11/18/2013 07:31 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

How Companies Can Implement and Benefit from a Social Media Governance Policy

Many managers breathe a small sigh of defeat when they walk past an employee's desk and see a social networking website on the screen. However, others have turned employee social media engagement at work into a powerful brand advocacy channel.

Executives like Tony Hsieh, founder and CEO of Zappos, require their new employees to take social networking classes during onboarding. Dell has even developed a brand community to foster employee and customer advocacy on social media.

A comprehensive social media governance policy, along with an army of brand advocates, can lower digital marketing costs and vastly increase brand-reach on social networks. Here's how to do it.

Build Your Governance Policy

A social media governance policy can scale brand advocacy and communications on social media while mitigating the risk of a social media disaster.

Before you build a governance policy, it's imperative to start with a social media audit. Much like a SWOT analysis, a social media audit helps marketing teams understand the best opportunities for the brand on social media. The audit should identify which social networks to use and which to avoid while developing a baseline strategy. Investing time and effort into a social media audit can provide employees with a solid platform to engage the market as brand advocates efficiently and can help generate lasting value.

Keep in mind that a social media governance policy should be as brief as possible. Brevity will increase the likelihood that it gets read by employees, and makes updating it much easier. Consider using an "Always/Sometimes/Never" format to maintain policies that are easy for employees to remember. Additional policies for more nuanced social media challenges might be necessary, but should be included in an appendix section. The disclosure toolkit provides additional governance policies to consider:

  • Social Media Outreach Campaigns
  • Advocacy Programs
  • Compensation and Incentives
  • Agency and Contractor Disclosure
  • Vendor Questionnaire
  • Monitor and Respond
  • Policies and Training
  • Creative Standards

The cost of encouraging brand advocacy on social media without a governance policy can be devastating. There are countless examples of employees making costly mistakes in social media communications that hurt brand equity. Investing in a social media governance policy can help mitigate the risk of social media disasters.

Building a social media governance policy sounds technical and administrative, but it's actually much simpler than it sounds. How to Build Your Social Media Governance Policy by Elevar Media walks through the process of building a succinct and complete social media governance policy. It also comes with a sample governance policy template pre-filled with standard governance policy language to get started.

Enlist an Employee Army of Brand Advocates

Once you have developed the strategy and playbook, your team must recruit the army of brand advocates. Forrester has outlined a three-step employee advocacy process that focuses on "inspiring excitement and actively engaging employees into all parts of the customer experience": Excite, Educate and Enroll. This process focuses on generating excitement in the market through customer-facing employees.

The process then uses the same employees to educate the market prior to a public launch. Finally, your marketing and communications team should enroll all employees to promote brand advocacy across all segments of the customer experience.

An educated and inspired workforce can be instrumental in growing brand reach on social networks. A well-written governance policy and a strategy to enlist and support internal brand advocates can generate lasting returns over the long term.