In a recent blog post, we talked about the different ways that companies can scale their social media efforts. One of them is “outsourcing” your social media activities to employees, rather than having a social media team responsible for everything.
In theory, this approach makes sense because a lot more social media territory can be covered without having to hire more people to do it. It can also be a great way to harness the passion and enthusiasm of employees, particularly those excited about the Web and social media tools such as blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
In practice, however, bringing employees into the social media fold can be a challenge. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is establishing a corporate social media policy that provides clear guidelines to employees about best practices and acceptable behavior.
For employees to be effective social media evangelists, educators and ambassadors, it’s important to have policies in place that lay out the rules of engagement. These policies can be extensive and in-depth, or they can be succinct and straightforward. IBM’s social computing guidelines, which were established in 2005, consist of only 12 rules.
One of the most important considerations when creating social media policies is trust – employers trusting their employees will do the right things, and employees respecting that trust by behaving well and doing the right thing.
If fair and equitable social media policies are established, they can go a long way in addressing the second major challenge in “outsourcing” social media – convincing employees that getting involved is something they want to do. Unless employees buy in, scaling social media activities can be a difficult goal.
Despite the growing interest in social media, most companies have yet to establish social media policies. But giving the important role that social media is going to play in the future, it’s a matter of when, not if.
Update: Seth Godin has an interesting blog post about why social media is so difficult for many companies.