Is “social” a passing fad for business? Despite recent reports
suggesting this, industry consolidation is well underway, signaling that big business strongly believes it is here to stay. By now, many organizations, both B2C and B2B, have realized that being actively involved in social media is an absolute must for true agility and long term business sustainability.
Management advisors like McKinsey & Company point to recent surveys
clearly showing that social savvy companies outperform those that do not have a strategy across the board: in revenue, customer satisfaction, and cost effectiveness. That spells opportunity! In fact, it’s possible to use social media to drive competitive advantage.
||Working without a Social Media Council, is like herding cats
One of the biggest challenges that businesses face in becoming a true “social” enterprise, however, is in aligning disparate interests across the organization. When social touches everything from customer service and support, to PR, product development, customer acquisition and employee collaboration, it often results in a
fragmented approach, with lack of a cohesive strategy on how to best harness it.
In fact, The Altimeter Group, in a survey in 2011
, found in some enterprises that as many as 13 different business units across the enterprise engage in customer-facing social media efforts!
So the question then often becomes one of ownership. Who is driving the social strategy? Is it marketing? Is it operations? Is it sales? Should it be a central body that makes all decisions, or a hub-and-spoke model? This post discusses the need for a Social Media Council, how to set up and manage one, and what the expected outcomes should be.
WHY? THE NEED FOR ”SOCIAL” GOVERNANCE
Here are five fantastic reasons for establishing a Social Media Council:
- Provides a strategic umbrella for all social media initiatives
- Establishes open and early collaboration among departments
- Ensures consistent policies are applied to communications while minimizing risk
- Optimizes existing practices, platforms and resources
- Prioritizes areas of social media expansion and identifies new opportunities
A Social Media Council should be considered almost as important to the ongoing health of the organization as having a standing Governance Committee on your company’s Board of Directors. It is important to note, however, that the council is not necessarily comprised of the “doers”; as a group they provide strategic direction and oversight to the social media team and other key departments.
WHO? STRUCTURING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA COUNCIL
Who should be included? It depends on the size and the structure of your organization, but generally speaking, any department that touches the customer, should have a voice on the Council.
Also don’t overlook key external entities,
in particular business process outsourcing (BPO) partners who are typically a significant part of your customer care/acquisition strategy; and agencies, who help you drive branding and marketing. In almost every case, your legal department should have some input,
especially in those industries that are highly regulated.
Consider including the following departments/partners, and staff the Council with high-level decision makers:
- Brand & Consumer Marketing
- Customer Care
- Product Management/Development
- External Partners: Agencies; BPO Partner
There are many divergent thoughts about how to structure the Council itself, but I certainly favor the opinion of Jeremiah Owyang
, who suggests that “…as companies mature, a hub and spoke model becomes more prevalent…The hub at the center of this model empowers business units with leadership and shared resources, empowering enterprise-wide collaboration.”
It is critical to success to have an executive sponsor for the Council, typically the CEO or CMO. The Social Media Councils that we have participated in or observed are usually led by a senior person from Corporate Communications. Alternatively, a Social Media leader, if one exists, will lead the Council.
WHAT TO FOCUS ON: CHECKLIST TO START
Every organization is different, but according to Radian6
, in many successful social enterprises, the duties of the Social Media Council should include:
- Creating and updating social media policies and guidelines for employees
- Providing clear direction on how employees should integrate their personal social media activities into their professional lives
- Approving the creation of new social media channels (and preventing duplication of effort and unnecessary proliferation of pages and accounts)
- Ensuring consistent branding and messaging across all channels
- Identifying, testing and approving third-party tools, such as social media monitoring platforms and social media management tools
- Coordinating the adoption of social media tools with other systems, including customer relationship management and marketing automation (often in conjunction with IT)
- Sharing social media best practices and success stories internally
- Working with Legal, HR and IT to integrate social media policies with existing company policies
- Creating core materials for social media presences and campaigns that can be modified and localized for reuse by other parts of the organization (business units and country offices, for instance)
Radian6 provides a definitive guide to Social Media Councils in their ebook: “Social Media Blueprint: A Step-by-Step Plan to Prepare Your Company” including step by step instructions for setting one up.
EXPECTED OUTCOMES: “SOCIAL” STRATEGY IN SUPPORT OF BUSINESS
In summary, establishing a group to guide the usage, policies and implementation of social media is one of the basic building blocks of a sound corporate strategy. It can be and is a key step along the road to becoming a truly engaged “social” enterprise deriving strategic value from their efforts in the social space.
Your Social Media Council will help your organization ensure that customers are engaged in their channel of choice; new customers are found in cost-effective ways; resource productivity is maximized; you understand your competitors more deeply; your products and services are being refined with real-time input while shortening time/cost to market; and employees and partners collaborate more efficiently in ways you never imagined were possible.
Welcome to enterprise agility, business sustainability,—and difficult-to-emulate competitive advantage!
Share your tips in the comments!