Developing a Digital Strategy 001 – Guidelines

Using Social Media on Behalf of Individuals or Companies

Many companies now want to develop an online presence and find a social media strategy tailored to them.  As the boundaries between personal and corporate online personas blur, there are significant challenges to overcome, some of the most immediate include

  • Who will implement the strategy
  • How much control should they have
  • How will it integrate into our current marketing
  • What are the additional requirements to current jobs or additional staff
  • What is our return on investment of the time put in (traffic, revenue, exposure…)
  • How do you measure return on investment

The next series of posts will look at how to start to develop a strategy based on underlying principles and some practical ‘how to’ including some key sites to use, using expertise that is developing on the web.

Guidelines on how to develop Social Media Policies from Harvard Business Publishing, Alexandra Samuel, are among the best I’ve found.

Companies that adopt [a] risk-management approach constrain the contributions of forward-looking, web-savvy employees who are already making effective use of social media tools. So if you need to create a social media policy, think of it as enabling effective use rather than simply preventing problems. Here’s what a policy should convey:

  1. We want you to use social media. Make it clear that your company, your key teams (like marketing, sales and customer support) and your executive are supportive of employee social media use. Senior managers need to lead by example, so that employees know what effective social media use looks like.

  1. We need you to follow best practices. It’s emergent technology, so best practices vary. You need to define the best practices for your brand, culture and customers. Offer employees training, how-to guides and web sites that will help them understand the most essential principles in your policy.

  2. We expect you to distinguish between personal, professional and corporate social media. Respect your employees’ desire to use social media for personal communication and expression, and ask them to exercise simple good judgment around how their personal activities or comments online could reflect on your company or brand. Encourage employees to attend to developing their own professional networks and reputations online, since this will make them more effective and valuable to you. And be clear about who is mandated to represent your corporate brand in social media (it could be your whole company!), and when and how it’s appropriate for other employees to speak out on your behalf.

  3. We share risk management responsibility. Stressing all the things that employees shouldn’t do puts the burden of responsibility on the employee. Particularly in the current economy, many employees will conclude that the safest course of action is disengagement. Let employees know that you’ll help them manage the risks of engagement by offering constructive guidelines, real-time advice when requested, and assistance resolving issues.

  4. We reward the effective use of social media. Be clear that making smart use of social media is part of the path to career advancement. Acknowledge, thank, and reward employees who have been early standard-bearers. Encourage employees to build social media into their workday, and provide guidelines on how much online time is appropriate in different roles or departments. Reward results–like great customer feedback or usable insights–rather than volume of activity.

You’ll know you’ve gotten your policy right if you see your employees’ social media activity increase – because they now have a clear mandate and direction for engaging online. And you’ll know that you’ve gotten it terribly wrong if all those lively bloggers, tweeters and Facebookers suddenly clam up.