They aren't in marketing, or in sales (although they do both simultaneously). They have a strong streak of digital intelligence, and their knack for creating conversations puts them far beyond the stereotypical techno-geek. Meet your neighborhood social media professionals, they're using the Web to not only put human faces on corporations and politicians, but also to defend their honor when something goes awry. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith call them "trust agents" after their book by the same name, and say that they are harnessing the power of Twitter and other social media to "build influence, improve reputation, and earn trust."
Are you listening Terry Moran?
David All, David All Group
Twitter Handle @DavidAll
President of the David All Group, the "nation's first conservative Web 2.0 agency," he's recently been hired by South Carolina's Congressman Joe Wilson, who stepped into the glare of the media spotlight when he shouted "You lie," to President Obama during his health care address.
His Work: Prior to his outburst, Wilson's Web presence consisted of a one page site and a Twitter profile that had sporadic tweets. On Sept. 10 he went into social media overdrive. The Hill reported that All orchestrated a campaign to support the Congressman that includes, "a taped YouTube video message to supporters, a flurry of Twitter messages, numerous interviews with bloggers and an ad on the Drudge Report." Call it the social media equivalent of candidate Bill Clinton's "War Room" strategy from the 1992 presidential campaign.
His Spin: "Twitter is not the end all, be all, but it proved to be another tool to help us achieve our online goals. We used it to share information with influencers, help shape the debate, listen to the conversation as a real-time focus group to gauge our response, set the tone that we were fighting back with social media, and to essentially get our side of the story out. When we became a 'trending topic,' which happened several times during the campaign, we saw an increase in all online activity including search and donations raised for the campaign."
His Drill: "I check @replies first thing in the morning. I use Tweetdeck and have a group called 'Mostest' that has the people I want to hear from the mostest."
Twitter Handle @jgilliam
A self-professed "geeky activist building Internet tools to shake up a broken political system,"
His Work: Although he has not been hired by any politicians to tweet on their behalf, he founded and supports Act.ly, a suite of activism tools for Twitter as well as GovLuv, which connects government leaders with citizens via Twitter.
His Spin: "I started an act.ly petition as soon as we found out about Joe Wilson. It definitely helped spur the apology shortly thereafter. Over 1,200 tweets in about 90 minutes. A social media campaign can absolutely have an impact on a political gaffe."
"I encourage politicians to tweet themselves, in their own voices, but what I really want is for their staffers to tweet themselves, under their real name. As a citizen, I'm much more likely to start a conversation with a staffer that I know is working on the issue I care about, because it might actually be read and responded to."
His Drill: "I use Twitter more than my blog now. I still check email before @replies, but my DMs are sent straight to my cell phone, so I generally get those even faster."
Scott Monty, Ford Motor Company
Twitter Handles @ScottMonty @Ford, @FordDriveGreen, @FordCustService, @FordRacing, @FordMustang, @FordTrucks, @FordFiesta, @FordTaurus, @FordLatino, @FordMX, @Ford_DE, @FordAPA
Hired by Ford in July of 2008, Monty's official title is Global Digital and Multimedia Communications Manager.
His Work: Monty is active on his Twitter page but only tweets at "a handful" of the other Ford profiles. He broadcasts Ford news and is quick with @ replies to customer questions.
Monty got a trial by fire in December when Ford sent a cease and desist letter to a fan site, asking them to surrender the URL and pay Ford $5,000. A comment posted by the owner of the site, The Ranger Station, drew hundreds of responses and plenty of criticism for the automaker. Monty claims to have put it all out on the Web. (After the storm, at least one blogger still challenged Monty's assessment.)
His Spin: "It gave people a sense of what I was doing so they could feel like they were part of the process."
His Drill: "Twitterberry while I'm mobile; CoTweet for the team-managed approach."
Eric Ketzer, Charter Communications
Twitter Handles: @UMatter2Charter @Umatter2Chtr, @Umatter2Chtr2, @Umatter2ChtrG & @Umatter2ChtrR
The social media communications manager accepted his post in January and "by June, there were five of us." The team includes George (@Umatter2ChtrG) the TV guru, and Robert (@Umatter2ChtrR) the billing and sales expert.
Their Work: Even before the cable company declared bankruptcy this year, grumbling about the service was not uncommon. In 2007, Michelle Corey of the Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois Better Business Bureau, found that in 36 months the bureau received more than 2,000 complaints and reports against Charter.
Now, if a customer complains (or praises) Charter on Twitter, it triggers the team's daily trawl for Charter-related comments and they respond promptly. But can they clean up the company's reputation and deliver solutions 140 characters at a time?
His Spin: "Our immediacy and personal interaction with customers is part of the work we're doing to make positive change for relationships with customers, getting to the root causes of problems that arise and fixing them for the long term," says Ketzer.
"My team members were all hired internally from our Customer Service Centers. We ARE Customer Service and can indeed directly resolve problems for our customers." For those not on Twitter "We do route some calls to Canada, Mexico City and other locations, none go to India. The company carefully chooses outsource partners based on proven ability to perform and their experience in customer care and the communications industry."
Their Drill: Tweet team Charter uses Seesmic for all their 140 character needs.
Kelly Groehler, Best Buy
Twitter Handle: @KellyGroehler and The Twelpforce - literally thousands of people from corporate and retail locations.
Kelly Groehler is senior manager of PR for Best Buy who also lists "reputation management" in her Twitter bio. Groehler is joined by thousands of other employees twittering about Best Buy using the hashtag bbytweets.
Her Work: "Best Buy is constantly looking to earn trust and build credibility." But other than assuaging worries about the margins on flat panel screens, Groehler has yet to put out any fires generated by company gaffes. She's got the power of the Twelpforce on her side if anything does happen.
Her Spin: To keep the company messaging strong and unified,employees can sign on to the Web site to get schooled in the ways of the Twelpforce, which are: "Be smart, be respectful and be human." There is one person whose sole job is to monitor the Twelpforce 24/7.
Their Drill: "I use Tweetdeck, as do many of our employees at corporate. Others use smart phone apps, etc. to participate."