Don't leave your Social Media to the SM team - Business Works
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Don't leave your Social Media to the SM team

by Jeremy Swinfen Green, Managing Partner, Social Media Risk Consulting With over a billion people around the world using Facebook and half of UK adults using social media every day, it is not surprising that most businesses have recognised the benefits of using SM for marketing.

But far fewer have recognised that, alongside the opportunities, come a number of major problems that need careful managing. And these problems exist whether or not you are using Facebook and Twitter to persuade your customers to hand over their cash says Jeremy Swinfen Green, Managing Partner at Social Media Risk Consulting.

The danger is that social media conversations are very hard for businesses to control. Consumers will talk about brands online - and not always in a nice way. Consumers who are dissatisfied about customer service or product features don't hesitate to share their experiences.

within 4 days the share price had fallen 10%

And these experiences can circulate surprisingly far and surprisingly fast, as United Airlines discovered when, after dismissing musician Dave Carroll's claims that they had broken his guitar, the song 'United breaks guitars' he wrote and posted on YouTube amassed 150,000 views in one day and over 5 million in less than six weeks. And within four days of the song being posted, United's share price had fallen 10%.

Damage from social media can hit any part of an organisation. A legal department may have to deal with libel cases. HR may start to have difficulty recruiting the best talent or be faced with discrimination or bullying suits. Compliance departments may be hit with major fines. IT may find systems being corrupted or data stolen. Sales may notice that is gets harder to generate revenues from a particular set of clients. Customer services may be faced with an avalanche of complaints…

And all because of social media and the increased ability it gives to consumers to talk to other consumers and to the media.

What to do? Well, the first step is probably to ensure that your business has an adequate social media policy that explains to employees how to avoid causing damage to themselves and to their employer. These policies are important and need careful explanation to employees. Problems often come from the way that many employees share their personal and professional identity on social media. An unwary Tweet on an account that can be linked back to an employer can cause embarrassment – or worse, as CFO Gene Morphis discovered when he posted 'Good numbers = Happy Board' and was duly fired for 'improperly' communicating company information.

The next step is to make sure you are listening to what people are saying about your company and brands and to ensure that you have a multi-disciplinary team in place (marketing, IT, finance, legal, sales, HR ...) to handle any issues. If you are not listening (or if you have the wrong people listening) then you will simply be unable to respond to problems.

know where the risks lie

You will also need to conduct a thorough audit of where risks lie within your organisation. Does your board have the skills and knowledge to oversee the management of these risks? Are you fully compliant with industry and legal requirements (for instance, can your customer communication archiving system cope with social media)? Are you managing what your employees are saying about their company, colleagues and clients on social media or how they are talking to consumers? And are you managing what consumers can post on your own social media pages? Once you know where the risks lie, you can put tactics in place to prevent them or manage their impact.

You will also need to address security. You will need to ensure that your social media accounts are secure (123456 is still the most common social media password [how to secure your passwords]) and cannot be hijacked by third parties. You will need to be certain you can trace who has posted what (when you hear organisations excusing themselves because 'Our Twitter account was hacked' what they are often saying is 'one of our disaffected employees posted this, but we have no way of knowing who'). And you will also need to manage employees who use their own mobile devices to access company information: Facebook ads and surveys are one of the biggest sources of malware and phishing attacks.

Just over a year ago, the Twitter account of the press agency Associated Press was hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army who sent out a credible tweet in AP's name saying that the White House had been bombed. The Dow Jones dropped by $140 billion.

Social media risk is not trivial.

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