Social media and reputational risk

Social media isn’t just about marketing. It is an important way of managing risk for organisations, especially reputational risk. In fact it’s so important that failing to use social media to manage reputational risk could be considered negligent.

Internal risks

Internal risks include the use of employees using social media accounts to post inappropriate content about an organisation. And around Christmas Party time, this risk is especially strong.

You really don’t want employees using public social media to post salacious or unflattering content relating to any social event that other employees are attending, whether or not this event has been formally sponsored by your organisation.

For instance photographs of staff members behaving indecorously at a private party could have a negative effect on the organisation if the people involved are identified as working for the organisation in the caption.

But it would be far worse if the photographs were taken at the office party. It is great to use party photos as a way of showing the informal and fun side of your organisation. But do check that these photos are appropriate – and won’t embarrass anyone (use the “rule of mum” in other words “would they be happy for their mum to see this”) – before allowing them to be posted on the company Facebook page.

In addition, personal opinions or comments that do not reflect the organisation’s position should not be expressed on an account owned by an organisation. It happens!

Inappropriate (accidental) use of an organisational social media account

Using an organisation’s social media account to post informal and personal messages can cause embarrassment!

And even on a personal account, if the writer is identified as working for an organisation it is reasonable to ask people to state that their opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of your organisation – especially when those opinions are contentious. 

System risks

There are two common forms of system risks. The first relates to organisation social media accounts being “hacked”.

While there isn’t necessarily much that any organisation can do against a determined and skilled hacker, care can at least be taken to ensure that company accounts have adequately secure passwords. Without secure passwords it can be easy for company social media accounts to be hijacked, as Burger King found out in February 2013.

Image of Burger King's Twitter profile after it was hacked

Weak passwords can result in social media accounts being hijacked

The other main form of system risk relates to employees leaving after they have set up official social media accounts. In this case it can be quite difficult to get control back.

Both Google+ and Facebook demand that business “Pages” are set up from personal accounts, rather than directly by the organisation involved. For these websites especially, it is essential that an appropriate strategy is employed, such as asking a senior trusted employee to set up the business page. Appropriate protection also needs to be written into employment contracts.

External risks

Spoof and hate accounts can also be a problem. For instance disaffected employees may create accounts that focus on unflattering descriptions of an organisation. Unless they are libelous, negative opinions expressed on a personal account must be endured, although you can choose to ignore, acknowledge or rebut them. Dealing with them takes sensitivity: it is rarely appropriate (or cost-effective) to roll out the lawyers. Rebutting negative comments with an air of injured patience is more likely to be a better option, especially where the negative comments are not being seen by many people as may well be the case.

Listen and learn

Reputational risk will always be out there. By listening to the social media buzz you will have a good chance of picking up on any major threats. And by learning from how other organisation deal with (or invite) social media risks you will be able to find ways of mitigating them for your own organisation. But if you are not listening in the first place you are risking a great deal.

If you would like to know more about managing risk through social media then drop us a line at or call us on 07855 341 589.


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