Employees: The Buzz Starts Here

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

By Jonathan Paisner

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What is a fan worth? Or a "like" or a Digg or a follower? Does it matter? These are viable and interesting questions, for sure -- but are we losing sight of the forest in the process?

The impact of third-party voices on a brand's reputation has never been greater. Our brand valuation data tells us this. And we've all used the online opinions of strangers to guide purchase decisions. We live in a social world -- no news here.

Marketers continue to debate how best to track and measure social media within the marketing mix. Meanwhile, here's the answer for maximizing social media impact: Deliver on the promise of your brand. Everyday. With every interaction. Throughout every product. In every service or support engagement. And make sure that every employee understands his or her role in building and maintaining the strength of your brand.

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The rationale for having a brand that inspires, excites and guides your employees has never been stronger. And it is up to you provide the tools and the training and the passion. Every employee can drive a brand positive experience -- whatever their role. Employees are your most potent assets in a social world.

Every employee can drive a positive brand experience.

All too often, unfortunately, it's the damning employee activities that go viral. The FedEx delivery guy chucking the TV over the fence. United breaking guitars. The Comcast technician falling asleep. If employees were empowered by the promise of their brands, each of these episodes could have turned out very differently (and may never have even happened in the first place).

Occasionally the "good" stories go viral, but they usually don't pack the same entertainment punch as those noted above. Plus, the most effective ones are more of the quiet, everyday variety. There are some viral-friendly stories, like this one from Peter Shankman about Morton's. Peter landed at Newark airport to find a Morton's steak dinner awaiting his arrival after sending a random, wishful tweet before takeoff just two hours prior. Someone at Morton's had the wherewithal to seize the opportunity to create a "surprise and delight" moment that just happened to be with a particularly vocal thought leader.

But the most effective "good" stories are those that we see everyday in online reviews and opinions available at the point of sale. According to many studies, upward of two-thirds of people who purchase online pay attention to customer reviews. For high-consideration purchases, I imagine that number is even higher.

Think about that TripAdvisor post discussing a particularly helpful staff at a hotel. Or consider the influence on your technology purchase decision in reading a reassuring customer post about the care and support they received from the help desk. While a given post may only influence a handful of folks, it often drives directly to purchase.

Customer service has long been the hallmark of brands like Nordstrom, LL Bean and Zappos. And the service mantra for each of these brands has come to embody the entire customer experience. Before Zappos can help you order a pizza (as one customer service rep did to much fanfare) or before a Whole Foods employee can hand deliver two pounds of zucchini to replace two pounds of mistakenly purchased cucumbers (as one of our friends experienced and talked about on Facebook) these employees have to feel a sense of passion, purpose and ownership for their brand.

I am not suggesting that you ignore social media metrics in your marketing and communications strategies. Yet social media is not a communications matter alone. Everyone is connected. Your customers are becoming more empowered everyday. B2B, B2C, B2B2C, it doesn't matter: Every company is a social media company.

Peer-to-peer discussion drives confidence in Web commerce, and, increasingly, in all commerce. And great brand experiences supported by engaged and inspired employees drive customer approval ratings.

You have the opportunity for every one of your customers to have a brand experience that they want to tell their network of friends about. Shouldn't you make sure that everyone in your organization is doing everything they can to optimize that?

Jonathan Paisner is brand director for CoreBrand.

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