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Five key considerations when developing a social media policy, or a framework for social media use in your business or organisation.

In our most recent news roundup, the Government of Jamaica announced that by early 2013, “there should be a full-fledged social media policy in place, with guidelines for order and professionalism in Government”  Without a doubt, it is heartening that the Government of Jamaica is preparing a social media policy that ought to standardize management and use of the various platforms across its Ministries and associated agencies. However, much of the private sector across the Caribbean – small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as large corporates– is still grappling with how best to use social media.

More importantly, although a number of businesses and organisations might be using select social media platforms, that use might be ad hoc, or has not been considered within a wider context. This post outlines five key considerations when developing a social media policy, or a framework for social media use in your business or organisation.

Although some of you might begin to feel anxious by the words “policy” or “framework”, these documentsdo not need to be complicated. They can be less than one page, but their main purpose is to provide a structure for social media use, in order to achieve the organisation’s goals, and to ensure that this use is aligned with the organisation’s brand.

1.  Be clear about the purpose, function and goals of social media in the organisation

Determining the purpose, function and goals of social media in your organisation, from the outset, will not only be critical to the framework, it will have a direct impact on which platforms are selected, how they are used, along with emphasising the perceived importance of social media to the organisation.  businesses typically use social media for one or more of the following purposes:

  • marketing and promotion
  • customer care and feedback
  • information dissemination, and/or
  • discussion forums.

 

Furthermore, many organisations look at social media as just marketing. However, it ought to be considered as part of the wider business strategy to achieve corporate goals and imperatives. Hence, depending on the perceived importance or value, of social media in that wider context, it may be easier to demand (or justify) a greater allocation of resources to maximise outputs.

2.  Be clear about the messaging

This point does not speak to specific content, but in general terms, the corporate position on how social media will be used, and preferred practices.

Many organisations, especially conservative firms, have been reluctant to employ social media because they are concerned about how it could affect their brand. Their greatest fears tend to be inconsistent messaging and inadequate controls. This tip would ensure that some of those concerns are considered, and could cover topics such as:

  • interaction style or guidelines
  • privacy
  • intellectual property
  • confidentiality.

Ultimately, the aim is to consider and begin to develop a framework for the organisation’s engagement with public via social media, to ensure that consistent policies and practices are established.

3.  Specify the internal approval processes and channels

Coupled with the previous point, businesses that are concerned about their brand tend to be keen to ensure that internal controls to govern social media use are established. An individual, or a group of persons, ought to be identified to manage the social media platforms used by the organisation. This person or team would have overall responsibility, but may also be required to vet and oversee new campaigns, posts, entries, responses, etc.

Depending on the organisation and how complex its use of social media is, the oversight and management processes could be tiered. Hence certain activities would be approved by the lower tiers, with provision being made to escalate unusual or important matters up the prescribed channels.

4. Identify performance metrics

Again, when social media is being considered within the context of the overarching corporate strategy, it is also important to identify key measures that can be used to gauge the success of strategies or campaigns that have been implemented. Useful indicators of the impact of social media could include:

  • the size of the network on specific platforms (e.g. number of followers)
  • website traffic (e.g. number of unique visitors, page views, and other analytics measurements)
  • sales directly attributed to social media/networking
  • organisational improvements directly attributed to social media/networking.

5. Identify the team

Finally, a general observation made on many business websites and social networking pages is that engagement is ad hoc or infrequent, which would limit the effectiveness and possible benefits of social media to those organisations. This situation is often due to the fact that many businesses underestimate the effort and resources needed to develop and execute a cogent and well-defined social media strategy that will contribute to the their goals and performance.

In point 3, we suggested that the team who will vet and oversee social media use by the organisation be identified. Now, it is important to identify persons who might be on the frontlines of engagement, and those who would be required to prepare content that eventually will be disseminated or highlighted via the selected social media channels.

Final remarks

Once more, it is emphasised that social media should not be seen a just a marketing tool for a business or organisation.  It can have an impact  on important corporate metrics and performance goals.  Hence it is critical for managers to consider it within their wider strategy, and be prepared to develop the necessary structures and assign the resources needed to facilitate successful execution.

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