Governance and social media are at the forefront of most discussions these days. Companies are either actively searching for viable solutions or choosing to ignore social media altogether. Choosing to be proactive about managing and archiving social media communications will help most companies in the long run, just as implementing eDiscovery strategies before regulatory disasters ensue has proven successful.


Whether you’re a small business or large corporation, social media has proven to be a successful tool for streamlining communications, marketing and information among constituents, customers and internal staff.

We can safely assume that social media is here to stay -- the Pope is blogging and the Library of Congress is archiving Twitter, after all -- and as a result, so are the governance and compliance challenges that it brings.

Yet what are the ways companies can proactively approach social media governance? We’re so glad you asked.

Audit Your Current Status

Before you can begin to manage information, it’s helpful to know what kinds of information you have. Gather your marketing, sales and information technology teams to understand exactly what tools you are using to communicate with customers, partners and staff.

In addition, be sure to have a clear strategy for each tool. Using social media for the sake of social media rarely makes sense and won’t help reach target audiences.

As a part of the 2008 report, Lessons from the Enterprise Social Network Strategy Executive Roundtable, created by the Future Exploration Network for IBM, the authors summarize the intent of enterprise social networks with a note of caution:

Anything the organisation does must support its objectives. Sometimes the link between profitability and the use of social networks is not evident, even though executives may intuitively feel that there is one. In the longer term there is the expectation that the rise of social networks and similar tools will have a significant impact on the way business is conducted, including on business models.

Ross Dawson, author and strategist says that enterprise IT governance must employ tools that allow for a

full understanding of potential risks, potential benefits and having set-off structured policies and procedures where any risks are minimized and benefits are maximized, with a high degree of transparency and accountability for executives and other people in the organization.

By auditing the current infrastructure, workflow environment and company culture, businesses can better understand what needs to be improved and gain insight into the types of tools and platforms that can meet specific demands as well as incite profitability.

As well, learning more about company firewalls and security portals currently in place can be helpful in understanding where the gaps are.

Build a Framework

Linda Tucci of says

As enterprises increasingly embrace social media tools for personal and work purposes, CIOs must act quickly to school themselves in the potential identity, security and privacy threats associated with them, in order to advise the business effectively about how to mitigate social media's risks.

By understanding the risks, you can begin to draft policies within a governance framework that includes steps to manage the risks. By including the following into a company’s infrastructure, you can be sure to approach governance and compliance from all sides.

  • Social Media Training for Employees: Reduce the risk for reputation damage, regulatory liability and disclosure of sensitive information.
  • Meet with General Counsel: Understand the legal implications and industry regulatory guidelines of what to do if sensitive information is compromised.
  • Implement & Update: Revisit the policy on a regular basis to ensure efficacy and compliance.

Obviously you need to draft policies that are appropriate to your company’s needs, but there’s no need to recreate the wheel. Take a look at the social media policies implemented by the Federal government or IBM. They may address issues that may have been overlooked.

Measure & Analyze

While social media can help promote a product, or help to recruit new talent, it may not prove useful for everyone, especially if appropriate key messages have not been strategically crafted. Companies should analyze metrics quarterly to ensure that social media efforts are working for you and not against.

However, before you take a look at the numbers, define success. It could be a certain percentage of new fans or followers, or the number of retweets, interactions or comments. Numbers won’t mean anything if you don’t establish an appropriate benchmark. As well it will help those who are actively engaging users work towards a meaningful goal.

Here are a few social media monitors that business can easily employ. They are designed to collects content from a vast range of sources so that you can accurately capture what is being said on the web across all channels about your company, its products and brand.

  • Infegy: Their Social Radar and its proprietary crawler collects social content from people who are sharing thoughts, opinions, reviews and information. These sources can be anything from blogs and news outlets to forums and social networks. 
  • Kaleidico: Its Eavesdropper platform taps into real-time conversations most relevant to your company, as well as manages on-line reputation, uncovers hidden sales opportunities and keep unlimited dossiers on any subject.
  • Filtrbox: Acquired by Jive, the social media monitoring platform offers a personalized dashboards that can be configured by topics, competitors or product lines with extensive drill-down capabilities and filtering options.
  • Radian6: Scans over 100 million sites and sources, from blogs and comments to photos, videos, forums, public Facebook groups and Twitter. Provides real-time, relevant results and offers post aggregation so results easy to read, distribute, share and analyze.

If it turns out that a particular platform isn’t working as well as you’d hope, you can tweak your approach or abandon it altogether. Just be sure to effectively communicate with constituents so they know how to find and contact you.

Adaptation & Influence

Sometimes the hardest audience to convince is your own. The enterprise is full of cynics and non-believers waiting for the social media’s bubble to burst. However, with patience, case studies and analytics, even the most stringent opponent can become an evangelist. It’s all about how social media is seen to be improving productivity and profitability. If you’ve successfully identified and implemented the right tools, overtime the results will begin to speak for themselves.

Steve Furman, the voice behind the blog ExpedientMeans says that

Finding the social media enthusiasts in your firm and inviting them to join a Social Network inside your company will pay dividends later.

As well, he laments the need for constant nurture of social media, saying

One should never tire of tagging, tracking and cracking the attribution code of Social Media efforts to determine value. Without demonstrating value, resources will not flow into the Social Media cost center. But a fresh angle can jump start passive executives into becoming willing accomplices.

As tiresome as constantly championing social media can be, you can take consolation in knowing that those before you who championed similar causes like email, mobile phone and websites underwent similar experiences.

Looking Ahead

As we’ve learned from records management and eDiscovery, policies and processes are only as good as the strategies used to employ them. Social media isn’t any different. By taking the time to understand what and how it’s being used, you can develop policies that are both appropriate and effective. In return, companies who embrace social media while effectively managing its controls are poised to gain fans, followers and financial success.