The ability of your middle market company to leverage social media outlets is perhaps the biggest factor in leveling the playing field between you and larger competitors. Although enterprises have a much greater wealth of resources to devote to social media, the right social media policy can make a big difference for a midmarket firm. Many business leaders already seem to understand this: more than 68 percent of executives surveyed by Grant Thornton in June 2013 said that these platforms are either important or critical to their corporate strategy.

Firms lacking a strong social media policy that's understood and followed by all employees expose themselves to potential problems

On the other hand, firms lacking a strong social media policy that's understood and followed by all employees expose themselves to potential problems such as competitive damage and even legal difficulties due to irresponsible postings (whether deliberate or unintentional). To ensure that a company gains mainly the positive effects of a wide social media presence with as few problems as possible, here are ways that executives at midsized companies can build and maintain a workable social media policy:

Communicate the importance of social media to your employees. By addressing the larger strategic value of social media to the firm — and the ways in which ill-advised social media posts can hurt the company's reputation — executives can secure employee buy-in regarding social media policies in terms of the right and wrong actions to take.

Tread carefully when implementing restrictions on employee usage of personal social media accounts. Companies may certainly place some restrictions on what their employees can say, but firms should be careful not to go overboard. While it's normal to not allow employees to divulge private company information, it's important to note that the National Labor Relations Act permits employees to freely communicate with each other about workplace-related conditions and issues; this policy certainly extends to social media usage. Firms can be subject to legal action stemming from company discipline of such communication, so don't be overly strict. As argued by social media trainer Beth Kanter, "trust is cheaper than control," and it wouldn't hurt firms to be vigilant about restrictions while at the same time having an awareness of what is and isn't allowed to be regulated.

Establish an efficient framework for coordination of your social media content. Many midmarket firms do not have the resources to devote a full-time employee to company-wide social media activities, so creating guidelines to social media action will likely have to be a team effort, with appointed internal topic/discipline experts generating ideas in their specific areas (employees working in the same areas as these designated experts can be encouraged to pitch in their own ideas as well). A firm should train these experts in social media best practices, then articulate the roles and responsibilities of the experts to all employees so that the process for generating social media content is clear to all.

Firms also need to decide which social media outlets to focus their efforts on. Midmarket companies generally will not see the best results from a scattershot approach that tries to populate a multitude of outlets with content on a regular basis; they can't compete with the vast resources that large companies can rely on in this regard. Instead, firms should research which outlets are best for engaging their specific industry and customer base, then focus on generating quality content for those outlets.

Monitor results regularly. To keep employees motivated about their social media contributions — and aware that the firm is keeping up on enforcing its social media policy — the company should provide regular updates on social media results. Be sure to inform employees of situations where a negative result arose, especially if it came from a breach in company policy.

It's also important to be cognizant of the ever-changing social media landscape. Existing social media platforms often evolve, and entirely new ones can become popular quickly, so a middle market company should review its social media policy every six months to ensure that its guidelines are up to date.

Rob Carey is an NCMM contributor and a features writer who has focused on the business-to-business niche since 1992. He spent his first 15 years at Nielsen Business Media, rising from editorial intern to editorial director. Since then, he has been the principal of New York-based Meetings & Hospitality Insight, working with large hospitality brands in addition to various media outlets.