Welcome to Internet Law Radio. My name is Enrico Schaefer, and today we are speaking with Chris Boudreaux, and Chris runs an amazing blog called Socialmediagovernance.com. He's an executive with Converseon, and he has got the number one database of social media policies on the web. He's also an expert in social media policies and the governance side of corporations trying to implement social media within their operations.
Enrico: Welcome to the show, Chris.
Chris: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Enrico: Great. Chris, why don't you just tell us a little bit about yourself first?
Chris: Sure, my background at least is relevant to this area really started back at Bank Of America when I was doing large-scale business transformation and process reengineering across business units there and post merger integration, and dealing with the issues in a large organization where you're in a highly regulated environment trying to change the way a large organization does business. A few years later, I found myself at Accenture where I was then doing business transformation work and online product strategy work for technology companies like Microsoft, EBay, Kodak and organizations like that. And over the last few years, I started getting more and more involved in social media and started to see a lot of parallels between the way things like IT in large organizations have evolved over the past ten years, and how social media in large organizations is taking a lot of similar paths to that. That's where I started to get more involved in helping large organizations use social media more thoughtfully, which led to the creation of the Social Media Governance website along with things that I'm doing today.
Chris: That was released in January of this year.
Enrico: Great, and how's that going?
Chris: It's going really well. I actually created that book … I had left Accenture for a couple of years and was working on start-ups, and I created that book. That started the project with Wiley & Sons and then went back to Accenture, after starting the project, and I turned it into a project at Accenture, so it's something that Accenture actually supported the publishing of, and has been marketing pretty heavily.
Unfortunately, they took my name off of the cover when I left Accenture [Laughs] to go to Converseon, but, that was a big life lesson learned there for Chris. But it's going well, it's going pretty well.
Enrico: Excellent, Excellent. I always tell folks, look at, if you're a small organization, a social media program, a social media strategy, is still challenging, but nothing like if it's a large organization, because, then you've got a lot more complex issues of who's going to be participating on the employee side? What is the approval system? What can people say? There are training issues that are much more complex, it just gets to be a bigger challenge. Now, there’s also as much opportunity for a huge reward as well, but it does get more complex, doesn't it?
Chris: It absolutely does. It's interesting that we're talking about that today. I was just having a conversation with my client at IBM, who is responsible for managing a lot of the global social media enablement there. We're actually starting to work on a book together focused on enabling a large workforce in Social Media, based on a lot of the things that are going on there, and it does get very complicated for all of the reasons that you just suggested, and I think a lot of the lessons that folks have learned around business transformation, or change management, are still very relevant. I think, though, that there are sort of two things that make it a little more difficult, or make it a new challenge. One is that the domain of media is unfamiliar to most folks who have done a lot of transformation work, so if you've done centralization of an IT function, or HR, or those kinds of things, and now you're dealing with media, you know that's really where the agencies live and the consultancies...
Chris: …or the folks who have traditionally done business transformation, it's kind of a new area for them. I think the other thing is that most professional communicators don't tend to think about process and large-scale integration of how things operate across the company. They tend to be, you know, especially PR is kind of the extreme example where it's just reacting to what's going on in the market and be very quick to make decisions, and it's just kind of a different mindset than sitting back and strategically thinking about how to change the way you're organized and how you operate internally.
Enrico: Yeah, it is, the process around public relations in a large organization has been very well-defined for a long time. However, when you add social media into the mix, you now have a lot more people talking and many issues that have to be dealt with. The only way to deal with those is with a process.
Chris: That's right, that's right. Even thinking about things like, how do you segment your employees in a way that's going to help you figure out who should engage in what ways? With which audiences? And that even comes down to thinking about which groups of your employees, the types of information they have access to or the types of systems that they're running that they could affect the information they have access to. For example, confidential customer data, or confidential employee data, and just thinking through how you make sure folks are able to engage without risking either the safety or security or confidentiality of your customers or your employees, or your brand.
Enrico: Now, part of this whole process is developing what in the industry people refer to as this social media policy, which is actually a document, a policy document, which basically sets forth the framework under which a company is going to try and do social media, and you've got this great database of social media policies that have been uploaded into your system from such organizations as The American Red Cross and Best Buy, and all of these other great organizations, so that people can see what a sample social media policy might look like. First question is, how did you get all of these great policies into your system?
Chris: I actually started in late 2008, and I noticed that, as bloggers often do, everybody was writing the same list of ten policies and listing them on their web site, right?
Chris: So one person would write about it then another person would write about it, and they all have the same list that’s posted in a hundred blog posts. And, I just thought there had to be a better way to get people more information about this. And so, I started by just scouring the Internet and looking for them, and then I put up the database and then I opened it up to the community. So, there were less than 50 policies in there when I started it, and over the last few years it's grown from there to what it is now, which is a little over 170, just from people contributing to it.
Enrico: Right, and there's a great spot in the sidebar where you can "add your social media policy to the database."
Chris: Exactly, and that's where more than 100 of the policies in there have come through that way of people wanting to share it.
Enrico: That's great. That's the best part about the Internet. I always tell folks when I first started my law practice, as an "Internet lawyer", I did a lot of blogging of my expertise online, and in the legal business people thought that was crazy because I was sharing my expertise for free. And, what they failed to account for is there was no stopping the Internet, number one, and that there's a lot of folks out there who really can use these resources not to get something for free, but to educate themselves well enough to make an informed decision about who they're going to hire.
Chris: Right, right, and, you know, Seth Godin, who's a very well known writer in the marketing space, he sort of describes it as giving a gift to the community.
Chris: That's how I kind of think of it. The site and database is what I'm trying to do, hopefully, is give something to the community that's valuable, and then, of course, that ends up developing into relationships and lots of other things that make everybody better off.
Enrico: Sure, I mean this conversation we're having today is a direct result of your amazing database.
Chris: Right, we never would have met otherwise.
Enrico: Now, in terms of these social media policies, what are the types of issues you're typically seeing out there right for companies who are trying to develop social media policies, are trying to implement a social media system within their organization, in terms of the actual drafting of the policy itself, both from a drafting standpoint and determining what the business model around social media is going to be, and then implementation. Through all those different phases, what are the types of things that you typically see?
Chris: I think the two biggest challenges are usually getting everyone to agree internally, and then the other one is trying figure out what's the right level of control versus empowerment or freedom, and adjusting that based on what the business is trying to achieve.
Chris: So the first one is pretty simple. If you've got a business unit in Europe and United States wants to have one social media policy for the entire corporation, that's a little bit silly because the laws are different, the dynamics of how people use social are different, and that really needs to be acknowledged in the policies, and so, I've seen that in some very large organizations where corporate wants to own the policy, and that's often very short-sighted.
Chris: The more complex issue is in thinking about translating your business strategy into your social media strategy and then figuring out how your policies should support that. Because it's pretty easy to throw up a policy that says be authentic, link to sources, don't talk about illegal activity, don't divulge confidential information. That's fine, not super helpful, though. When policies really start become helpful is when you start to give people information that allows them to go forth and help them achieve some kind of business objective through social media.
Chris: So that might be around sales people engaging prospects or customers.
Chris: It might be even around having your, as in this case at IBM, having your engineers establish a personal presence in social media that benefits the brand, and supporting that with very significant investments from the brand itself, and putting policies around that that make it work at scale.
Enrico: Yeah, Chris...
Chris: That's, I think, sort of the leading edge of it now.
Enrico: Yeah, Chris, it's interesting the way you put that out because I think people tend not to think of social media policy in terms of their business model. It's almost like they come at it, how am I going to not get in trouble? What do I need to do to make sure my employees don't really get me in trouble here? And, the reality is, that a good effective social media strategy and policy can be simply placed as an addition on top of some business process that you already have in place in order to make it better.
Chris: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I kind of see policies evolving through three stages. So the first stage is mitigation, right?
Chris: We're just focused on protecting the company. And it a lot of cases, that's a very important thing to do, especially if you're in a highly regulated environment like investments or pharmaceuticals or something like that. You've gotta get that stuff in place. But I think most companies have done that by now. The second is information, where you start to actually give employees information that maybe helps them protect themselves. So, a unique example of that was a company I was working with that had... They provided personal coaching services to college students via phone, so they had a bunch of folks in a big call center...
Chris: They would get assigned a relationship with a college student, and they'd give them personal coaching to help them build studies habits or time management or whatever it is, and a lot of their engagement happened through Facebook, because that was the only way they could get in touch with the students...
Chris: So, the company had to put out some information to the employees to say, OK, look, if you're on Facebook, don't use your personal profile; create one with your work email address, don't put where you live and stuff like that, right?
Chris: Because, you're just trying to help employees protect themselves. That's a little bit more enlightened policy than just, here's a list of things you can't do. And then the third stage of evolution is differentiation, where you write a policy that's trying to help support your differentiation in the market, or your business goals in the market. And that's much harder work. It's also typically going to be a bunch of things that don't get put out on the Internet. So the policies that are in the database that I have are all publicly available documents...
Chris: ... typically apply to all employees within the organization that published it. And what you see happening over time is you need maybe different policies for different types of employees. So, it's fine to have the one policy for everybody, but then if you have folks in marketing that are using social media as part of their job, you probably need to have some different guidelines for those folks.
Chris: So, that's how I've kind of have seen it evolving at most organizations.
Enrico: That's great stuff Chris. Well, this has been a fascinating interview. Chris Boudreaux I really appreciate you being here today. For anyone that is looking for great information about social media governance and a great database of social media policies that'll get you thinking about the types of issues you need to get a handle on before you implement a true social media policy within your organization, then his blog, Socialmediagovernance.com is the place to go, and under that domain, /policies.php -- Social Media Policies -- from what I can tell, is the best database of social media policies on the web. Chris, thanks for being here today.
Chris: Yeah, thank you very much.
Enrico: Ok, great! That's it for Internet Law Radio today. We'll see you next time.