If you’ve gotten through this far in our social media marketing 101 series, you are well on your way to developing and implementing a social media marketing strategy. Yet, for as much time spent on defining your identity, audience and messaging, the time spent developing the policies that govern your social presence should also be as well-thought-out.

Why Do You Need a Policy?

The biggest challenge for companies when it comes to social media is giving up control. But for social media to enhance your marketing messages effectively, you will need to trust and empower your users. If you don’t, you will risk losing their trust.

Your policy should effectively outline how you intend to initiate conversations online and respond to questions, comments and feedback -- positive and negative. Creating your plan in advance assures that, when the time comes, you’ll be prepared and proactive, which will give you the ability to spend time learning, rather than panicking.

Outline Your Concerns... and Their Solutions

If you’re at all tentative about social media marketing, be sure to propose guidelines that establish boundaries. If you need to limit access or build in an approval process, do it now. It’s much easier to be stricter in the beginning and loosen control over time than it is to tighten them after the fact.

When it comes to social media, it’s natural to be weary of uncharted territory, but it’s so much better to establish policies that not just outline your concerns, but present actual solutions. For instance, if you’re concerned that messages will be pushed out unnecessarily by untrained personnel, either make it clear who is able to send out messages and why, or provide the necessary training to staff.

In his Rules of Social Media Engagement, Brian Solis writes

In order for businesses to maximize the opportunity present within social networks, we must place engagement in the hands of those representatives qualified and trained to do so effectively and strategically."

This, however, doesn’t mean letting one person manage your social media campaigns. For your marketing efforts to be successful, it must be a collaborative effort and not left to a single individual. Your strategy should include a process for how knowledge and expertise will be shared with one another, rather than having information stew in its own silo.

Policies For Improved Productivity

Developing and implementing social media marketing policies and procedures doesn’t just make it easier to let go, it helps your employees get more done.

A 2010 survey by ManPower showed that 63% of employers who employed social networking policies reported improved productivity. It also helps to improve trust and brand loyalty. When employees know what is expected of them, they are much better guided to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company.

It goes without saying that, if you’re in an industry that is highly regulated, your policy will have to go well beyond the basics so that it’s well-understood what is and what isn’t permissible. While you may see compliance and governance as a Get out of Social Media Free Card, the truth is that it’s not. While traditional networks may not be a viable option, there are new social platforms that provide compliance behind firewalls.

Like many social media itself, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to creating and implementing a policy to govern its usage within your organization. If you’re not sure where to start, use the opportunity to learn more about your organization’s culture so that you can develop a policy that not only meets their needs but addresses their concerns as well.

Finally, social media is ever evolving. Your policy should be focused enough so that employees understand what is allowed and what isn’t, but it should also be broad enough so that it can evolve alongside new technologies. It doesn’t mean you need to revise for every new platform that’s released, but it does provide an excellent opportunity for your organization to monitor trends and experiment with new solutions.

Next week: Tips, Tricks and The End

Editor's note: Check Marisa's entire series devoted to Social Media Marketing.