by Michael O'Neill
October 25th, 2013

Brands that engage in truly real-time social conversations with end users and influencers, particularly those that receive a high level of inbound questions and requests, need to allow their collaborators a certain level of freedom when it comes to communicating on their behalf. While different organisations approach this in different ways – some showing which specific individuals are behind the channel, others preferring a joined-up brand voice – consistency and messaging is crucial.

This is why community managers are trained to spot potential risks and opportunities, and avoid the common pitfalls of social media management; most importantly, however, they understand that they are the brand when they communicate through its channels, whether they sign off as individuals or not. Real-time responses can be mapped against predicted themes and then ‘conversationalised’ (i.e. NOT copied and pasted) to allow a compromise between spontaneity and compliance.

Social customer service is absolutely a part of this: while responses can be prosaic, they nevertheless create a searchable archive of branded communications. Last week, a community manager’s slip when tweeting on behalf of UK-based train company First Capital Connect neatly illustrated this point: his lapse into personal opinion, suggesting climate change had been “shattered by numerous scientific reports”, was completely at odds with his employer’s official view (and set in motion a familiar domino-effect of news commentary, screenshots and apologies).


Sometimes, these Twitterstorms do take on an increasingly clichéd path, as beautifully spoofed in this Buzzfeed post. Mistakes can happen when approval layers are removed and communications are speedy. But it’s interesting to see how important the customer service function can be as part of a wider communications vehicle, and not merely as a commodity. It reminds us that everyone communicating for a brand – from customer services through to HR and finance – needs to be part of the same brand story.

Nadia Saint is head of Digital at Weber Shandwick UK

This article first appeared on the Weber Shandwick Technology Practice blog

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