Social media reality check. Are you at risk?

It’s time for a social media reality check.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing my best to convey the opportunities arising from the new landscape carved by social media. But I think it it’s time to put it all in perspective. Social media can be risky business but if you understand the risks, you can protect yourself and your company.

Developing a Social Media Policy is critical.

So lets look at an organisation who have implemented their own Social Media Policy to protect themselves from any of the inherent risks of using social media.

We’ll be looking at Target. But before we start, let me just say – I am not affiliated with Target, nor do I represent them.

Target are active players on Facebook, Twitter and Pintrest. Their Facebook page has amassed some 22 million likes.

People often overlook the risks associated with having such a huge reach at your finger tips. Every thing Target posts will be seen by millions of people. Some of the associated risks range from simple things like spelling and grammar to posting something that results in wide spread outrage.

Reputation Risks

  • Every post they make must be carefully checked to ensure that there are no embarrassing spelling mistakes. Spelling mistakes aren’t all that big of a deal but gradually it would start to affect negatively their reputation.
  • Careful consideration must also be undertaken to ensure postings are not inconsiderate or poorly timed – current news/events must be considered
  • One of their social media managers allowing themselves to be baited and enter an argument with someone

These are all factors for companies like target to consider. But lets look a bit wider than that. After all, Target has a few hundred thousand employees and the reputation of their reputation extends to employees. This link is especially clear on social networks where people will often list their place of work.

What happens if a Target employee posts on Facebook revealing potentially private information? What if the employee films a video, uploads it to Facebook and because his/her account is set to public it goes viral? As was the case for this Starbucks employee who made a recorded a song and uploaded it to YouTube expressing his frustrations with Starbucks customers.

Unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all social media solution and I don’t claim to have the silver bullet. However, with careful planning and the implementation of a social media policy businesses can effectively reduce potential reputation damage.

Proactive Measures to Protect Yourself

  • Monitor your brand on social media
    There are a variety of tools that can be utilised for this. It can be as simple as setting up a Google Alert or complex tools such as Radian6 or SproutSocial
  • Control Authorised Accounts
    Ensure access to the company account is controlled and restricted. Train users in appropriate conduct.
  • Develop and implement a “Social Media Policy”
    Define ownership of “connections where account may be identical to the employment”. Conduct network surveillance – provide notice, regardless of jurisdiction
  • Clearly identify the purpose of your company’s social media account/s
  • Always consider your audience – what’s appropriate, what’s not
  • Always avoid posting anything that could be considered a slur, an insult, demeaning or inflammatory
  • Understand your community and work towards growing it
  • Protect private/confidential information. Never ask someone to send you private information as a comment/tweet/post

If you’re looking for an example social media policy, Headset Bros have released theirs here. It’s short, it’s to the point and it’s effective.

REFERENCES
http://www.dundaslawyers.com.au/legal-risks-of-social-networking-for-business/
http://mashable.com/2009/06/02/social-media-policy-musts/
http://www.scribd.com/doc/16019519/headset-bros-social-media-policy 
http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/09/22/starbucks-employee-fired-for-youtube-video/

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6 thoughts on “Social media reality check. Are you at risk?

  1. Hi,Ben, you blog is very awesome! The structure and structure are so good.
    The measures you conclude is comprehensive.
    I get a question for you, the policy is for preventing internal risk, right?
    What’s your opinion about the external risk?

    • Maybe I should make myself clearer.
      Internal risk is basically caused by employees. External risk is basically caused by competitors. Is it necessary to form a policy for external risk?

  2. This is a decent post man. Other blogs I have read really didn’t cover the topic properly IMO. This hits the spots. Props brother.

  3. Hi Ben,
    After I finished reading your post, it made me to think about the freedom of expression while using social media either for private or public purposes. All users (especially the well-known ones in the public) need to be more aware of their own actions when stepping into the social media spaces as this might impact the way they build their digital presences/identities. Also, I like the points that you have made from the Target case in the area of the reputation risk (e.g. errors’ correction, tracking for updates and engaging the users), and they can be the main issues that probably found in almost all organisations that intend to use the social media in their businesses.

    Nice post, Ben 🙂

  4. Good post, do you think that there is any way that social media risk could be totally eliminated? or should companies just say stuff it we have to make a contingency plan when things go wrong? My take is they have to do both.

  5. Very informative and well written post. I agree with what your input on monitoring your brand via complex tools. This will allow companies like Target to moderate and filter inappropriate content from reaching their social media page. Also like how you’ve included the starbucks rant song to compliment your blog post.

    http://chrisvoinb346.blogspot.com.au/

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