Social media policies important, empowerment is critical

Social media policies important, empowerment is critical

Intel Social Media Guidelines

This post by Brian Solis got me thinking. I have been talking for years now about the importance for the enterprise to adopt social media policies. And here we are in 2011 and 75 percent of employers say their business has no formal policy instructing employees on the appropriate use of social networking sites on the job.  This tells me that social media is still an afterthought in most organizations. Or, that many companies just don’t trust their employees to engage.

And then I re-read the 2010 State of Community Management released last week and came across an interesting data point – Executives are overwhelmingly positive about social approaches with 59% perceived as either ‘cautiously optimistic’ or ‘enthusiastic’ about it. I have to ask myself, “optimistic and enthusiastic about what?” Certainly the evolution into a social business involves much more than an emotion, right?  It’s great that 67 percent of organizations are hiring community managers, but what are they able to do? Are they empowered to actually solve customer problems or are they just moderating comments?

So let’s recap this for a second.  We are living in an era where every celebrity is using Twitter, even the bad ones.  Every news organization, media company and anchor is using social media to report breaking news (Egypt, Iran, Japan, etc.) Most fortune 500 companies are using social media in one form or another; and yet, there are no formal policies for engagement?

A similar study by eMarketer gives me a little hope; it reported that 45 percent of companies in their study are creating and distributing policies internally regarding the use of social i.e. responding to negative/positive comments and general use of social media.

While the creation of social media guidelines is certainly a very small step to operationalize social media; there is much more to consider in building social – as a behavior — into the fabric of employees’ daily work responsibilities. This initiative, this mandate needs to come from the leadership of the organization.  And, it involves much more than just creating a formal document and posting it online somewhere. Executives need to set the example and live it themselves, champion collaboration internally among business units, groups and regions; and invest dollars to support internal and external social initiatives. Only then, will organizations realize the true business value of employees engaging externally on the social web.

I talk about this in Chapter 1 of my book, Smart Business, Social Business: A Playbook for Social Media in Your Organization scheduled to be released in July 2011.


About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • Rachel Happe

    Hi Michael –

    Critical questions for organizations. As we see more and more organizations use social tools and techniques, we are also seeing more of them do it poorly. As adoption spreads, it is more rather than less confusing to figure out how to do it well. We are finding that the process of educating community, social media, and social business leaders is complex because it requires a pretty sophisticated judgment and understanding of both internal and market culture to do it well. Policies (or any artifact of maturity for that matter) alone are not enough. It's a really interesting challenge to figure out at the scale needed for large enterprises.

    Thanks for digging in to some of the stats in our report. One thing to note regarding our report, our survey audience was social leaders so, you might see numbers a bit higher than industry averages.

    Cheers –


  • Sonny Gill

    Good points here, Michael. Policies are important to provide guardrails around employee participation, though I'm assuming the social/community managers, strategists etc. are operating more ad-hoc than anything (not to say they're not doing more than just moderating comments), it's even more important to have these guidelines in place to truly empower employees, outside of your core social team.

    Our social policy encompasses those guardrails but more so the empowerment and the steps to determine their participation in social and how it fits into our overall social strategy for the organization. But as empowering as our policy may be and however many conversations we have with internal and local campus folks, there's still that executive nudge that's needed to excite and open it up to the masses. We still have a bit to go with operationalizing across the business with social, but taking the steps with the creation of policy and having the executive support behind it will help us slowly get there.

  • patmcgraw

    Great questions – but the sad reality is that too many organizations are still trying to make social media the responsibility of 1 person/team rather than the entire organization. Imagine the culture that could be created if a wise leader brought the entire organization together around social media – it could be amazing.

    Looking forward to your book – it's already on my summer reading list.

  • Michael Brito

    Hey Sonny — man, long time no talk. I hope things are going well for you. Totally agree with you .. social needs to live well beyond than just the folks who are in charge of managing it. Appreciate the comment and i hope to see you soon.

  • Michael Brito

    wise words, as usual Rachel. Thanks for the comment and clarification about the audience of the survey.

  • Sonny Gill

    Has been awhile, man – hope all is well and talk soon!

  • kooldesign1

    social media sites are working more than news channels because there are plenty of people attach with it socially and professionally. social media sites are where u leave your response or questions live and get answer.