What the @Sweden debacle means for your brand

When the Swedish government decided to hand its Twitter account over to a different citizen every week, Sonja Abrahamsson’s tweets probably weren’t what they had in mind.

Other sites have done a great job of detailing the @Sweden fiasco, so I’ll focus on what it means to you and your brand. The bottom line is this: whoever posts/tweets/responds on your brand’s behalf, is the brand. He or she will have a tremendous influence over what your online audience thinks about you and what you value. That means, of course, you have to be incredibly careful about who you allow to represent you. I’ve written before about what to look for in your social media team members, but it all comes down to one question: do you trust the person posting of your behalf to be the voice of your brand? If the answer is anything other than a strong “yes,” find someone else–and give him or her the training needed to do it well.

Does this mean you should never let customers or others outside the organization be the voice of your brand? Absolutely not. Many brands have had tremendous success with that tactic (one example: the Fiskars “Fiskateers”), and it’s a great way to ensure that the content you share is aligned with the audience’s needs. You can be certain, however, that these brands screen their ambassadors very carefully and educate them thoroughly.

The @Sweden experiment was a noble gesture, but ultimately it will be remembered as a failure. Don’t let the same happen to your brand’s social media efforts. Remember that whatever is said by those on your social media team will make an impression on your audience. Whether that impression is positive or negative starts with vigilance in selecting the right people for the job.

P.S. Today, Mashable posted somewhat of a defense of @Sweden’s decision to hand the keys to its brand over to Ms. Abrahamsson. Do you think they made the right call? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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