It takes a village: Roles and Responsibilities for social media governance

By H. John Hair Director, Emerging Technology Risk Services at KPMG

social-governanceIn the work KPMG performs in the area of social media risk and governance, our clients frequently ask about the structure of the governance body that better serves the organization from the perspective of effective risk mitigation.  The answers can be as unique as the clients we serve given differing business models as well as differing marketing and digital strategies.  However, what’s common to high-functioning governance bodies that provides a well-reasoned approach to the management of the constantly changing landscape of social media utilization by corporate entities is representation from the following roles:

  • Sales and Marketing – Due to the fact that a majority of conscious social media use is designed to support this area, representation in terms of definition of a social media strategy and demonstration of performance against expectations is a “no brainer”. However, it is not a “given” that this area leads the governance effort and we have seen examples where the governance leadership from outside marketing is highly effective.
  • Corporate Communications – Engagement with the marketplace is occurring more frequently via social media, but this brings additional risk of non-compliance issues or reputational damage in areas like shareholder activism.
  • Information Technology – Often missing from social media governance bodies, the IT organization has a deep understanding of technology risks and their mitigation through structures like user access controls or data lifecycle management.
  • Finance – As social media teams grow and their tools become more expensive, the cost of running social media increases. As social matures as a functional part of the enterprise, their accountability for the investments made in this area requires greater transparency.
  • Legal – Consideration of legal issues such as the terms and conditions accepted when a new page or site is created or the responsibilities an enterprise holds with regard to the data collected via social are not best served by laymen. The volatility of the legal issues being presented in social results in frequent changes and challenges that the enterprise legal team is best suited to deal with.
  • Human Resources – HR typically plays a dual role in governance. First, they are usually a prime user and owner of key social media sites employed in the recruitment of new staff and these initiatives benefit from transparency to a governing body.  Second, the increasing risk of social media use by the enterprise’s workforce is clearly an issue for the governance body and HR’s role in dealing with this area as the workforce advocate is a key mitigation for issues related to employment law and maintaining positive labor relations.

It is of equal importance that the enterprise define the responsibilities these key governance roles should be assigned.  Segregation of where each role has unique accountability supports a more efficient and effective governance process with less focus on reporting success than on support of fine-tuning a social strategy that improves exponentially by taking on insights from the key operational areas represented in the governing board.

Definition of a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) Model for the governance body is a great way to document the importance of each member’s role and help them to fine tune their consideration of topics discussed at governance body meetings and make these meetings more productive.

As with any new process or organizational change, a newly created or reformed social media governance body requires time to settle into a rhythm that best serves the enterprise and maximizes the investment being made in social media.  Allowing time for each member to gain an appreciation for the role they have to play in managing the rapidly evolving use of social media is as critical as giving them a definition of their individual responsibilities.