As companies move into the social realm, into blogs, into giving voices of the individual of the company there runs an interesting issue that will have to be dealt with by companies at some point who are giving voices to the many. The issue is investing in individuals to speak on behalf of the company puts a lot of power into those individuals hands. Essentially creating corporate celebrities, I’m thinking of the guys like Matt Cutts, I know it’s the exception but the few sometimes mean changes for the many.
As personal brands are built up it’s interesting to see which personal brands build up as a result of which company someone works for. Are strong voices going to belong to those backed by large companies? Or will we see strong voices of individuals also rise up and bubble up and remain as individuals, or will corporations look to buy up these strong voices? This already happens today with companies that keep people on retainer for simply the work they are invested in.
What I think is most intriguing is that personal brands really aren’t locked down to one company in some cases. There are people who don’t see the company but the individual who is speaking. Having that person wield that much power means that they really can move masses and that is a power I think a lot of companies would want to hold on to and control. That’s where the conflicts of social media creeps in for these companies. You want to endorse authenticity, but companies have a great desire to tightly control messaging as well.
What to say and how to Say it.
Companies and individuals are an interesting paradox. Companies can last decades, or longer, but legaly if incorporated are considered the same as an individual. Individual’s tenure at companies however are often limited and finite. The social celebrities that are created will need to plan for passing of the torch as people move on. At the same time people with large followings could also end up taking their audiences or portions of it with them, adding an extra level of value to the more popular super stars.
We could see a new level of poaching of this top talent amongst companies. With this I’m sure we’ll see interesting twists on company contracts and policies. Some companies that openly encourage open blogging may start to require bloggers to sign contracts limiting what careers they could choose should they move to another company.
Companies with very open policies will probably migrate towards tighter controls, ironic that it has taken a long time to get companies to open up those policies, they’ll be scaling them back again for different reasons.
The Future of Company Voices
The last thing I suspect we’ll see companies do is dilute the power of the individual by creating multiple people to represent the company. Creating an army dilutes the pool and the likely hood of any one voice becoming too strong. However the more voices that are out there the greater the chance that strong voices are found so it becomes a catch-22.
People who blog who take the time to create a voice that has something to say in their industry could ultimately become the ones who drive where a company goes. A public voice is something to rally behind, and something that can move masses. The CEO’s and other C-level executives who aren’t blogging or active in the social media streams could become the lame duck CEOs. The ones who really don’t represent the voice of the company to the general public, and that is something that can change the dynamics of the corporate structure.