social media governance: that necessary evil …

On June 25, I attended the Usefulsocialmedia conference in London, at the Marriott Regents Park. The first panel was dedicated to social media governance. “Everybody now has a printing press”, so that this creates huge issues in terms of Governance; anyone can publish anything, and to what degree should we “grant people permission”?
Panel members:

  • Justin Hunt (“it’s open” social media consultancy)
  • Ben Padley, Barclaycard, former Sony-Ericsson
  • Alkesh Shah, GSK
  • Vijay Solanki, Philips
Social Media Governance
Social Media Governance is a necessary evil

Governance and social media panel

  • Sony Ericsson (B.P.): setting guidelines was essential in order to establish some level of discipline. Local moderation was also set up. They also wen through the wiping out of all abandoned social media presence. Because the brand was global, a lot of people were discovering the brand from the central hub and then were directed to the local pages.
  • GSK: Al’s view is that if you value your employees and want them to become brand advocates you have to give them leeway. GSK tried to set up control at the outset and then realised it wasn’t possible and had to drop the initiative after a few months. GSK is a regulated firm and Al realised that when the company was into trouble in the Press, employees would jump into social media and that could have caused trouble. Employees “are all adults” and they “are already marketers”, it’s mostly a matter of education. But how do you control when employees speak on your behalf? Al said they chose a roundabout way of liaising with everyone in the organisation using Yammer. Then the staff’s questions and concerns can be addressed through Yammer. “That was a hard sell to legal” Al added, “because they wanted to vet everything which was posted”.
  • Philips (V.S.): “We all know what has to be done, but the real issue is the organisational culture, hence the very first step is that you understand what management thinks”. Vijay had a previous experience in which the GM didn’t want it, and found it didn’t make sense trying to force it onto them. “You have to understand the rhythm of your organisation” Vijay added. But “there are ways of circumventing the issue”. You can use “champions” and countries which are in the lead and you can shine the light on those countries. “At Philips, different country, different cultures, we are empowering our employees. Only the Chinese would know what to do in China” Vijay very wisely said.
  • about the Barclaycard process (B.P): One of the things that Brad found out is that Social Media in actual fact is about business, not tools. Barclaycard has also used the rise of social media in order to improve on its customer service and “jump on every issue raised by customers online”. Barclaycard’s is also a regulated industry. “When people are talking about governance, they are thinking about control, whereas it’s mostly an issue of effectiveness”, Brad added.

Social media governance: that necessary evil
Social media governance is particularly challenging because it’s even hard to know about all the comments which employees are making about their company. On the one hand, mostly in regulated industries such as the ones which were represented today. Yet, as Vijay pointed out very rightly “only the Chinese would know what’s best for China!” and similarly, employees re professionals above all. They know how to behave in public when they talk about their company and, in essence, in social media, things aren’t that different. Trust really has to be at the core of social media governance, but I’d also add education and counselling because most employees need help and are requesting it. At the end of the day, social media guidelines and social media governance is a necessary evil; maybe it’s just the vocabulary which isn’t right. What about social media induction?

Yann Gourvennec
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