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August 12, 2014

Read-Only Social Business: Worth the Try?

By Karen J. Bannan

As a recent Forbes.com article points out, there are some highly regulated companies that may have problems convincing industry regulators and their own legal and compliance departments of the value of social media and social business. After all, one unauthorized public slip and a company will have more to deal with – and pay for — than bad press. The article makes the case for a stepped, phased social media approach, which is a smart option for social business as well.

According to the story, companies should start with a limited test of no more than 20 people who will test policies, processes and systems. The next step is a pilot program that increases the number of people involved but sticks with one social media site. Soon after, according to the author, the company can then transition into a read-only access paradigm. All employees can log onto social media sites, but they are still prohibited from communicating. This allows employees to identify information and new opportunities that they can follow up with in person or on the phone.

The final two phases include moving into social media using a pre-approved library of content and what the article calls mature deployment – creating and enabling an authentic social voice. In both of these stages it’s important to avoid product pitches, solicitations or recommendations of any kind, instead sticking with “general, helpful information that appeals to your target audience.” The article also recommends creating an editorial calendar and tracking and analyzing engagement so that you know which content works best for your organization.

This stepped approach works in a social business setting as well, and for some companies, it may be enough to move some users only partially through the process. For instance, there may be some temporary or contract employees who never need the ability to post to a social business learning site, but can still benefit from reading content from other more senior or strategic employees. After all, a little social business is better than no social business at all.

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