This is a thought leadership article by PrimeGlobal member firm McKonly & Asbury which looks at social media governance, policies, training and corporate goals. 

While a majority of companies have implemented social media policies in the past 10 years, a much smaller number have a full social media governance framework. Social media governance is much broader in scope than a policy. It is a collection of policies, procedures, and other tools used within an organization to ensure standardization, risk minimization, and compliance. It is the detailed framework that instructs your employees on how to represent your company on social media touchpoints. It provides specifics regarding their role in securing assets and avoiding unnecessary risks.

According to IT Governance USA “Social media sites account for 3 of the 5 most popular websites in the world and have brought your customers closer to you—and each other—than ever before.” 

Customers do not hesitate to use social networks to criticize and complain. Additionally, hackers are able to use social media to harm, embarrass, and hold company servers and data for ransom. It is no wonder that executive responses to the AON 2019 Global Risk Management Survey indicate that brand and reputation damage is the overall number 2 risk for companies worldwide. A social governance framework supports your employees in addressing brand and reputation risks and legal and regulatory compliance in a consistent manner.

A social governance framework begins with an audit of all of your company’s points of social media contact. It should not come as a surprise that most companies struggle to identify every social media channel, so it might be useful to employ a consultant to assist in this process. During this stage, it is helpful to identify and remediate any outdated or counterfeit sites. A spreadsheet is the standard method for tracking your inventory of social media access points, but there are computerized tools that can be purchased to do the same task that could save time and make the inventory easier to maintain. Before finalizing your inventory of social media platforms, there should be a review of each one to ensure that the brand message is consistent across them. Finally, it is important to determine a system for managing access and credentials for your social media accounts. Who will be authorized to operate within the accounts, and where will the logon details be stored in order to ensure continued access should an employee no longer work for the company?

Your employees’ personal social media account usage should be specifically addressed within your framework. Employees’ should understand who is authorized to speak for the brand on their personal social media and who is not. Your company should also make clear that employees will be held accountable for how they represent themselves on social media, especially if they also represent the Company brand on their accounts. Alternatives include requesting that your employees refrain from engaging in posting about your brand or that they clearly state the information posted is their opinion and not a representation of the company’s opinion.

The Corporate risk assessment, as well as corporate goals, should be considered while creating your program so that the framework supports, and does not contradict, those items. All stakeholders within the organization should be included in the framework creation. Since social media has become so pervasive, the result could be a large team. Be certain that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities to the team in order to streamline the work.

Your social governance program should be centralized at corporate to ensure standardization and compliance. The program can be implemented locally to allow for the flexibility needed for specific situations. Considering the pace of change in the social media arena, your framework should be regularly reviewed and revised. A process for revision should be documented in order to ensure consistency.

Finally, annual training should be offered to all associates. Training should provide updates on any changes since the prior training. It should include methods for responding to social media comments and questions. Annual training will improve the chances that everyone who interacts through social media will represent your brand in a standard manner and follow corporate policies. Additional educational resources should be available for employees to refer to between trainings.

The primary goal of social media governance is to protect and strengthen your brand. A comprehensive plan will ensure that your brand standards and voice are consistent across platforms. It provides assurance that customers are only engaging on authorized platforms, minimizes risks of inaccurate messages, and increases regulatory compliance. If your organization could benefit from further information or discussion about how social media governance fits into your overall corporate risk management program, please contact our team at McKonly & Asbury. We can assist you in designing, implementing, or auditing your company’s social media governance framework.

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McKonly & Asbury LLP

Located in Central Pennsylvania, McKonly & Asbury is a leading regional accounting and consulting firm providing audit, tax, and consulting services to many of the region’s finest and most well-known organizations. Our firm employs nearly 80 individuals, with more than 30 CPAs and specialized professionals including CISA's, CIA's, and other certifications. There are few accolades in the business that make us more proud than being named among the best in our industry, especially when our focus on people continues to be the vision that drives our culture. We are proud to have been named a “Best Accounting Firm to Work For” in the nation, a “Best Place to Work in PA”, and a “Best Firm for Women.” McKonly & Asbury also is affiliated with Bridgeford Trust Company, an independent trust company that provides leading trust administrative services.

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