Seven Questions to Ask Before Developing a Social Media Policy

Crafting a social media policy is premature unless the policy designers answer these critical questions first.

May 13, 2011
KEYWORDS media , policy , social
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Social media disrupts the long-standing rules of business in many ways, but crafting a social media policy is premature unless the designers of the policy answer seven critical questions first, according to Gartner Inc.

“Social media offers tempting opportunities to interact with employees, business partners, customers, prospects and a whole host of anonymous participants on the social Web,” says Carol Rozwell, vice president/analyst at Gartner. “However, those who participate in social media need guidance from their employer about the rules, responsibilities, ‘norms,’ and behaviors expected of them. These topics are commonly covered in the social media policy."

Gartner has identified seven critical questions that designers of social media policy must ask themselves:

1. What’s our social media strategy?

There are many possible purposes for social media. It can be used for increasingly involved interaction (ranging from monitoring to co-creation) and across four different constituencies (employees, business partners, current and potential customers, and the social Web).

Social media leaders must determine the purpose of their initiatives before they deploy them. And those responsible for social media initiatives must articulate how the organization's mission, strategy, values, and desired outcomes inform and impact on these initiatives.

A social media strategy plan is one means of conveying this information.

2. Who will write and revise the policy?

Some organizations assign policy writing to the chief information officer, others believe it’s the general counsel’s job, while in other cases, a self-appointed committee crafts a policy.

It’s useful to gain agreement about who’s responsible, accountable, consulted, and involved before beginning work on the policy. When possible, a cross-section of the company's population should be involved in the policy creation process.

It’s important to remember there’s a difference between policy (which states do’s and don’ts at a high level) and operational processes (such as recruitment or customer support) which may use social media.

These operational processes need to be flexible and changeable and adhere to the policy. But each department/activity will need to work out specific governance and process guidelines.

3. How will we vet the policy?

Getting broad feedback on the policy serves two purposes:

  • Ensures that multiple disparate interests (i.e., legal, security, privacy, and corporate branding) have been adequately addressed and that the policy is balanced; and
  • Increases the amount of buy-in when a diverse group of people is asked to review and comment on the policy draft. This means that the process by which the policy will be reviewed and discussed, along with the feedback, will be incorporated into the final copy.

A vetting process that includes social media makes it more likely that this will occur.

Next: Employee responsibilities?

Great Advice!

Michael Hudson
May 18, 2011 10:53 am
Excellent insights and valuable advice. The worst thing a credit union can do is to make "creating a social media policy" an item on a checklist. Perhaps even more important than other documents that are created, your social media policy needs to live, breath, and evolve to have any relevance.

Well thought out documents that talk about how things should be done that are not monitored, tracked, revised, and kept current are a waste of time and effort!

It's also important to remember the principles of simplicity...make it as simple as possible, but not simpler (to paraphrase Einstein). That said, my advice to my credit union strategy clients is to start with the bare minimum and grow as you need to when it comes to any policy, including social media.

I encourage CU leaders to print this article and file it for reference when you create your social media policy...these are important and valuable questions!

Well done!

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