Train, then Trust


Warning:  this post is a bit of a rant.

Ronald Reagan made the statement “trust, but verify” famous.  I’d like to throw another one into the mix for your consideration.  “Train, then trust”.

Work with me here, people.  At some point management either has to trust their staff, or not.

There are really only two options.

  1. They need to have faith that staff has been effectively trained to carry out messaging for the brand, and send them forth to do so.  Or,
  2.  They will micro-manage every decision, every message, every post.

The most effective companies and organizations in social media have adopted the first strategy.  The American Red Cross even trains volunteers to represent them on social media channels!  If they can do that, any company can train its own staff.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s the 21st century right?  Aren’t we past the skepticism?  Haven’t we learned by now that social media isn’t just fun and games – it’s a real way to talk to real people who are interested in a real product or service.

Frankly, I’m tired.  I’m tired of trying to convince the powers that be that other people can carry the water now.  And do so competently and effectively.  It doesn’t all have to be a one-size-fits-all or top-down approach to messaging.  Or an approach that requires approval of every post before it is posted.

What many successful organizations know is that if you give your employees the training and the tools they need, empower them, and then TRUST them to do their jobs, they will do their jobs.  They will make you proud.  Not only that, those employee will have a sense of ownership.  Both in the company, and in the message they carry forth.  If they violate that trust, those employees also know that there are consequences.

At some point, corporate has to let go. They have to realize that they really don’t control the message anymore.  Shape it, yes.  But control it?  No way.  Social media has changed all that.  I think for the better.

Train, then trust.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

And while I’m ranting …

There are two fundamental schools of thought when it comes to social media communications.  There is the one brand/one channel/one size fits all school of thought.  Typically, this is where a communications department believes that they own the message and must control it.  Niche products or services under the main brand are discouraged.  My opinion?  I don’t like this model.

The second school of thought is exemplified by companies like Dell.  While they definitely have a solid single brand, they don’t shy away from promoting niche products to niche audiences.  Why?  Because niche is where the passion is!  Dell has no fewer than 13 niche Facebook pages – all Dell branded – that speak directly to the needs of specific audiences.  And they are blowing it up.  Dell knows that just because you like servers, that doesn’t necessarily mean you also like deals from the Dell Outlet.

This is the fallacy of the first school of thought.  One size does NOT fit all.

But here I am.  Beating my head against the wall.  Again.  Still.  They haven’t learned.  Will they?