of business, and I think it is always important to find ways to let your passion shine.  If you are in a position where you feel you can not, it might be time to find something better suited for your needs.  For myself I have been doing a lot to understand my long term goals, and how to achieve the most for myself and my family.  I thought long and hard about what at work drives me the most.  As I thought about it, it was not social media, marketing, or PR.  My passion is simple, Customers.  I want to always be in a position where I can let this passion shine.

What is your passion?  How do you crush it?

I Have This Trust Agent, Now What Do I Do?

Posted on : 27-08-2009 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media



During my travels over the past few weeks I have had many discussions with people on many intriguing topics.  Many will become blog posts in the coming weeks.  One of the topics of conversation with Brian Solis can be summed up on his blog post “Who Owns Social Media.”  I fully agree with his post, with the exception of one word: influencers.  This is because I believe in this new world order, ALL Customers have the ability to be influencers.  Of course that will have to be a post for another day.  It is always fun to see friends and continue hotly debatable conversations.  One topic that kept recurring resulted from my last blog post “Are Companies Ready for Trust Agents.”  The discussion referenced Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s New York Times best seller “Trust Agents.”  Speaking of trust agents, I want to wish Jeremiah Owyang and Deb Schultz well with their new positions with Charlene Li at Altimeter Group.  I am sure he will see continued success.

I did not intend to continue the trust agent conversation from the prior post, but it seems to have warranted more attention.  I will take a stab at it in another post.  As discussed in that post, trust agents will happen whether supported by the company or not.  The fact is employees are already out there.  Some of the recent discussions were about branding of individuals verses the corporate brand.  I have a firm belief that social media is about individuals and relationships; it is hard to have a relationship with a logo.  Part of this belief stems from my Customer Service background.  I am not aware of any company that does not attempt to personalize a call with the name of the agent.  Even emails from companies are usually signed by someone.  Why should social media be any different?

The larger conversations investigate what a company can do when the groundswell is attracted to a trust agent representing the brand.  What do they do to prevent them from leaving, or losing equity if they do leave?  I am going to attempt to provide some thoughts to assist companies that may find themselves in this position.   The best approach starts by encouraging all of your employees to be a part of social media.  Many are probably out there already.  Hopefully you are building multiple trust agents associated with your brand.  If one decides to leave, you will have many others still out there helping your Customers and further strengthening the brand.  This has been my approach.  For those that pay attention you will notice that I am not on Twitter as much as I was when we first started these efforts.  This is to allow my employees to earn the trust of many people out there.  This is their opportunity to become trust agents.

There are other ways companies may want to consider protecting their interest with these trust agents.  Nothing fancy, but simply using reward and recognition tools and tactics that have been available to businesses for years.  First it all starts with respect and fairness.  Understand your employees and what drives them.  Some are driven for the “fame” and they will be thrilled that they are being recognized.  Others may be motivated by the job itself, and helping Customers.  Some may like to take on additional responsibility.  Reward them with that, they will continue to be happy with the organization.  There will be some that will be driven more financially.  This is a little bit harder, especially in tough economic conditions.  The trouble is everyone feels they are worth well more to the organization then maybe what is reality.  Here you have to be a little more careful in your assessment.  What is the value to your competitor to have someone like this person on their staff?  Is there a market for this individual?  What is the lost value if the person leaves the organization?  Is there a way that you can develop a contract with this person to ensure they stay?  This could also be a way to limit where the trust agent may go, if they do decide to leave.  Vested stock options are another way a company can strive to maintain a relationship with a trust agent for years to come.  These questions have to be thought through, but this is true of anyone that is a asset to a company, no matter the position.  As you can see this is nothing new, companies are always striving to retain top performers.  The only difference here the deciding factor is more due to the groundswell then internal assessment.  Social media does cause companies to lose a little control to the groundswell, but the right tactics will ensure continued success for most organizations.

What would you do to retain a trust agent?