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February 16, 2011 No Comments

SOURCE: GARTNER

Social media disrupts the long-standing rules of business in many ways, but crafting a social media policy is premature unless the designers of the policy answer seven critical questions first, according to Gartner, Inc.

“Social media offers tempting opportunities to interact with employees, business partners, customers, prospects and a whole host of anonymous participants on the social Web,” said Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “However, those who participate in social media need guidance from their employer about the rules, responsibilities, ‘norms’ and behaviors expected of them, and these topics are commonly covered in the social media policy.”

Gartner has identified seven critical questions that designers of social media policy must ask themselves:

What Is Our Organization’s Strategy for Social Media?
There are many possible purposes for social media. It can be used for five levels of increasingly involved interaction (ranging from monitoring to co-creation) and across four different constituencies (employees, business partners, customers and prospects, and the social Web). It is critical that social media leaders determine the purpose of their initiatives before they deploy them and that those responsible for social media initiatives articulate how the organization’s mission, strategy, values and desired outcomes inform and impact on these initiatives. A social media strategy plan is one means of conveying this information.

Who Will Write and Revise the Policy?
Some organizations assign policy writing to the CIO, others have decided it’s the general counsel’s job, while in other cases, a self-appointed committee decides to craft a policy. It’s useful to gain agreement about who is responsible, accountable, consulted and involved before beginning work on the policy and, where possible, a cross-section of the company’s population should be involved in the policy creation process. It’s important to remember that there is a difference between policy — which states do’s and don’ts at a high level — and operational processes, such as recruitment or customer support — which may use social media. These operational processes need to be flexible and changeable and adhere to the policy, but each department/activity will need to work out specific governance and process guidelines.

How Will We Vet the Policy?
Getting broad feedback on the policy serves two purposes. First, it ensures that multiple disparate interests such as legal, security, privacy and corporate branding, have been adequately addressed and that the policy is balanced. Second, it increases the amount of buy-in when a diverse group of people is asked to review and comment on the policy draft. This means that the process by which the policy will be reviewed and discussed, along with the feedback, will be incorporated into the final copy. A vetting process that includes social media makes it more likely that this will occur.

How Will We Inform Employees About Their Responsibilities?
Some organizations confuse policy creation with policy communication. A policy should be well-written and comprehensive, but it is unlikely that the policy alone will be all that is needed to instruct employees about their responsibilities for social media. A well-designed communication plan, backed up by a training program, helps to make the policy come to life so that employees understand not just what the policy says, but how it impacts on them. It also explains what the organization expects to gain from its participation in social media, which should influence employees in their social media interactions.

Who Will Be Responsible for Monitoring Social Media Employee Activities?
Once the strategy has been set, the rules have been established and the rationale for them explained, who will ensure that they are followed? Who will watch to make sure the organization is getting the desired benefit from social media? A well-designed training and awareness program will help with this, but managers and the organization’s leader for social media also need to pay attention. Managers need to understand policy and assumptions and how to spot inappropriate activity, but their role is to be more of a guide to support team self-moderation, rather than employ a top-down, monitor-and-control approach.

How Will We Train Managers to Coach Employees on Social Media Use?
Some managers will have no problem supporting their employees as they navigate a myriad of social media sites. Others may have more trouble helping employees figure out the best approach for blogs, microblogs and social networking. There needs to be a plan for how the organization will give managers the skills needed to confront and counsel employees on this sensitive subject.

How Will We Use Missteps to Refine Our Policy and Training?
As with any new communications medium, some initiatives go exceptionally well, while others run adrift or even sink. Organizations that approach social media using an organized and planned approach, consistent with the organization’s mission, strategy and values, will be able to review how well these initiatives meet their objectives and use that insight to improve existing efforts or plan future projects better.

More information is available in the report “Answer Seven Critical Questions Before You Write Your Social Media Policy,” which can be found on the Gartner website at http://www.gartner.com/resId=1522014.

Ms. Rozwell will provide more detailed analysis on how to develop a social media strategy at the Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit 2011, being held March 28-30 in Los Angeles, and at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit, March 30-April 1 in Los Angeles.

About Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit
At the Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit 2011, being held March 28-30 in Los Angeles, analysts will explore how portals, content and collaboration technologies are key elements in raising overall organizational productivity and employee impact, and how enterprises must change to get business results. Additional information is available at www.gartner.com/us/pcc. Information from the event will be shared on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Gartner_inc and using #GartnerPCC. Members of the media can register by contacting Christy Pettey at christy.pettey@gartner.com.

About Gartner Customer 360 Summit
At the Gartner Customer 360 Summit, taking place March 30-April 1 in Los Angeles, Gartner analysts will provide guidance on how to apply intelligence to customer interactions and become socially aligned and digitally enabled. They will also explore best practices and technology to effectively help organizations use analytics, and achieve lasting improvements in data quality. For further information about the Summit, please visit www.gartner.com/us/crm. Event analyst blogs, and tweets related to the event can be found at http://www.gartner.com/technology/summits/na/customer-360/media.jsp. Members of the media can register for the Customer 360 Summit in Los Angeles by contacting Christy Pettey at christy.pettey@gartner.com.

Additional insight from Ms. Rozwell is available on her blog at http://blogs.gartner.com/carol_rozwell and you can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CRozwell.

Contacts:
 Gartner Identifies Seven Critical Questions to Ask Before Developing a Social Media Policy

Christy Pettey
Gartner
+1 408 468 8312
christy.pettey@gartner.com

Laurence Goasduff
Gartner
+ 44 1784 267 195
laurence.goasduff@gartner.com

About Gartner:
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. Gartner delivers the technology-related insight necessary for its clients to make the right decisions, every day. From CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations and government agencies, to business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms, to technology investors, Gartner is the valuable partner to 60,000 clients in 11,000 distinct organizations. Through the resources of Gartner Research, Gartner Executive Programs, Gartner Consulting and Gartner Events, Gartner works with every client to research, analyze and interpret the business of IT within the context of their individual role. Founded in 1979, Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A., and has 4,400 associates, including 1,200 research analysts and consultants, and clients in 85 countries. For more information, visit www.gartner.com.

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