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4 components of a social media governance model

Michael Ansaldo | Feb. 16, 2012
Many organizations are still struggling to embrace it for fear that it negatively effects worker productivity or puts the company at risk.

Even as social media presents unprecedented business opportunities for marketing, customer service, brand building and consumer relationships, many organizations are still struggling to embrace it for fear that it negatively effects worker productivity or puts the company at risk. A 2011 survey by Society for Human Resource Management reveals that 43% of businesses block access to social media on company-owned computers or handheld devices.

Rather than policing employees, these organizations would be better served by a social media governance model -- a collection of policies, procedures and educational resources that allow you to manage social media internally. A sound social media governance model empowers your employees while keeping them accountable. It allows you to quickly recover from a blow to your brand, or even sidestep it completely. It helps you keep your social initiatives on track and aligned with your business’ strategic goals.

While many of the elements of a social media governance model will vary across industries and organizations, here are five fundamental components that should be part of any plan.

Social Media Policy

A social media policy is the foundation of any social media governance model. Its purpose is twofold: to guide your employees and to protect your organization and your customers from risk. You should have a social media policy regardless of whether or not your business is actively engaged in a social media strategy. Facebook is on target to hit one billion users this year, and Twitter will soon have 500 million. Many of them are your employees, customers and competitors.

At a bare minimum your social media policy should include specific guidelines for each of the top three platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. But though social media has become synonymous with that trio of powerhouses, the landscape is vast, encompassing blogs, wikis, podcasts, video sharing, microblogging, community forums and other tools. While it’s not necessary to develop a set of best practices for each of them, you should have a clear and consistent set of expectations that covers all your organization’s primary social channels.


Earlier this year the Richmond Police Department found itself at the center of a controversy when one of its officers Tweeted threats of violence against members of the Anonymous hacking group in response to an attack on an Ultimate Fighting Championship website. The resulting flood of angry comments from the public prompted the Richmond P.D. to temporarily to disable comments on its Facebook page and ultimately led to an investigation of the officer.

This incident underscores a reality of the social media era: Every employee is a PR person, and it only takes one rogue Tweet or Facebook post to unravel your brand image. This makes training an essential part of any governance model. Without the proper resources to educate employees how to represent your organization on the social web, your social media policy is useless.


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