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Social Media Governance

Social Media, defined as those websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking, is one of the most influential drivers for change in many modern organizations. Social media sites account for 3 of the 5 most popular websites in the world and have brought your customers closer to you—and each other—than ever before.

When used correctly, social media can be an excellent tool—to speak directly with customers, to manage PR, to gather feedback that would usually be unavailable, and, in some business models, a sales channel in itself. However, when used incorrectly, social media can pose a very real threat.

The cultural impact of social media

According to a report by the Nielsen Group, Americans spent a combined 121 billion minutes on social media websites in July 2012, compared to 88 billion in July 2011—an increase of 37%.

Popular social media sites include:

  • Social Networks, such as Facebook or Google+
  • Micro-blogging sites, such as Twitter
  • Photo sharing, such as Snapchat, Flickr and Pinterest
  • Video sharing sites, such as Youtube and Vine
  • Blogging sites, such as Tumblr, Blogger, and Wordpress
  • Wikis, such as Wikipedia or the many niche wikis on specific topics

Blogging, Instant Messaging, and Skype all play a significant role in enabling people to keep in touch with one another, wherever they are in the world. Social networks enable people to share instantly—and very publicly—their experiences with specific organizations, whether good or bad.

Social Media, Web 2.0, and Threat 2.0

Social media is a part of a wider revolution in how the Web works, and this revolution is often called Web 2.0 (Read more about Web 2.0 here).

Individuals—and regulators—are increasingly aware of the dangers they face when using social media, and these insecure aspects of Web 2.0 are now increasingly described as "Threat 2.0."

Social media and the organization

Social Media Governance deals with how organizations should manage social media use to maximize its benefits and mitigate potential risks.

  • How should you regulate and manage staff use of social media during work hours?
  • What are the potential data loss risks?
  • How do you manage unregulated communication?
  • How should you deal with customer criticism online?
  • How should you harness social media as part of a corporate communication strategy?
  • How should you discover and harness staff talents for social media?

These are just some of the challenge faced by organizations.

How to implement Social Media Governance

Social media has fundamentally changed how organizations handle communication, both internally and externally. Some organizations recognize the significance of the associated risks and respond by denying the social media revolution, banning access to social media sites during work hours.

Their marketing and communications teams have limited, if any, access to these channels. Sales teams that ask for Instant Messaging services are denied.

Social Media Best Practice

There is a better response: recognize that social media has a role to play and that staff want to use social media like they want to chat by the water cooler.

Develop a social media strategy: identify your corporate social media objectives, do a risk assessment (threats, vulnerabilities, impacts), assign roles and responsibilities, develop a social media policy and an appropriate mix of procedures and guidelines, acquire the appropriate technical controls, train staff on how to behave and what to do, implement a monitoring and review framework, and make social media a regular part of how you do business.

Social Media Governance Toolkit

While any organization can develop a coherent set of policies and guidelines from its own experience, and by drawing on the wide range of information available on the Internet, a more straightforward approach is to use the Social Media Governance Toolkit.

The social media governance toolkit contains templates for creating a social media strategy, allocating roles and responsibilities and identifying risks. More importantly, it contains a full set of policies, procedures, and guidelines for the use of social media, drawing on and consolidating all the latest best practice from around the world.