Social Media, my ass. Take care of customers.

I planned on writing an internal message to my company, reminding them of some Social Media guidelines.

But as I started writing I thought, “this is not specific to us – and may help others”.

I “manage” Social Media for my company – and that is in quotes because I do not run the various Twitter accounts, or tell people what to say and when. I am more like a guidance counselor, for those that want to listen. I influence what we do in Social Media. I don’t direct or dictate it.

But I do remind people when they cross a line, like using our brands in their Twitter handles – “IBMJake” is probably not a good Twitter name for you, or IBM. Aligning yourself as an advocate of IBM is very different. At Rackspace we encourage people to be passionate about their work – but we discourage mixing the brand into personal social media persona’s.

We have corporate personas, and even a verified account. These are the voices that speak as the company. As much as we encourage Rackers to have a voice, and speak their minds – we want them speaking as them, and not as Rackspace.

There are some mistakes in life you cannot recover from – a lesson I have spent two decades drilling into my children’s heads. You cannot recover from a felony arrest, or a teenage pregnancy – these things will affect your life forever. You may overcome them – but they will slow you down.

Making Social Media mistakes has a similar effect – if not as permanent. Drunk tweets, mistimed tweets, tweeting as the voice of the company when you are not, talking about finances or how your day sucked because your boss was a pain – there are a lot of ways to screw Social Media up.

So it should scare you if you elect to talk about your company, your job, your boss, or your co-workers. I wish it scared more people.

But that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to participate in the conversations surrounding your employer – hell – to most of us, our work is about 50% of our lives – if not more.

I started our social media efforts with two simple questions. “Is it hurtful?” and, “Is it helpful?”.

Everything we have built over the last year plus has been based on those key tenants.

We have seen mentions of us on Social Media rise from 400 a month to over 13K/month. Partially because people know we are in those communities. Mostly, I think, because they know we exist to actually help. When people reach out, we reach back. We aren’t mouthpieces – we are ex-customers who love customers. We know the company from many angles. We’ve been customers, been in support roles, we know the systems, and we know how to get stuff done. And we are sponsored by Senior Leadership – so people know we have the ability to actually affect change.

I think we have one of the most perfect infrastructures for Social Media that a company can have. We were already based on a culture of support – Social Media is just an extension of that culture. Everyone here gets that customers are important – and that happy customers bring more customers.

So every time before we respond to a customer, we ask those two questions. “Is it hurtful?” – if so, stop. And, “Is it helpful?” – if not, why do it? If we can’t help, we shut up. It makes us more efficient and the brand more helpful.

And sure, it gets a lot more complicated than that – but it is also as simple as that.

Customers just want to be taken care of – by people they know actually care. If the only people that feel that way in your company are in Social Media, you are in trouble. And if your Social Media team is not focused on that same goal – you are in trouble.