I attended the Arthur W. Page Society West Coast Social Media Summit at eBay a couple weeks ago and left energized; not so much in terms of the details of where we are today, but in terms of the vision of where we are headed in the future. This phenomenon of social media and how it impacts the enterprise on every level is not something companies can opt out of. It is here. It is powerful. It’s a moving target. And we still don’t have our arms around it.

As a communication professional that focuses most of my energy on the realm of employee communication, the content and stream of thought around the authentic social enterprise was exciting.  We are on the cusp of this social revolution, particularly in how it pertains to employees. As Jeremiah Owyang pointed out in his talk, the latest Edelman trust research shows that our trust in authority and institutions is declining while our trust in our fellows, including employees, is rising.

Employees have more power and influence than ever. Whether employees know it, and whether a company wants them to, employees are out there representing their companies with every tweet, post and iPhone video. And, as we have all seen, a company’s reputation can be dramatically impacted, both for the good and the bad, in a moment.

As professionals, we can have a tangible and dramatic impact externally, through how we manage, acculturate and prepare our employees internally. This has always been true, but never as true and powerful as it is today. Companies are becoming more transparent, again, no option here. The game will be helping our organization to be authentic and to look good without their clothes on. Companies that figure this out, and truly embrace an open communication culture, will reach the level of “enlightenment” that Jeremiah mentioned in his talk and in the report he handed out.

The bottom line message I got from the session is there is more need and opportunity with employees than ever before; and more thought, strategy and planning needs to go into how we manage communications in relation to employees. Well worth the time. In addition to this broad takeaway, the session also provided great tidbits on how other companies are managing (particularly eBay) and how we can improve our own use of social media (LinkedIn session).

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @bfagansmith

(To view videos and photos from the event, click here.)