Are you Ready for a Social Media Policy?

DQI Bureau
New Update

There is nothing that has generated as much interestand debateas social media, since the advent of the internet itself. Somewhat slowly, but of late steadily, enterprises have also woken up to this new phenomenon. While the frontline executives like those in sales, marketing and customer service are going gaga over the power of social media, those who are responsible for employee productivity and data securitysuch as HR and ITare still struggling to tackle the possibility of productivity loss and threat of data theft.


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It is becoming increasingly clear that the debate is not black and white. And hence, the question is not either-or. The latest effort in most enterprises is to strike out a balance. Typically, it means that an organizations IT system should be configured in such a way that it allows the right users to do the right things. While it spans across the corporate, getting it done on the ground often is the responsibility of the CIO.

Dataquest decided to ask this community how their organizations were preparing to tackle/leverage this challenge/opportunity. Some of the enterprises whose who participated in the survey include 24/7 Customer, ACC, Airtel, DSC, Ericsson India, Essel Group, Fidelity, Fullerton Securities, IDP India, IndusInd Bank, Infosys, Intelenet, Lavasa, MTNL, Reliance Communications, and Yes Bank.


They addressed the issue of the treatment that should be given to the social media platform in an organization, an adoption of separate internal and external social media policies, and points to be considered while devising a social media policy instead of simple a set of dos and donts.

The results reflect the increasing realization that a consensus around a balanced approach is emerging. As much 72% of the respondents acknowledged that social media enhances the effectiveness in certain areas while affecting productivity negatively in some other areas. Considering that our sample base spanned across industries (though restricted largely to the larger enterprises), it is safe to assume that enterprises are getting more and more mature about social media.

This is giving way to a more balanced outlook towards social media rather than either of the two extremesban everything and free-for-all. About 61% of the respondents said they have either banned selected websites only or have given access to certain departments, as opposed to just 39% who have not banned any social media sites or who have a blanket ban on every social media site worth its name.


Need for a Social Media Policy

More maturity around social media, its positives and negatives, is also promoting enterprises to have a more formal approach to social media, replacing a set of ad-hoc measures that was the norm some time back. This is leading to creation of formal social media policies in organizations. From the 18 CIOs we spoke to, 3 said their organizations have already formulated a specific social media policy, while 2 more said while they too have specific guidelines, it is not a distinct social media policy but part of the overall corporate code of conduct. As many as 5 more said that even though they do not have a social media policy, they are realizing the need for one. That seems to be the state of things in most organizations, especially among the India headquartered organizations. In fact, we give here (see box) some tips for formulating those policies, drawn from among the best practices across organizations.

However, it is just the beginning. Admits Umesh Jain, CIO, Yes Bank, Earlier our organization was also against social media owing to employee productivity loss, but now we have started taking baby steps to use social media. This is despite the fact that in a heavily regulated segment like banking, his company is one of the more proactive users of this new media.

There is growing realization that the power of social media to connect with the external customers can no longer be ignored. But the loss of productivity is real too. So, the essential objective of most undertaking a policy formulation journey is to balance between the two. In fact, many suggested creation of two separate policiesexternal and internal. Typically, the approach is liberal when it comes to allowing social media access to those that deal directly with the customer. It is a little stringent for others.

The choice of websites that are regulated also shows this approach. While largely social social sites like Facebook, Orkut, and BigAdda top the most banned list, many have banned YouTube too, thanks to its potential to hog bandwidth. LinkedIn, which uses social media techniques but is largely a professional network, is usually not banned. What is surprising is the high percentage of organizations who said they have banned Twitter. Maybe, the positioning of Twitter and its impact on business is the most difficult to comprehend. Says a consultant, The other reason is that most executives access Twitter on mobile; so, it is not such a miss, whether you ban it or not.

Almost 30% CIOs voiced that social media is just like any other media/platform to convey the organizations message about its products/services to target customers, with 25% believing that social media has stronger reach due to a two-way and cheaper communication than any other one-way channels/medium of communication. 70% respondents however felt that effectiveness of social media is yet to be proved. Although we have not been able to assess the results of social media networking, we are very optimistic of its effectiveness in the long run, says Anoop Handa, CIO, Fullerton Securities.

One cannot afford to ignore it. It is relevant to drive brand building activities more efficiently and effectively due to its spontaneity and wider reach, he adds.

Where It Can Lead

While organizations today see social media as an either-or, and the effort is by and large to strike a balance, they can no longer ignore the most important thing that social media brings to the table: collaboration. Social media is all about collaboration and sharing. Almost all business functions can improve from collaboration.

Increasingly, tools with collaborative features are available to enterprises that promise to create an internal social medium. Few examples include Chatter, Path, Beluga, Mobiledia and GroupMe. Internal social networks will enable businesses to the benefits of using social media to catalyze the speed of proprietary, confidential business processes like strategic planning, and management of product development, human resource, business process, channel partners, research & development, and logistics.

But they are still in their infancy. Till such time that they are available widely with enterprise-class reliability, organizations will have to use the global social media more effectively and that means doing an effective balancing act.