I’ve been meaning to write this blog post all week, but I’m a bit behind. I guess that’s what happens when you sleep all weekend, instead of being a responsible adult. I’m told I needed it. Now I don’t need to sleep for another three months.

Not the point. The point is, the Wall Street Journal last week wrote a story about entrepreneurs hiring outside consultants to help them with their social media. Then Beth Harte wrote a blog post about having someone else tweet for her during the PR 2.0 chat on Twitter.

And it all has me thinking.

For the past two years, I’ve been saying that the point of social media is to have one-on-one relationships with your customers, not to have someone doing it for you. I know this philosophy eventually works me out of a job, unless I can continue to stay ahead of the curve and teach people how to have those conversations using the newest tools available. Which, by-the-way,  is the strategy.

Why is this different, the above mentioned articles ask, than writing a speech for the President, ghost-writing a column for your CEO, or writing a review about a product you received, free-of-charge?

The difference is this: All of those examples have an approval process. They all have “canned” PR messages. The person whose name goes on each of the pieces has the opportunity to review, make changes to fit their own voice, and post as their own.

Social media is instant. It’s immediate and there isn’t an approval process. There isn’t time. It happens in real-time. It’s not your slick marketing brochure. It’s not canned PR messages. If someone is pretending to be the CEO on any of the networks, people eventually are going to find out.

That being said, the person  (or people) handling social media doesn’t necessarily have to be the CEO. But it has to be someone who has the ability to speak on behalf of the organization without having to get approvals. If that’s your internal communication department, great. If it’s your external PR firm, great. But you have to give up control to that person(s) in order to be transparent and authentic.

People want to have relationships with the people who work inside organizations. That’s why, when companies do it really well, people are more inclined to work with certain brands more than others.

So think about it less on using the tools, and more about who you want representing your brand. Who is the best person to turn your detractors into buzz agents? Who is the best person to build your community, intuitively? Who is the best person to work with your brand ambassadors and turn them into referral network? Who is the best person who will be as passionate about your business as the stakeholders, online and offline?

If that’s an external consultant, expert, or company and you’re willing to give up control, that’s great. But be ready to let them do their jobs and ask for forgiveness if they have to make a real-time decision. And be transparent about it – let people know they’re talking to someone who doesn’t work within your four walls. It can work. If done correctly and honestly.

What do you think?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich