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9 Steps for Creating Corporate Social Media Governance

By Chad PollittDec 9, 2011

Social Media GovernanceSocial media governance is a set of business processes put in place to support the social vision of a company with relevant targets and guidelines. Its purpose is five fold – educate and guide the appropriate stakeholders, define social media processes, maintain brand voice congruency across all channels online and offline, establish rules which govern conduct and broadly define company social media goals. This document is not the same as a social media policy. However, the policy should be included in social media governance.   

1. Purpose

This section serves as the introduction for social media governance. It spells out clearly, to all stakeholders, why the document is important and what information it provides. In addition, the purpose should contain the broader goals behind the company-wide use of social media. Some broad goals could include increased public engagement, share of voice, public education, sales, customer service, etc.   

2. Rules of Engagement

Also known as the code of conduct, the rules of engagement (ROE) should closely mirror existing standards of conduct prescribed by employee manuals, corporate policies, company core values and other governance. This section of the social media governance document does not go into specific details as to words and phrases which can or cannot be used, but rather focuses on general guidelines of what can and cannot be posted. This can vary based on the industry a company is in – examples could include hospitals (HIPPA), corporations (proprietary information), law firms (confidentiality), etc.  Ultimately, the ROE should reaffirm the company’s code of conduct and existing media policies.

3. Processes

How specific goals, strategies and tactics are defined, conceived, deployed and tracked company-wide is the simplest way to describe this section. Are they driven by marketing, public relations, customer service, IT, sales, vendors (i.e. marketing agencies, PR firms, etc.) or some combination? How does social media information flow through the company? Who is responsible and how do they report? These are all questions that should be answered here.  

4. Departmental Roles

This is an extension of the process section above. Not only does it explore the role of each department in detail, but the roles of the individuals in each department and their responsibilities and expectations. In addition, vendor’s roles, responsibilities and expectations should be spelled out here in detail.

5. Community Management

Large companies will probably need several community managers. These are the people on the social media front lines for a brand. They can be assigned by department, by social media channel or both. This section should serve as a road map and job description for community managers while defining their role, responsibility and what success looks like.

6. Escalation Practices

Brands on social media will receive many different types of posts on their blogs, accounts, walls, etc. The escalation practices section communicates to the entire organization what posts they can respond to and what posts should be pushed to a higher level. This is typically represented by some type of flow chart which describes “If that happens then do this.” A red, orange, yellow and green color system works well for escalation guidance too.   

7. Crisis Communication Plan

In very rare cases a public relations nightmare can play-out on social media and traditional media. In these instances a company’s escalation policy will not work. It’s very important to coordinate this aspect of social media governance with a public relations firm if employed. There are many different ways to tackle crisis communications, but having a plan in place before it happens may help to mitigate the most negative effects. Communicating to the stakeholders their role in the plan is vital.

8. Social Media Style Guide

There are many “do’s and don’ts” in social media and each channel has its own faux pas. This is the area of social media governance which guides and educates users as to how to respond, what to post, what voice to use, tone, syntax and netiquette.

9. Legal Considerations

It’s not a bad idea to educate all stakeholders in more detail as to the legal considerations surrounding social media and brands. The ROE above should reference the information in this section. Some of the legal considerations may include contests, intellectual property (copyright and trademarks), defamation, consumer protection, privacy and others.


Social media governance is not something to be developed overnight. In fact, depending on the size of an organization, it can take years. Not only that, but social media governance is a living breathing document that will evolve over time. A working copy of social media governance should be in place sometime between the coordinating phase and the scaling & optimizing phase of the corporate social media maturity model. For the dormant and testing phases a social media policy should suffice.



Image: MadsNielsen(dot)NET



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