8 Must-Haves of a Smart Social Media Governance Plan


All brands using social media in any form must navigate a constantly evolving set of risks in an environment that changes at lightning pace. A social media governance strategy ensures you’re prepared for whatever the world of social media throws at you.

Keep reading to find out how to build a strategy that will help protect your brand, improve your social results, and make life easier for your overworked social team.

What is social media governance?

Social media governance is a collection of policies, systems, processes, and approval workflows. Together, they determine how your organization and its employees use social media, including:

A social media policy is a foundational building block of social media governance. But a policy alone is not enough. Your social media governance plan combines your policy with other documents related to:

  • planning
  • strategy, and
  • brand safety.

This ensures you have a sound decision-making structure in place to protect your brand from social media risk.

Why is social media governance so important?

A social media governance plan offers multiple benefits to your business.

Protect your brand reputation

A clear set of social media policies and guidelines for employees defines your brand voice. It sets the tone for how your organization uses social media tools.

This protects your brand in a couple of ways.

First, a clear social media voice and brand identity on social channels make it easy for followers to recognize your content and engage with your accounts. This also makes it easier for followers, customers, and prospects to identify your official brand channels. In turn, it’s easier to avoid being conned by fake social media accounts.

Secondly, those guidelines help ensure your social content aligns with your brand values. They also ensure employees understand that their social content reflects on your brand.

Become more agile

Decision-making can get complicated, especially within a larger organization. A social media governance strategy clearly defines who is responsible for which decision. It also outlines how those decisions are made.

It sets out a schedule and process for goal-setting and measurement. This clarifies who is responsible for social media analysis and reporting. It also notes what they should be reporting on and which stakeholders they need to include.

Even when things are going smoothly, this simplifies the lives of the social media team. But it’s critical when things get a little rocky. Say a campaign falls flat. Or maybe a strategy that has always worked before starts seeing lesser results. A clear decision-making path gets the social strategy back on track quickly while minimizing chaos and confusion.

In all cases, it allows your team to be nimble in responding to the constant change of social media. New platform starts to gain attention? You’ve got the decision-making process in place to determine whether it’s a fit for your brand. Algorithm change? You’ve got the structure to respond fast to stay ahead of the game.

Manage regulatory risk

A social governance strategy helps insulate your brand from regulatory risk. Regulatory risk is not only a concern for those that operate in the regulated industries. All brands need to ensure compliance with social media rules and marketing regulations,

As noted in our blog post on HIPAA and social media, there are major financial consequences for violating social media compliance guidelines. There can be legal and reputational consequences as well.

A social media policy sets the stage for social media compliance. The decision-making structures and approval workflows in your social media governance strategy provide additional protection.

You should also document requirements for response times and archiving.

Reduce social media security risks

Security is another bucket of corporate risk management factors all social media teams need to consider. First up, to anyone who’s still sharing social passwords with team members, we beg you to stop. Write a policy for password management into your social policy. Assign someone in your social governance documents to make sure it is enforced.

Tools like Hootsuite give you full password management control. That includes the ability to change or revoke access for any user at any time if they leave your team.

Your social governance documents and the related ongoing training also ensure your team is aware of the latest social media security risks from romance scams to LinkedIn phishing.

Be prepared for a crisis

Not every brand will have to deal with a reputational crisis. But as we all learned in 2020, no organization is immune to crisis, no matter how tight your security protocols may be. Sometimes larger global (or even regional) issues constitute a crisis that requires your brand to pivot hard.

It will never be easy to respond in this type of situation. But a successful social media governance program provides the roadmap for navigating what comes next.

If you do face a crisis specific to your brand, your social media governance model gives you the framework to respond quickly and with grace. This is key to minimizing reputational damage.

8 key elements of a solid social media governance strategy

1. Clear brand guidelines

We mentioned right up top that social media governance can help solidify your brand voice. This in turn protects your brand reputation. Your social media brand guidelines are the document that defines your social voice.

In addition to the style, tone, and language appropriate for your accounts, you need to clarify:

  • Which platforms your company uses and who is responsible for each account
  • Standards for accessibility and inclusive language
  • Guidelines for graphics, colors, and visuals
  • Guidelines for handles and social bios
  • Relevant compliance requirements such as disclosure, marketing claims, contest rules, and so on

It’s also a good idea to link to your content library for examples of approved social content. It can also hold templates to create more consistent posts.

2. A social media policy

Your social media policy is a bigger-picture document. It details how your brand uses social media, including guidelines for employees both at work and on their personal accounts.

Your social media policy should include:

  • What types of content you post on social, including off-limits subjects
  • Privacy and confidentiality requirements
  • Copyright guidelines
  • Additional compliance requirements, especially if you operate in the regulated industries
  • Employee guidelines that outline what is acceptable on both personal and professional accounts

Feel unsure about defining how your employees can use their personal accounts? Remember that employees can harm your brand by violating compliance requirements on personal accounts. Or by posting objectionable content while identifying themselves as an employee. They can also bring risk to your company by using unauthorized and unsecure apps on company devices.

There’s no need to be draconian here – this is more about education than dictatorship. Want to encourage your employees to share approved social content? Build an employee advocacy strategy into your social media policy.

3. Security protocols

Your social media security protocols protect your brand from risks like:

  • phishing
  • malware
  • password theft
  • scams
  • fake accounts, and
  • hacking.

Important items to include are:

  • Updates on the latest social media scams to be aware of
  • Requirement for two-factor authentication
  • Social media activities to avoid for security reasons. Include quizzes and use of third-party apps that ask for personal information
  • Guidelines on how to create an effective password and how often to update passwords
  • Guidelines for software and other equipment updates
  • Who to notify of social media security concerns

Hootsuite’s team collaboration features help ensure password security. Every team member has their own Hootsuite login credentials. This provides specific account privileges that can be changed or revoked at any time.

4. Ongoing social media training

Social media changes fast. Ongoing training is important for employees at all levels within your social media team.

You may want team members to pursue social media certification, or simply to keep up to date on the latest changes in the social sphere. Either way, build a continuing education plan (and budget) into your social media governance documents.

We might be biased, but we think the courses offered through Hootsuite Academy are some of the best. The certification process ensures mastery of the relevant skills at a consistent level.

5. Social listening and monitoring

Social monitoring gives you a window into what’s being said about your brand on social media. This can help you understand what’s working and what’s not within your social strategy. It’s also an excellent source of competitor intelligence.

Even more important in terms of social media governance, social monitoring is an early-warning system. It can alert you at the early stages of a social media crisis involving your brand. In particular, keep tabs on social sentiment and social share of voice. This lets you understand how people on social media feel about your brand at any time.

If social sentiment trends downward, or takes a steep dive, implement your crisis management plan. (We’ll talk about that next.)

Social listening takes social monitoring a step further. It uses the insights gained from monitoring to guide your social strategy. In this case, the information should feed back to your brand guidelines, social media policy, and social media goals.

6. A crisis management plan

This, more than any other component of your social media governance documents, has the potential to save your brand from critical damage while maintaining your team’s mental health. Your plan should include:

  • Guidelines for identifying a crisis and the degree of severity. For example, negative publicity from a tasteless Tweet is likely less severe than a major product recall for safety reasons
  • Roles and responsibilities for every department, including those beyond your social team
  • A plan for internal communication
  • A publishing continuity plan that specifies when and how you should pause scheduled social posts while addressing a crisis
  • Clear guidelines on who can craft and approve social content in a crisis
  • Guidelines for which team members can reply to crisis-related social posts or media enquiries on social media channels

7. Specific approval workflows

Approval workflows are absolutely critical during a crisis. But they can also help keep you from experiencing a crisis in the first place.

The appropriate approval workflow for your organization will vary depending on your industry and the level of social media compliance requirements you face. If you’re marketing outdoor adventure gear, for example, you might designate your social media manager to approve posts.

But if you operate in a regulated industry, you may need your compliance team to sign off on social content. Especially for new campaigns or platforms.

Hootsuite’s built in approval workflows and team assignments ensure the right person is always working on the right task. Junior employees or even contractors and agencies can create your content. They then put it into the approval queue so it’s ready for signoff by more senior staff.

8. Social media goals

While the previous documents have primarily focused on keeping your brand safe, this component of your social media governance strategy asks the most important question. Why are you using social media in the first place?

In many ways, this will guide all the rest of the components of your governance plan.

Start by setting SMART social media goals and clearly defining what metrics you will use to measure your success.

Then, create a plan for measurement, analysis and reporting out to relevant stakeholders. As you see what works and what doesn’t you can refine your goals and adjust your overall social media strategy.

You will also uncover insights that can feed back to other components of your social media governance strategy, including your brand guidelines.

Check out this video for a quick primer on how ongoing goal-setting drives your overall social strategy, which should be reflected in your social governance plan.

Social media governance with Hootsuite

Picking the right tools to execute your social media strategy is an important element of your social media governance plan.

We might be biased, but we believe that Hootsuite is the best social media management tool for teams whose workflows prioritize efficiency and brand security.

With Hootsuite, you can:

  • Set custom access levels and permissions for team members to make sure your files and information are secure
  • Create content approval workflows to keep your feeds safe and on-brand
  • Store brand-approved media files in a built-in content library
  • Easily pause all scheduled posts when handling a crisis or unexpected strategy pivot
  • Monitor mentions of your brand and keep an eye on competitors
  • Respond to customers, prospects and followers in a timely manner from one central social media inbox that collects interactions from all your social channels

Free Hootsuite Inbox demo

Learn more about how Hootsuite can streamline your processes:

FAQs about social media governance

What are the 5 parts of a strong governance plan in social media?

The five pillars of a social media governance plan are:

  1. A strong social media policy and guidelines
  2. A compliance management strategy
  3. Social media security and risk mitigation strategies
  4. Identification of key decision-makers and a clear approval workflow
  5. A crisis management plan

Why is social media governance important?

Social media governance is critical because it protects your brand from risk and ensures there’s a plan in place to deal with a crisis if it does occur.

Easily manage all your social media profiles using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts, engage your followers, monitor relevant conversations, measure results, set up custom workflows, and much more.

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