In our research and client work at Altimeter, one of the most misunderstood issues we see is social business governance. I’ve seen it defined as everything from social media policies and risk management to organizational structures. My colleague Ed Terpening and I just published a report on how to think about governance – and in particular, the crucial role it plays in supporting strategy (download here). Strategy and governance are natural partners: Strategy lays the groundwork for new opportunities while governance ensures safe execution, managing the risk of change.

Yet our research found that only 16% of organizations feel that governance is well understood and deployed. Many organizations can’t answer crucial questions such as: Who owns social? How are key decisions made? How do we organize to execute social? How do we manage risk as we scale social across the organization? Left unanswered, organizations face significant risks, including threats to brand health as the result of inappropriate or disjoint social practices. More importantly, organizations can’t truly scale social into a business strategy unless governance is addressed.

Our definition of social business governance is:

An integrated system of people, policies, processes, and practices that defines organizational structure and decision process to ensure effective management of social business at scale.

How Does Your Social Business Governance Stack Up?

The report is filled with data, sample policies, checklists, and case studies. In the end, you need to ask yourself how your social business governance actively supports the execution of your strategy. The capstone of the report is a social business governance maturity map, which I’ve included below. Where does your organization fall on this chart?

We’d love to hear where you are in your social business governance – and to contact us if you have any questions or need help with your governance roadmap. My report co-author Ed Terpening is far too modest to toot his own horn so allow me. He led Wells Fargo’s social media efforts for 7 years from its inception in 2005 until he joined Altimeter two years ago. At Altimeter, he’s helped numerous organizations design governance systems along with their social business strategies.

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