Have you discussed your social media strategy lately? With social media tending to drop off the board agenda, we outline five areas to help you minimise risk and maximise the business opportunity

Earlier this year the Financial Times found that almost half the boards of the UK’s largest public companies had not discussed their social media strategies in the past 12 months.

Business owners and executives are running the risk of not taking advantage of the opportunities social media brings, as well as understanding and managing the risks associated with it. A new report by Grant Thornton on the use of social media in the not-for-profit sector – Growing communities: How charity leaders govern social media globally to thrive online – identifies five key areas that board members should address but they are just as applicable for all businesses.

1. Is it part of our business plan?

Look beyond your communications strategy. Make social media part of the wider business strategy to engage with all your audiences and drive new donors to your website.

Consider attending workshops and training to gain a level of understanding that allows you and your board to formulate an effective strategy.

Social media changes quickly and charities have to stay current in their approach, either through hiring skilled employees, training internally or using third-party resources.

2. How clear is our guidance?

Guidance is needed at every level of the organisation, from board to operational staff and volunteers, where appropriate.

Keeping guidance simple will make it more likely to be followed. See examples of other organisations’ guidelines on Social Media Governance.

Monitoring conversations on social media is how your charity can gain insights into how it is perceived and may lead to new opportunities.

3. Are we embedding understanding?

Education and training programmes should include setting guidelines for those taking part, as well as protocols for individual and corporate use. They should be tailored to the appropriate levels to ensure each group understands their role.

Consider using internal social networks to boost understanding and confidence in social media tools and improve collaboration in charities that are spread over many locations.

Formalise the training given to the networks of volunteers and supporters around the charity’s use of social media and best practice.

4. Are we exposed?

For many charities, non-engagement is a risk in itself, although each charity has to weigh up the costs against social media’s benefits.

Drawing up clear and consistent guidelines for use is necessary. Monitoring every interaction is not possible or desirable, so self-moderation and judgment are key.

5. Can we measure the effect?

The metrics your charity uses should always link to a strategic goal. Understanding the impact of social media over time, and its varying platforms and specialities, allows your charity to refine strategy as you operate.

Knowing the numbers is important, especially when making decisions about resources and budgets.

Measure engagement, not just followers. Stories and conversations are the lifeblood of social media, so pursue them alongside the hard figures.

Image: (CC) Jason A Howie / Flickr