At one time, businesses were determined to figure out which department in their organization was best suited to lead the social media efforts. The focus has shifted to a cross-functional mentality, one that sees companies pulling all their units together to handle the company’s social initiatives. In order to get the most from social media, a unified effort is required from all departments on deck. The customer service team can address customer concerns on Twitter. The marketing crew can gear up campaigns designed to boost engagement. The IT squad can develop apps that drive home the brand message.
The unified approach is certainly the way to go, but tends to add a new layer of complexity when it comes to the management side of things. Follow these steps to establish social media governance for your cross-functional business.
1. Get on the Same Page
In order to thrive at social media, organizations must ensure that all their stars aligned. That means bringing their internal departments together to assess the company’s readiness. Gather opinions from key stakeholders. Interview the members of upper management. Get everyone together so your business can determine what social media platforms will best serve the company and who is best suited to handle the day-to-day management aspects. This assessment stage flows much smoother when marketing is connected to sales, sales is connected to customer service and so forth.
2. Understand How the Rules Affect Your Business
Social media has been around for quite a while in internet years, but to the rest of the world, it’s still a relatively new commodity. In fact, most laws and rules at the federal and local levels still do not address it in specific terms. Things are changing on the legal front, but even at the current state, organizations cannot afford to ignore how regulations impact their use of social media.
A lot of the existing laws that affect social media revolve around how your involvement impacts the customer. For instance, banks, insurance companies, healthcare providers, and other organizations that operate in regulated industries must ensure that consumer data and communications are protected. There are other laws that dictate what employers can and cannot do when it comes to policing employee usage. Companies would be wise to make themselves familiar with existing and emerging rules, and then develop their own guidelines to ensure they are protected from a legal standpoint.
3. Create a Viable Social Media Policy
Developing a policy is only one part of social media governance, but it is a very important one. Some companies choose to develop a policy based on their existing policies. Others create a separate policy to supplement those existing guidelines. Regardless of which path your business chooses, make sure your policy is flexible and comprehensive enough to be enforced by management and understood by all employees across the company. So what should your social media policy include? That depends on a variety of factors. What’s important is making sure it’s built around your company culture and the regulations that apply to your industry.
4. Make Education a Priority
Social media seems pretty straightforward, but when it comes to incorporating it into a business strategy, there’s a lot to learn. For this reason, organizations need to make education a priority. Training programs may encompass a broad range of elements, but for the most part, you’re teaching your staff about the do’s and don’ts of social media. The good thing about the educational component is that it can be executed in a wide variety of ways. For example, you could put together a handbook that runs down all the guidelines, or deliver training online via a webinar. Delivery format aside, what’s important is making sure your team has the resources they need to do social media in a safe and efficient manner.
5. Put Faith in Your Social Staff
Whether you take the cross-functional approach to governance or choose to lump social media activities on the shoulders of a single department, the success you achieve in the social realm is largely dependent on your staff. Managers and senior level executives must trust their employees to exercise good judgment and make sound decisions when it comes to conversing with the public and representing the corporate shield. Success here hinges on your ability to assemble the right social team from the outset, so be sure to dedicate the necessary due diligence in that critical assessment stage.
Not every trend is suited for every business, but at this point, I think it’s safe to say that most companies are better off with social media than they are without it. This isn’t a pool you want to jump into blindly, which is why it pays to take the time to understand the risks and rewards, and develop the policies and strategies that will allow you to maximize the benefits. Success ultimately lies on the shoulders of your organization, so make sure all parties know their role and are ready to contribute.
About the author:
Francis Santos is the Marketing Manager for Benchmark Email. He graduated from Cal State Long Beach and holds a degree in Journalism. In addition, he is also the executive editor for separate popular news blogs. Follow him on Twitter: @emailfrancis