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Easy social media tips for the midmarket you can start following today

Dipping a toe into Twitter? Finally facing Facebook? We've got some easy social media tips to help midmarket CIOs take the plunge without risking a social media disaster.

As Twitter, Facebook, Groupon and more explode onto the scene, your organization is probably wondering if you're wasting an opportunity to reach out to prospective customers, employees, analysts and the press. If you engage in social media haphazardly, you could end up with more social media problems than solutions. It's possible for your company to embrace social media in a strategic and positive way -- the preferred method, of course, but one that takes some forethought and deliberate steps forward.

As CIO, your job is to formulate a social media policy that defines the goals, behaviors and metrics that will allow your company to succeed.

Don't know where to start? Here are some best practices:

  • Decide how you feel, from an organizational standpoint, about social media. Will social media be a proactive or a reactive tool for your business? In your mind, what does a successful social media engagement look like -- is it employees communicating with the general public as spokespersons for the company? Is it controlled messaging through a marketing or public relations department? Do you see social media as a tool for driving sales, or are you looking for the finer points of community and press engagement or perhaps brand visibility and awareness among your customers? These elements shape your world view of social media and will help frame the discussion for your policy.

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel -- use other companies as examples. Pick companies that operate in the same relative space as yours -- not necessarily competitors, but those whose customers might be expecting a similar level of engagement from them as yours would. There’s no need to start from scratch. Telstra Corp. Ltd., an Australian telecommunications and information services company, has a straightforward social media policy that is available online, while the policy at Intel Corp. is more complex. Take these examples, see where they fit into your company’s social media world view and massage those tenets to address your standards.

  • Outline the front lines of engagement. Make clear decisions and assignments on the responsibility for keeping your organization’s social media fronts updated and engaged. Who will own them? How frequently will they be updated and monitored? While a social media policy is organization-wide -- in that tenets apply to all employees at all times -- it is the nature of the beast that a single person, either an employee or a vendor, is managing the actual interactions. How do you find this person? It’s easier than you'd think: There's at least one person in your organization who is crazy about updating Facebook and Twitter. Look for people already engaged in their own community and their own circles and see if their talents and passion are a good fit for assuming the online identity of your company.

  • Establish who owns the blog postings, Facebook notes, status updates, tweets, company photos and other content. The boundaries are clear when using company property on company time posting to company-owned websites but, when it comes to Twitter and Facebook, the boundaries are blurry. It’s in the best interests of the company to own the company’s own social media accounts -- not the employee who is currently tasked with keeping them up to date and responsive. Since these accounts do not reside on company machines, set clear processes where common sense might not prevail.

  • Monitor well and have data available so you can measure your results. Invest in tool sets and programs to help monitor all of your social media engagements from as few panes of glass as possible.

Jonathan Hassell is president of The Sun Valley Group Inc. He's an author, consultant and speaker in Charlotte, N.C. Hassell's books include RADIUS, Learning Windows Server 2003, Hardening Windows and, most recently, Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual. Contact him at

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