Can I talk positively online about my employer/brand that I work for?

I have always pondered over this question – after all, why not? I can have a personal opinion that is removed from my relationship with my employer/brand, right?

This post stems from Mugdha’s comment in one of my blog posts on Myntra.com, where an employee of Myntra responded with a terse, but meaningful, ‘Myntra Rocks’.

As is my habit, the first thing I do is to check the commenter’s name on Google. There’s an earlier comment, ‘Fantastic..Three cheers to the Myntra team for saving the day’ that is posted by the famous anonymous ‘XYZ’ and I don’t care enough to trace IP addresses.

So, I check the name and there he is…on LinkedIn, as a sales manager at Myntra.

My first reaction: why didn’t he reveal his Myntra connection?

Mugdha has a valid point in saying that I over-reacted – I agree. But, it is quite natural for a hyper-online guy like me thinking about social engagement almost day-in and day-out. A normal person wouldn’t even care where that comment came from with or without that name.

And that….is precisely my point on disclosure.

We’ve had companies hiring interns to post positive reviews about their products online.

There’s a formal term – called ‘Astroturfing‘, which is derived from a brand of synthetic grass designed to look like natural grass. Quite appropriate, no?

Let’s see the pros and cons of that comment.

Pros:
1. He posted it with his name; people can search and find out who he is. So, he wasn’t hiding his association, technically.
2. He just says his brand rocks; nothing wrong with it at all. In fact, that’s what I’m saying too, in my post above!

Cons:
1. Normal folks do not care enough to search the background of any person posting a comment – they perhaps just see a positive blog post and 2 more positive comments and assume that Myntra indeed rocks. Thankfully, that is the tone of the post too.
2. Semantics. Semantics. Semantics.

Let me explain the semantics part.

His comment was addressing the brand in the 3rd person. Why? To indicate that it is his personal opinion detached from the fact that he’s an employer? I’m not sure if it comes across like that.

A better way is to talk about his brand in the first person – ‘Our brand Myntra rocks’, for example. That clearly shows that he’s an employee and he’s merely agreeing to my post.

Even better? Say something beyond ‘rocks’, so that it adds context to what the post is about. Something like, ‘We at Myntra always strive to do our best and your post makes us glad that our efforts are paying off!’. That explains many things – that he’s an employee; that he’s very proud of his brand; that he agrees with the post and says it was part of the plan; and most importantly, that he’s intelligent and articulate enough to post a comment like this!

An employee posting a positive comment, with or without disclosure, would stand out like a sore thumb in a negative blog post, but, in a positive post like mine, it is hardly wrong. I was merely pointing out a way that engagement could benefit brand Myntra better. After all, if they are smart enough to trace a post about them online, they could do better than posting blunt pro-brand comments and make that engagement work for them.

Using employees as brand evangelists and cheerleaders should be any brand’s first step online – after all, if your own people don’t like your brand or not display that liking, why would others? But, there is a way to do it…to make it seem transparent and meaningful.

Here’s where I get to plug something relevant! One of the first things that we, at Edelman, do before starting any online engagement for a client, is to speak with its key decision makers and understand the broad internet usage patterns within the organization. It helps us in creating a customized employee guideline for social media usage. These guidelines do not have hard rules, but broad guidelines that aims to explain the use of meaningful, transparent outreach on behalf of their brand/employer and repercussions of not doing so!

Photo via Flickr, courtesy ‘sink to the beat’.

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