Establishing a Social Media Program

Whether your organization has 50 or 5000 employees, a social media program is critical to your organization’s success in the social space.  As organizational use of social media evolves and becomes more prevalent, establishing a program to carry the organization forward in this space is critical.

There are four areas to focus on when formalizing social media activities in an organization:

  1. Establish a Centre of Excellence. This group should contain a cross-section from the organization and will act as a resource and provide strategic direction.
  2. Craft a social media policy. Charlene Li, in her book Open Leadership, explains why organizations need a social media policy.
  3. Develop a social media training program. This program will prepare employees to effectively represent your organization on social networks. Intel is a pioneer in this area with the introduction of the Digital IQ training program in 2008.
  4. Focus on goals and strategy. Getting on social networks because your competitors are is not enough. Ensure business units identify audiences, goals and strategies. A ‘twitter strategy’ doesn’t cut it.

How your organization implements this program is as important as the program itself.  There are many ways to implement your program.  According to Jeremiah Owyang, the two most widely used are the centralized and hub and spoke models.

Centralized Approach

In the centralized approach, one department manages all the organization’s social media activities. I’m not a fan of this approach as it forces communications through a funnel and those engaging on behalf of the organization may not be the subject matter expert.  My other concern with this approach is that the experience may be artificial.  Organizations that implement the centralized approach may face resourcing issues as all conversations are funneled through their department.

Hub and Spoke Approach

This is the most common approach right now. In the hub and spoke approach, a cross-functional team provides strategic direction and help various business units.  Through this approach, individual areas are empowered to interact with their customers, while still having structure and controls in place.  For organizations considering formalizing their social media activities, this approach is my recommendation.

As social media becomes more ‘baked-in’ to corporate culture (like e-mail), we may see more organic approaches that rely less on structure and policy.  But until we get there, it’s best to have a program in place.

Does your organization have a social media program? What approaches have you found most successful?

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