Guidelines are great, if they emerge from education. If they're they arrival point through which folks can get reminders or touchpoints or advisement. They do not, however, replace or negate the need for training and discussion. And I see far too many folks talking about putting guidelines in place before they've even considered things like goals, intent, or strategy - and shared those with the people that will be impacted by them.
If you want your employees to learn social media - or anything - don't just hand them the list of dos and don'ts. That teaches them nothing, gives them little experience or context, and doesn't help anything stick.
If I'm the quarterback and you just hand me the rule book, I'm not going to do a very good job if I don't understand the game itself or why I'm even playing.
The policies and guidelines you set need at least cursory investment from the people that have to follow them, otherwise at best you'll have indifference, at worst, a mutiny.
So before you whip out the keyboard and start putting down rules, be sure you're presenting and discussing the fundamentals, like:
Why Social Media Matters To Your Business
How is it emerging in and impacting your industry? What have your customers been telling you, specifically? What have you learned about the implications of the social web on your market, not just in the news?
What Your Goals and Assumptions Are
What are you hoping to gain from participating in social media, or at least paying attention to it? What are you projecting will happen, based on your research or strategizing? What worries you and what are the potential risks? How do these goals trickle down to the people in your organization? Do they agree with you or not, and why? What's the plan for execution?
How It Impacts Your People
Will this create more work? Streamline processes? Change people's roles and responsibilities? Cost more money? Less? What expectations are you setting for their involvement, either now or eventually? If they're not participating directly, are you going to ask them to respond or act on what you learn?
How You'll Welcome Feedback and Participation
Is social media the purview of one department? Several? If people outside direct functions have input or ideas, how can they share them and with whom? Are their opportunities for interested folks to get more involved?
Sure, you're going to have people who are totally indifferent. Yep, you're going to get questions and criticisms and people who want to share their opinions. Yes, it takes more time to do it this way.
And no, not everything is a democracy or decision by committee (let alone by entire company).
But social media is still new to a lot of people. There are questions and misconceptions. And if you truly want social media to be something that you can adopt as a core business strategy - not just a whizbang new shiny thing - it's important to share at least the why and some basic how to the people involved before you start putting rules and limitations on them.
Culture matters. It's an important piece of the social media strategy puzzle. Change can be difficult. A little immersion and education can go a long, long way toward starting your teams off on the right foot.
image by jlwelsh
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