Social media governance remains a challenge for even the most robust social media programs and the most competent leaders. The notion of corporate oversight is not new, but it has struggled to keep pace with the proliferation of social media in business and society. The resulting time-suck that social media leaders frequently encounter managing issues related to social media governance would be better spent executing their social media strategies. If this sounds familiar, you’re in good company. But what if I told you that there’s a way to reclaim your time, while simultaneously making your social media program more agile?
In this article, I will first define what social media governance actually means and provide the six benefits of having a defined framework (while dispelling the misconception that it chokes creativity). After reading this post, if you have any further questions or want to discuss how to develop or implement social media governance for your organization, I hope that you’ll reach out.
What Does Social Media Governance Actually Mean?
As a social media professional, I’m sure that you’ve encountered this situation (or something similar) a number of times: A colleague—who thinks social media only involves writing clever posts and using emojis—approaches your team because they *need* a social media account for their new project, team, or marketing effort. Better yet, an executive asks you why we’re not on the latest social media platform that their kids are using. Bless their heart, but our co-workers don’t always understand the nuance, complexity, and coordination that make up our social media business strategy—or social media for business, in general, for that matter.
Without a defined social media governance plan, you’re left with two bad choices. Accepting the request could result in “social sprawl,” with the possibility of your team taking on yet another account or delegating that handle to someone who could inadvertently make a massive social media blunder and damage the brand. Declining the request may mean that your colleague escalates the issue to their leadership, painting your team as being a roadblock, obstinate, and difficult to work with. In either case, power dynamics—rather than clearly articulated requirements—can result in poor outcomes.
Sound familiar? I thought so. And this is just one of the many scenarios we face regularly as corporate social media pros. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Enter governance.
What is governance, exactly?
I know what you’ve probably been thinking since the moment you read this headline: “Isn’t governance just a bunch of red tape and bureaucracy?” A poorly executed governance plan, whether it covers social media or how employees should conduct themselves at work, can be just that. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about *effective* social media governance. Instead of being used to grind conversations to a halt, this type of governance provides clarity and agility for the social media program and stakeholders. At its core, a governance strategy provides rigor to the following:
- Guidelines and requirements for maintaining and creating social media accounts
- Standards for tone and voice, and rules of engagement for online conversations
- Crisis communications
- Parameters around social media marketing efforts
- Mandates for following specific industry regulations (e.g. HIPAA in healthcare)
- Technology and data (e.g. integration, tools, analytics, and access control)
And the best part? Your social media governance can be as stringent or lax as you want it to be because you define it according to the realities of your company. Obviously, some industries have specific requirements for online engagement, but even they provide latitude that you can define for your organization. At its core, your social media governance must effectively support and enable your social media strategy.
Six Benefits of Social Media Governance
The main concern I hear when it comes to social media governance is that it restricts creativity and authentic online interactions. This does not have to be the case. If anything, solid governance paired with a well-defined social media playbook will actually enhance your online engagement because your team will know exactly what is acceptable and what is not.
Eliminating the guesswork can empower a risk-averse employee to have meaningful conversations that they may otherwise avoid. And in a world craving authenticity, this is a powerful asset for your brand to have. In fact, here are six benefits of social media governance:
- Accessibility. By providing standards that are easily accessible, understandable, and objective, you take the guesswork out of the process.
- Accountability. By establishing accountability and requirements (both short and long term) up front, you better equip business partners to adequately plan, budget, and allocate resources.
- Empowerment. By providing “skin-in-the-game” to business partners, you ensure a sense of ownership and commitment to the program or effort they have invested in.
- Flexibility. When you provide a framework, your business partners can opt for an external vendor or agency to help them execute their strategy, subject to review and organizational rules on vendors/suppliers.
- Assurance. By incorporating applicable legal, compliance, regulatory, and brand requirements, we provide assurance to the respective internal stakeholders that execution will be compliant and on-brand.
- Scalability. By designing it in such a way that is standards-based, it provides the agility you need to efficiently expand or contract in response to a changing business landscape and seamlessly incorporate emerging social media technologies and practices.
Creating a Sound Social Governance Strategy
Obviously, developing effective social media governance is no small task. It requires time, effort, and coordination with multiple stakeholders throughout the business. And for many social media professionals, implementing a governance plan means going into uncharted territory. Done right, it serves as lubrication for you social media program, making you more agile, and positioning you to easily adapt to the rapid change of social media.
As former head of a global social media team at a technology company that was a leader in several Gartner magic quadrants, I have professional experience handling many of the issues that social professionals encounter daily. From reeling in rogue accounts to developing a strategy for global handles, to managing social media integration strategies stemming from mergers and acquisitions, I saw the importance of having comprehensive social media governance and was instrumental in developing this practice at the company.
I founded Social Business Works to help complex organizations, government agencies, and regulated businesses (e.g. healthcare and financial services companies) develop and implement social media governance and social business strategies. Proper social media governance will provide a framework for your organization to fully adopt and leverage the power of social media through the entire customer journey, and provides your business partners with a playbook to successfully build affinity between customers and your brand. I encourage you to complete my free 5-minute social media health check to see how your current social media program stacks up. You can also reach out to me here to learn more about partnering together, or to ask questions about how to get your social media program on the right path.