NOTHiNG. But warm gooey goodness.

I recently chatted with a potential consulting client about his company's social media needs.

He said that his people were hearing lots and lots of negative feedback on blogs, twitter and other forms of social media.

I did some research and found nothing. As in, NOTHiNG.

Nothing good. But nothing bad, either. And I know I've said before that no news is bad news, but come on. If I can't find anything online about your company then I can't find your company.

So I thought for a moment and thought for a moment longer. And I asked him what he was doing. Was he creating a new position? Was he building up a marketing PR team? Was he looking for consultancy and strategy assistance? And I should not have been but I was surprised when he said he didn't have time for all that stuff. They wanted a full time employee who would occupy space in the office and would do a job. Every day. Like everybody else. He was not interested in any form of internal communication strategy work because as he saw it, they needed to deal with all the negative comments out there, not what their employees were saying. I asked him if he had a social media policy in his corporate communications and he said no. Why, he asked me? He didn't need to bother with that.

Oh boy. Let me back up. This guy was smart. As in, SMART. Impressive Ivy League education, stellar work history, executive title and all that jazz. But from my vantage point, when he sits down to hire another employee, that's exactly what he is going to get.

And the problem is that what he described to me is a need that most likely can be fulfilled internally with a bit of tweaking and a lot of trying. From all parties involved. And most likely a consultant to help drive the behavioral change that needs to start from the top down. But something that once started, could flourish. Research shows that customer response times and satisfaction rates improve, internal public relations efforts become more effective, brand awareness gets better and increased sales revenue should be a final factor in determining that your social media strategies were properly integrated into your big picture thinking. I firmly believe that growth starts internally and moves outward and I can't illustrate a need for that more precisely than this particular episode.

It's called brand advocacy and if you are an employer, you've already got 'em. They are called brand advocates. You may think of them as employees. Warm bodies. Clock-watchers. Time card punchers. Team members. Droids. Whatever. But they are more. They are people.

And yes, PEOPLE, make this small, small world go round and round.

If you are a company that is considering spending some of your marketing budget on social media this year, please first consider if blogging, tweeting and podcasting is something you really want to tackle in your overall marketing strategy. If not, then maybe next year. If so, then read up on what has worked for others (like Google, for goodness sake!) that face the same question of how to leverage your internal assets to best stregthen your brand across the social media landscape. After these ideas have soaked internally for a bit, bring in a consultant and pound out a long-term strategy based on clearly defined business objectives and resources. After all, you've already invested in the best. Warm. Employees.

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