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Digital Governance Maturity Curve

Control Social Media Chaos with Digital Governance

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Strategy, Policy, Standards

The past few years have been a fascinating time to watch the explosion of social media adoption in the public sector. Tripepi Smith has seen the overall tone change from “we don’t ‘do’ social media” to “we have to get on social media right now.” A city could have a larger following on a brand-new Instagram Profile or Nextdoor Page than they do on a Twitter account or Facebook Page that has been around for years.

For smaller public agencies with fewer employees, establishing and managing their social media presence may be fairly straightforward. They could have one person in charge of a couple social media sites, possibly even using a junior resource to help with production. In larger agencies, social media growth and management is more akin to being on the runaway bus in the movie “Speed”: you have too much to handle, you’re going way too fast now and you can’t afford to hit the brakes.

There is a practice that can help you, no matter where you are in the process of establishing and managing your social media presence: “digital governance.” Digital governance is a framework for establishing accountability, roles and decision-making authority when it comes to your digital communications channels (“assets”). You could apply this framework to any digital assets: websites, social media, email platforms, SMS/texting, etc. Creating this framework takes time and energy, but will ultimately lessen confusion within your organization.

The three main parts of a digital governance framework are strategy, policies and standards:

  • Digital strategy: Who determines the direction for digital to meet your business goals? A digital strategy articulates an organization’s approach to leveraging the capabilities of the Internet and the World Wide Web. A digital strategy has two facets: guiding principles and performance objectives.
  • Digital policy: Who sets the boundaries for what your organization can & can’t do online? Digital policies are guidance statements put into place to manage risk and ensure that an organization’s core interests are served as it operates online. Think of policies as guardrails that keep the organization’s digital presence from going off the road.
  • Digital standards: Who decides exactly how you’re using your digital assets to execute your strategy while adhering to policies? Standards articulate the exact nature of an organization’s digital portfolio. They exist to ensure optimal digital quality and effectiveness.

Consider this scenario: Parks and Recreation wants to create their own Instagram account.

Without a digital governance framework in place: In the worst-case scenario, Parks and Rec staff may create an account without checking with any leadership. A junior resource may completely control the login information and run the account from a personal smartphone. Staff decides among themselves what content to create, how often they publish and what branding/design they will use. If they get comments on their posts or private messages that they don’t like, they delete them or they block the other person. They do not collect metrics or report progress to upper management.

A mature digital governance framework in place: At a collaborative Digital Team meeting, a Parks & Rec representative proposes a new Instagram profile. Your Core Team asks the Parks & Rec staff to fill out an application form so they can fully explain why and how they would use the account, including a username suggestion. The City Manager’s Office reviews the application with the City’s digital strategy in mind. The City Manager approves the Instagram profile, which the Information Technology department creates using a catch-all email address they control. The Core Team meets with Parks & Rec staff to ensure everyone has the same understanding of the City’s digital strategy, policies and standards before handing over login information to the new Instagram account. They also establish an expectation to receive a regular metrics report at their Digital Team meetings.

Take the short “A Quick Digital Governance Health Check” quiz below to see where you currently stand. If you want your agency to move toward that mature digital governance framework depiction, contact us today to learn how we can help.