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What to Do When the Social Media Horse Has Already Left The Barn?

by Jennifer Beever on September 30, 2010

Social media horses running awayOrganizations large and small are finding that employees, divisions and other factions have jumped into social media without guidelines or social media strategy from the central organization. The good news is that people in the organization are passionate about the organization and want to share that passion with friends, colleagues and social network connections. The bad news is that the messages that are being put online may not be on-topic or fit the organization’s mission, vision and values. Without a strategic social media plan or guidelines, the social media horse has already left the barn. What can the organization do?

Let’s look at the diffferent ways to address the problem when social media has been started at the grassroots level without a strategic plan or guidelines.

Let the social media horse run ?

Now that the social media horse is off and running, letting it go is not an option. The volume and variety of messaging, group discussions, event listings, blogs and more will only get worse. The organization’s brand and image is in danger of being diluted or even carried off by other entities.

Rein in the social media horse ?

Historically, traditional management style has been to rein in and control divisions and employee activity. But, the nature of social media is that it should be organic, passionate and based on humans interacting. Saying, “Stop!” or “No!” could affect your constituents’ passion for the cause and damage the online presence of the organization.

Build some corrals, offer food and water, and keep the gates open !

Even if social media conversations are already happening in your organization, it’s not too late to create a strategy and guidelines. You can do an assessment of social media sites on which your organization is represented. Create a social media strategic plan by assessing the best social media sites on which your organization should appear based on your  marketing persona and strategic objectives. Build social media guidelines (see some examples below). Then offer great content, contests, events and interesting messaging (this is the food and water) to increase followers, engagement and conversion.

Examples of Social Media Guidelines

Here are some good examples I selected from Laurel Papworth’s blog entry and Chris Boudreax’s Social Media Governance site:

  1. New Media and the Air Force
  2. IBM Social Computing Guidelines
  3. Cisco’s Internet Postings Policy
  4. Oracle Social Media Participation Policy
  5. Intel Social Media Guidelines
  6. Dell’s Global Social Media Policy
  7. Mayo Clinic Blogging and Social Networking Guidelines
  8. University of Albany’s Center for Technology in Government: Designing Social Media for Government Guide
  9. Best Buy Social Media Guidelines
  10. City of Seattle Social Media Policy
  11. Orange County Social Media Use Policy and Procedure
  12. Wells Fargo Blogs and Social Media Community Guidelines


Photo on Flickr, Attribution Some rights reserved by Horia Varlan

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Mike Wise October 1, 2010 at 8:35 am

Jennifer, great share. Really appreciate the analogy and the links. I’ve been working on a project for a client on this very thing. It’s been fun helping them develop not only their policy, but their STRATEGY from a marketing perspective. It’s especially relevant in the insurance space. Yes, the horse left the barn a LONG time ago. Brands are being talked about, products are being talked about, and people as well. I dare say one of the reasons for the health care reform mess we are in is because the health insurance value chain was not engaged enough with Social. I wrote about that here.
http://blog.insurance-technologies.com/2010/06/the-problem-with-the-health-insurance-industry/

It’s a BIG deal and not to be taken lightly. Ignoring Social won’t make it go away.

Curious to hear what some of your other readers have learned about brands and Social and some of their writings. Thanks for starting the discussion. Hope others join in.

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