Social Media Policy Teams

Recently, the team at eCornell asked the Director of Social Engagement for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), Curtis Midkiff, for his insights on forming social media policy teams. Curtis has also appeared in eCornell’s Ask the Expert segments for our newest certificate Social Media in HR: From Policy to Practice.

Are there particular advantages to having a social media policy team for organizations with a global reach?

Yes, because social media influences every aspect of the organization, so it’s very important that you have a team that can bring those different perspectives when you’re creating the policy, and implementing the policy. It’s good to have different perspectives because social media is viewed differently by different members of the organization. So what that team can do is make sure that the policy that you create, and the policy that you implement, takes into account all of those different perspectives. So that you have a balanced policy that’s not too far balanced, or imbalanced, on the governance side, or not too loosely balanced on the implementation side. So that you have a good balance of both that you can share with your employees.

In general, what are the main challenges in creating and managing social media policy teams?

I think the main challenge in managing these teams is mainly more so on the logistics side of it, because usually when you involve people from different departments and different areas, there are a lot of logistics challenges in terms of setting meetings, in terms of setting agenda for meetings, in terms of maintaining the working committees that you need to have, and the subcommittees you need to have. It’s more of a logistical issue than anything else, because managing these teams, they’re people who are committed to the organization, so you’re not going to have a problem with their follow-through and their commitment. It’s just that this is one additional thing that you’re probably going to add to people at the senior level of your organization, who have priorities related to their organizational goals. So it’s very important that you do what is necessary to make sure that logistically, it is very simple for these people to be involved in the team. You make it very simple in terms of how you set the meetings, you make it simple in terms of what the scope of work you’re dealing with, the issues you’re dealing with, your goals. So that way you can maximize the time that you have.

What parts of the organization must be represented on the social media policy team beyond the typical HR, IT, and legal functions?

So when you have your foundation, then that’s kind of your first tier. Your second tier, folks that definitely need to be there, you need have someone there from your communications team. This is important because there has to be a definitive difference that’s set in terms of who are the official spokespersons for social media. So most likely your media team, public relations team, public affairs team, whatever it’s called in your organization, has probably set up criteria and standards for official spokespersons. They need to be at the table when the social media policy is being created, drafted, and implemented.

Beyond those folks who form the foundation, other folks that you have on the social media policy team should simply reflect your organization and those who have key touchpoints with your constituencies. So in many cases that means representatives from your marketing team are a part of it, as well as representatives from your customer service team may be a part of it. So those parts can be determined by your business functions and who has the potential to benefit most, use social media most, or who have touchpoints with the organization.

Is there a role for unofficial participants on the social media policy team?

There is definitely a role for unofficial participants. And to define that role, it would those who have a level of expertise, or understand or influence on social networks that can provide additional perspectives or inform you on ways that can shape your policy. It’s really important in organizations because one of the things we talk about at social media is done is that it really changes the way we look at influence. Your employees have developed these social networks, and a lot of times the folks who are most influential on social networks are not always at the top of the organizational chart. It is people who are distributed throughout your organization. And it’s really great because that allows your committee that is developing the policy to really not develop this policy in a vacuum, to really develop this policy in a manner where they have taken into consideration a snapshot of what’s happening in the social media world now and also created a policy that’s flexible enough to be adapted as social media changes. And the only way you can do that is by not just limiting your planning team members to specific levels of leadership, to specific departments, but also making sure there is room on the committee, a couple of seats, for those that have exhibited expertise in social media and who can share that expertise with the rest of the team.

Can the social media policy team help manage intergenerational conflict in the organization around social media behaviors?

[With a new social media policy,] there’s going to be a generational gap, yes, because you have groups of people who are digital natives, mostly your millenials who grew up in the social media era. And you’re going to have other workers who have been within the company longer and who have operated successfully in the company without social media. So now they’re being asked to adapt what they’ve done well for so long, to a new tool that they may not be aware of. So the social media planning team can be a good leader in that respect in a couple of aspects.

First, by commissioning some sort of research as to social media use and comfort within the organization. And conducting that research in a manner to have a correlation, or to establish if there’s any correlations between a certain generation and their comfort with social media. You may find that there’s not intergenerational differences, there may be interdepartmental differences. So what the social media planning team can do is make sure that similar to, like a city council or other governing body, that there’s a chance for public comment. While they’re developing this policy it’s almost like developing legislation. Make sure there’s a chance for public comment so you can identify the potential roadblocks and the potential issues that lie beyond that room.