By: Stacey Sayer, Advanced Energy
December 1, 2017
Governance doesn’t need to be a dirty word. In fact, it’s a crucial piece for any corporate social media program, regardless of size or industry.
In the past five years, companies have expanded well beyond their own branded channels, enabling employees, executives, agencies and third-party influencers to use personal networks to achieve business goals. And this trend toward so-called hub and spoke models—with separate business units managing certain social networks and a central hub overseeing each—has been a boon, especially for bigger brands.
But it’s definitely not without its risks.
While this model provides a scalable solution, it also means that governance becomes increasingly important and exponentially more difficult.
The tension between scale and governance can be palpable at times, creating inertia and conflict. While the pressure to scale your brand’s social presence can be intense, governance, even for the largest, most distributed organizations, should be a priority. Here’s why:
Consistency Keeps You Safe
As companies explore the limits of existing social networks and delve into emerging ones, governance provides guidance around how a brand should interact on a given network—or if they should at all—and how influencers should talk about your brand.
A lack of oversight can quickly lead to brand fragmentation as multiple individuals in different departments, business units, cities or even companies (in the case of influencers) manage their own social footprint.
And in an age when customers readily take to social networks to complain and criticize—and hackers look to embarrass and extort—oversight around who accesses which networks and how is critical.
I always advocate that very few individuals should have direct access to native platforms and that most users only access brand channels via a social management platform. This provides a better monitor of what may or may not be posted publicly and ensures there’s less of a chance that user error, a hack or regulatory issues will turn your brand position sideways.
A lack of governance equates, simply, to an increase in risk.
Governance is Strategic
Letting anyone and everyone who thinks social media is “fun” (which I hear a lot) to act as a brand ambassador is not best practice. Just because someone enjoys posting pictures of their kids on Facebook doesn’t mean they understand how to use social media to advance your brand goals.
Every brand should adopt guidelines and policies that clearly outline how employees, spokespeople and the social media team should use social networks, and to what end. The guidelines should cover everything from how someone discloses they’re an employee or influencer to what topics may be off limits (à la financial disclosures, competitive behavior and other sensitive topics). It should also include clear direction around the purpose behind their use of social media and how corporate objectives are defined.
It’s Just Plain Old Common Sense
In the same way there’s likely tight governance around how your organization issues press releases or communicates with investors, managing the who/what/when/where of your social media posts requires oversight, because any external communication carries similar risk factors to more “official” communication channels (just ask the FTC).
For large brands in regulated industries (think finance or healthcare), a governance program goes without saying. But even the smallest brands in less regulated industries should consider it.
The opportunities that come with social media can also create risks and a strong governance standard within your business—that invites others to participate responsibly in your program without compromising your brand’s integrity—will reap dividends.
Stacey Sayer is the global head of social and digital media with Advanced Energy, which she joined in June 2017. Prior to that, Stacey led social media strategy worldwide at Level 3 Communications, one of the world’s largest internet services providers.
Follow Stacey: @sassymarketeer