Who Should Write Your Corporate Social Media Policy?

March 31, 2011

When it comes to writing a social media policy, who should decide what goes into it?

A) Marketing
B) Public Relations
C) Human Resources
D) Information Technology
E) Customer Support
F) Product Management
G) Legal
H) All of the above

The policy could end up looking very different, depending on the answer. After all, various functional groups each likely have very different views of what it should say.

Marketing  

Say anything you want, anywhere you want, as long as it’s positive!

IT  

You can do anything we give you the access to do. Nothing more.

HR  

Do what we say. Exactly what we say.

Legal  

Social media?! Do nothing! Say nothing!!

Seriously, the positions may not be that extreme, but the correct answer is “all of the above.” Not simply because each group has different opinions, but crucially because each group brings different knowledge to the table. For example: an employee criticizes her boss on Facebook. What’s the appropriate consequence? Probably a question for HR. But first—how was the comment discovered? Does the company even have a right to act on the comment? That’s a question for legal. (If your company is too small to have in-house counsel, or that individual isn’t versed in this emerging area of law, then bring in an outside expert.)

Marketing and PR know about things like messaging and best practices. Product management and legal will have to work out how to respond to suggestions for new products. IT needs to be consulted about technical issues such as the bandwidth impact of allowing unfettered access to YouTube. Customer support should have insights into workflow processes (e.g., escalating support issues reported through social media, based on specific subject matter and severity).

Social media is too broad to be “owned” by any single function and too pervasive to be tightly controlled by almost any organization. But social media use in the enterprise can and must be guided and coordinated to help avoid social media disasters. Inside virtually any modern organization, most employees are already active in social networking (even if not “officially” for work-related purposes), they sincerely want to help the organization succeed, and they don’t want to lose their jobs. A well-crafted social media policy helps channel the efforts of all toward common goals while avoiding missteps.

Fortunately for enterprises that have not drafted a policy, there are many examples online including lists from Social Media Governance, 123 Social Media and Dave Fleet.

Coordinating the efforts of a disparate group like this isn’t easy. It’s not even quite accurate to say it’s like herding cats; it’s more like herding lobsters. But it is essential in order to develop a policy that addresses the needs and concerns of all facets of the organization, and in the end, highly rewarding.

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