Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Expanding the conversation – giving everyone in your business a voice – 3

Posted in strategy and planning, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on May 13, 2011

This is my third installment in a series on expanding the conversation beyond a more traditional, centrally owned Marketing and Communications framework, to involve a wider range of stakeholders and voices (see Web 2.0 Marketing, postings 55 and 56.) I have dealt with some of these same issues as to why open up and who to involve in these larger conversations in several other series, most recently in discussing open business models (see Business Strategy and Operations) but here my focus is on implementing this through a framework that offers support to both the individuals involved and to the businesses they work for. In Part 2 I outlined a generic Social Media Guideline document that would serve to provide this type of due diligence and risk remediation framework, noting that the outline I provided there, left a great deal of room for variation, and that some businesses and organizations may even want to make changes at the top category levels, as well as in the details to include within them.

That leaves me with a basic question:

• What is the best way to develop and customize a Social Media Guideline document so that it really meet’s your specific organization’s needs and those of your employees who would participate in this larger voice?

Any answer to that would have to take a number of factors into account including these following:

• Start with your basic business model. Your marketing and communications, whether centrally owned and sourced or more open and inclusive in voice have to align with and support that.
• What types of information do you have to keep confidential and proprietary? This is important enough for businesses in heavily regulated industries so that it might make sense to bring confidentiality due diligence and legally mandated guidelines governing it up to the top as a major topic category in its own right.
• How many people would you see involved in this? Here, start out by assuming that everyone eligible to do so will start posting and build flexible, scalable processes to accommodate that and for pre-publication review and vetting, and for gathering and evaluation of customer feedback, and for any other step in this where oversight might be involved.

For some employees outside of your traditional group of message and branding stakeholder owners, this participation may become a formal part of their job description and certainly where specialized and technical information is to be shared and has to be checked for accuracy and compliance to any nondisclosure requirements standards – your specialist editors and reviewers will probably need this part of their work formally acknowledged as a part of their job responsibilities, for example.

Sets of postings such as my open business models series deal more with general principles, where this series deals with the nuts and bold details of implementation and follow-through. That distinction is important here and one of my goals with this posting is to prompt readers to think through their business, its operations and processes and its products and services, to discern more fully:

• What types of information would most beneficially be shared, and beneficially both for your business and its employees, and for your customers and potential customers?
• Whose voices would most reasonably and realistically be shared in this way?
• Where would your employees see room for possible misunderstanding and need clarification in what they can and cannot post and how, and where would your legal council and other due diligence specialists see a need for greater clarity and fuller details in this document?
• And if you institute this as a roll-out, how you would do that with a review of results before expanding, and with corrections and adjustments as needed?

If I add one further thought to this posting it is that you do not have to reinvent the wheel in building your Social Media Guidelines. A great many organizations, and in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors and in a wide range of industries offer their social media governance documents online. Think through the basic issues for your business first so you can realistically approach other organizations’ documented approaches with an understanding as to how your needs might differ from theirs. Then look for best practices examples that fit or could be modified to meet your specific needs. One resource you can turn to for vetted documents from other organizations can be found at socialmediagovernance.com/policies.

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