There's a lot of articles available about the importance of developing a social media strategy, as well as how to develop one. I agree with the authors that it is important to develop a social media strategy, but what often is missing is what makes strategy into reality: policy. Having a social media strategy without a policy provides an overall picture of what you will do, but doesn't include the clarifying details that are needed to actually implement the strategy. At the same time, having a policy without a strategy doesn't provide any understanding of how the business will actually engage social media. Since there are many articles on social media strategy, I would like to instead present some key elements of social media policy that are necessary to implement any strategy developed.
1. Determine who has the authority to set-up and maintain social media profiles and presence on any site. You don't necessarily want just anyone setting up and maintaining the social media presence of your business. Determine who is qualified and will best represent your company on a given social media site. You may find it useful to assign multiple people to different social media sites, but regardless of how you do it, make sure it's someone who will check in with the organization and maintain a consistent message that agrees with the company's branding, culture, and message.
Even if you are a solopreneur, focusing on this detail can help you recognize how you will implement social media practically into your business. What are you giving yourself the authority to do on social media sites? This is a question that can help a solopreneur determine what his/her role should be in using social media for business.
2. Define the activities that you want to accomplish. Your social media strategy goal might be to generate better customer service relationships, but your policy needs to describe in detail the activities that will help you accomplish that goal. Also your policy should describe how much time is allotted to each site and activity. Finally, defining what is not acceptable activity can help the business owner or employees recognize what they need to do on social media during business time, as opposed to personal time. spending all day playing games on Facebook isn't productive, but responding to a customer experience at your business is productive.
You'll want to develop site specific policies as well. How people use Biznik differs from how they use Facebook or Linkedin and the audience is different as well. Developing specific policies for specific sites will target your activity effectively on each site.
3. Determine who to escalate negative comments about your business to. There may be times, when a negative comment is written about your business. Having a chain of command that you can escalate the comment to can help determine who should respond to it, as well as how it should be responded to. For a solopreneur, this may not be an option, but writing out how you will handle negative commentary is an essential policy you will want to have in place for those times when such a comment might occur.
4. Develop policies that account for all of social media, not just social networking sites. So many people get caught up in Facebook or Twitter, or other social networking sites that they forget that there are other forms of social media available. Social media strategy needs to account for video or social bookmarking (to name just a couple of other social technologies), and their policies need to focus on how these technologies will be implemented, as well as how often they will be used.
5. Most importantly revisit your strategy and policies every so often to account for how social media technology has changed. As you determine what activities work or don't work, updating your policies will help you not only keep them fresh in your mind, but also be useful for training new employees who may end up managing the social media for your business. By updating your policies consistently, you'll stay on top of changing social media trends and have consistent implementation of your strategy to achieve the goals you've decided on.
Social media strategy is important, but without policy there is no implementation. Documenting the details of how you use social media will make your strategy work and help you achieve ROI for your social media efforts.