How to Create a Social Media Policy with the Customer in Mind

By Kyle Lacy, Stephanie Diamond, Jon Ferrara

Before you construct new Social CRM policies from scratch or revise them, it’s helpful to figure out how your company is currently handling its social media engagement. Is the workflow dictated by upper management or does it happen on its own? By answering this question, you can see how to integrate policy changes most effectively.

There are three critical elements of developing a sound social media policy that conforms with the needs of the enterprise. They are as follows:

  • How models of customer engagement affect policy: When you understand how social media is handled in your organization, you can make necessary changes to policy or develop it further.

  • Additional concerns that social media brings to policy creation: You need to understand how social media impacts current policies so that you can make revisions that keep you on track and out of the courts.

  • Some best practices for implementation of social media policy: It’s always helpful to see what others consider to be best practices so you can learn from their efforts. It’s also important to revise them to suit your company’s needs.

It’s likely that your company’s way of dealing with social media wasn’t planned. Things probably evolved as requests came in and problems were handled. Obviously, this isn’t the best way to deal with such a critical issue.

Figuring out how to organize the enterprise to deal with social media is a topic that’s discussed by several well-regarded social CRM experts, including Jeremiah Owyang and Adam Metz — Owyang specifically in his Building Your Social Strategy: Prioritizing Efforts for Scale presentation at the Bazaarvoice Social Commerce Summit in 2011, and Metz in his book The Social Customer (McGraw-Hill).

As you think about how your organization can improve its ability to handle social media, it’s helpful to look at the five customer engagement models Owyang developed. These organizational models are as follows:

  • Decentralized: This model develops ad hoc. The process is very disorganized because no guidelines dictate processes or spell out how to respond to customers. Each department deals with its own issues. In the absence of any governance guidelines, this model usually applies.

  • Centralized: This model has one designated leader, and all policies and governance flow from that person — like a standard organization chart. This model is inefficient because only the leader can formulate policies and solutions. The leader has no chance to learn from the employees on the front lines about what’s working and what isn’t.

  • Hub and Spoke: This is the model that Owyang recommends you shift to as soon as possible. There is a central hub, but all the spokes can share information and develop policies together. If you start here, you can sort out all the issues that arise without missing out on the group experience.

  • Multiple Hub and Spokes (also called Dandelion): This model has one central hub that flows out to smaller hubs and spokes.

    Metz suggests that this model works for consumer brands and large enterprises that have different products and services that operate independently.

  • Honeycomb: Picture a honeycomb with all the cells operating in unison. All the departments provide assistance and support to the good of the social media organization. The negative here is that everyone has to be made aware of what everyone else is doing at all times.

Obviously, not every organization can quickly pull off a Hub and Spoke model, but awareness of the models makes it easier for you to evaluate what your organization is doing now and how it can plan to improve in the future.