Could you manage an international social media campaign?

Could you manage an international social media campaign?

Social media campaigns are hard enough at the best of times. Soggy metrics, a lack of control, unexpected reactions…So adding an international dimension can make them even harder.

But if you are faced with managing an international campaign, what are the areas you need to consider?

I have been involved with a good number of international clients over the years and they are never easy to manage. Some of the learnings from international advertising campaigns are easy to apply to social media though.

Global vs local

The problem with international campaigns is knowing how “global” or “local” campaigns should be – to what extent they should be the same around the world and to what extend they should be designed for individual markets. And the answer to this is likely to vary across markets.

In some territories local activity will predominate. While in other territories it may be appropriate to use global assets that are produced by head office. The balance will depend on a number of factors.

Language

The simplest thing to address is language. If a client is headquartered in an English speaking country then running campaigns in English may be a logical solution for other English speaking countries and even in countries (such as Sweden, the Netherlands and India) where large parts of the population speak English.

However, while this is an easy solution, it may not be the best. Cultural differences may mean that campaign messages in one country may not be well received in another. Early UK advertisements for Coca Cola’s Dasani water used the message “Can’t live without spunk”. True possibly, but not something calculated to attract the average UK consumer. Research into whether localisation is needed is essential. And this is true whether or not messaging is being translated from one language to another.

Consumer perceptions

Another very obvious thing to address is the consumer. It is quite possible that the brand you are working with is perceived very differently in certain markets.

The oddest example of this I have come across was a UK cough sweet that was associated in Germany with, er, physical love! Fashion and retail brands often show differences around the world: for instance Levi Jeans have less fashion cachet in the USA than they do in Europe. Fast food too: Millward Brown show how Burger King is a weak brand in Belgium (compared with MacDonalds) but a strong brand in Mexico.

But getting the right message across to consumers isn’t necessarily the hardest part of managing an international social media campaign. There are many other issues.

Local platforms

A “one size fits all” approach to which social media platforms to use is unlikely to work. For instance Twitter penetration in Spain is around three time that of France but only half that of Saudi Arabia. Some markets, notably China and Japan, are very different from Western Europe and North America.

Local strategy implementation will need to take account of the strengths of different social media platforms. For instance if the strategy is to disseminate lots of photographs, then using Instagram to supplement picture posts on Facebook may be wasted effort in markets like Canada and France but worthwhile in Germany and Indonesia.

Local resources

If you are working with local operations in international markets then you will almost always find that resources in individual countries will vary widely, as will skill levels. One market may have a team of half a dozen experienced social media marketers, while in another the intern looks after social media in between doing the filing.

This means that you may need to moderate the amount of global assets you share with some local markets, or at least give territories with less resource the option to pick and choose between which global assets they decide to use.

 Local perceptions of social media

In most countries around the world consumers use a lot of social media. But that doesn’t mean that local marketers take social media seriously. There may be a big education job to be done helping local marketing managers understand why, and how, to use social media.

Where you are dealing with a local market that is sceptical about social media, it will be important to avoid a situation where social media is managed by a junior who may post inappropriately, without any (informed) supervision; social media is global and you won’t always be able to stop people in one country reading damaging posts in another country.

Local independence

Some local marketing operations will be more independent and harder to influence than others. Managers in a large territory such as the USA may well feel that they don’t need (or want) central control.

This may be especially true if the territory concerned has a heritage in effective social media marketing (which you could argue is the case in many English and Spanish speaking markets).

Dealing with resentment aimed at “interference from the centre” is always difficult. Providing reasons to use global strategies and assets (such as cost saving) is likely to be more effective than simply mandating the approach they must take.

Building consensus through joint development of assets and best practice will also help. And with social media, this shouldn’t be too difficult given that accepted knowledge of how best to use social media is still building.

Local laws

And finally do remember that laws vary across the world. For instance a competition that is legal in one country may be illegal in another. And similarly some countries have very stringent rules about endorsements.

Ensuring that local market operations are aware of the rules of what they can and cannot do on social media is important if you don’t want the humiliation of having your campaigns being deemed illegal or noncompliant by local regulators.

All in all

Setting up and managing an international social media campaign isn’t easy. As well as understanding how consumers differ across markets there are many practical issues around the nature and relative strengths of local marketing partners.

The safest way forward is to develop a global strategy with input from local markets and then allow local markets to tweak the global strategy, localise global assets and, if appropriate, add their own local content. Developing appropriate best practice guidelines to help less experienced local partners will also be important.

 

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Why social media privacy setting are a waste of time

Social media sites: they are private, right? There are lots of privacy settings; so whatever I post is safe and secure and can only be seen by people I choose. Right?

Wrong!

Social media sites are not private. So if you wouldn’t want your mum (or your boss) to see something, then don’t post it on a social media site.

First of all, are you sure you have your privacy settings set in a way you want them? Or are you just trusting the default settings?

While the majority of people do alter their security settings, around 40% of people have either public or only partially private settings.  And while Facebook is making efforts to increase the ability of users to tweak their privacy settings the very fact that they are having to do this shows that there is a problem. And if you don’t have your privacy settings the way you want them, the chances are you are sharing information you don’t want to.

But difficulty choosing the right privacy setting is not the only problem. Another problem involves who you choose to share with.

The average Facebook user has 338 Facebook “friends”.  And yet, according to researchers at Oxford University, the average person has fewer than 10 close friends. So that’s about 330 people on Facebook most people can’t be sure they can trust. (Even if you are sure you can trust your real friends…) Sharing only with Facebook friends doesn’t guarantee that those Facebook “friends” won’t share your embarrassing posts with the wider community.

And using ephemeral sites like Snapchat doesn’t necessarily lessen the risk.  Those ephemeral photos may well be stored deep in the recipient’s phone, and in any case it is a simple matter to take a screenshot of them or even just tap them to store them for future use.

The potential lack of privacy doesn’t end there. The risk of a social media account being hacked is considerable, especially when poor passwords are used. And if that happens then who knows where those embarrassing posts will end up! And finally of course you are trusting that the platform itself won’t get hacked or share information by mistake.

The wrong privacy settings. Friends you can’t trust. Ephemeral content that really exists for ever. Accounts getting hacked. Websites releasing your information by mistake. All in all, social media platforms are not guaranteed to preserve your privacy.

And as that is the case, then you should make sure that you could never be ashamed of anything you post.

Social media and reputational risk

A good reputation is the lifeblood of any organisation. And managing reputation in a world where social media plays an increasing part is hard. After all, no organisation can stop consumers criticising them if they choose too. In the past it might not have mattered much if one or two unhappy consumers complained to their friends. But now, a bad review (whether fair or not) can spread around the globe in hours.

Social media risk is the risk that the use of social media by an organisation, or by third parties including the general public, causes loss or damage to that organisation. The risk can be divided into five basic types:

  • reputational risk
  • operational risk
  • compliance risk
  • legal risk
  • asset risk

Reputational risk is the most common form of social media risk, and certainly the most well known. This is in part because much reputational risk is a consequence of other risk factors. In other words, most social media risk factors can lead to reputational damage.

The risks can involve damage to an organisation’s reputation, or to the reputation of brands and products it owns and the services it provides.

These risks vary in importance but they can be found right across most organisations, in finance, operations, HR, marketing, sales and general management.

Social media reputational risks occur across an organisation

There can be a wide variety of causes including:

  • Unethical employee behaviour online or offline such as inappropriate tweets or the uncovering of unethical manufacturing practices by an organisation
  • Consumer reactions to poor quality products and services or inadequate after sales service, especially where these are amplified by the media
  • Impersonation of prominent people associated with the organisation who are then apparently heard saying inappropriate things; or the takeover and altering of corporate social media assets so that they are no longer “on-brand”
  • Inappropriate use of social media by employees such as bullying behaviour or simply the posting of unwise content
  • Poor marketing activity including allowing consumers to discover and respond to obsolete marketing campaigns
  • Unflattering comments by third parties on social media platforms (e.g. poor reviews, aspersions made against directors, negative analysis of financial performance)
  • Unwise comments by executives that are amplified by the media (the “Gerald Ratner syndrome”) with disastrous results

Many instances of reputational damage are not particularly important. There is often a lot of fluttering by social media commentators but if the damaging issue isn’t seen by mainstream consumers the main outcome can be red faces in the marketing department! In these cases it is important not to over react.

The real danger is that a particular issue – low quality, unethical practices, inappropriate public comments by senior executives – gets taken up by the mass media and “amplified”.

 Growth of a social media crisis

Organisations often place their social media risk management processes within PR or marketing. However, reputational damage is not just a concern for marketing departments. A damaged reputation can affect many things adversely, including:

  • Finance: The ability of an organisation to borrow at the best rate of interest; the ability to attract investment can also be damaged and this can result in damage to the share price
  • Operations: The image of the organisation as a “corporate good citizen”, which in turn may reduce influence with external stakeholders such as regulators or suppliers, ultimately resulting in less efficient operations
  • HR: The organisation’s “employer brand” which if damaged can result in difficulties recruiting the best talent
  • Sales: The sales a company makes; in addition the profitability of those sales can be reduced due to increased costs (less influence with suppliers) or by the inability to charge higher prices (less credibility with consumers)

Because the potential effect of reputational risk extends across organisations, it is sensible to monitor the risks outside PR and marketing departments. The ideal organisational structure will allow for social media risk management to be a separate and stand alone function which can work with the relevant business function to manage any difficulty.

As with other social media risks, the simple ALP management process should be applied:

  1. Audit: Identify potential risks using scenarios or knowledge of previous social media “fails
  2. Listen: Listen out for potential problems
  3. Prepare: Prepare for potential problems by:
    1. Developing an appropriate social media policy and training all employees in its meaning and use (this includes Board members)
    2. Agreeing management processes to handle likely risks including escalation processes and generic position statements
    3. Simulating problems and practising the response

As we said at the start of this post, reputational risk isn’t the only risk area to stem from social media. More on the other social media risk areas next week.

What to do if your social media accounts are hacked

If your Twitter feed is hacked, it isn’t likely to knock $160 billion off the Dow Jones. But it could still be very damaging to sales, recruitment or share price.

What will a hack look like?

You will know you have been hacked if unauthorised posts are sent out from your social media account. These might be for “spam” products like diet pills or Viagra. Or they might be designed to damage your reputation perhaps by endorsing competitors or vilifying your own products and brands. Or they might simply be mischievous. Alternatively a hack might involve a change in your social media profile: perhaps a new profile picture or a change to your description, again often with the aim damaging your business. Even if you have taken reasonable measures to stop your accounts from being hacked, they can still happen. So it is a good idea to have a plan in place, just in case. After all, if you are hacked then you will need to respond as rapidly as possible. So here is a simple 5-step plan for damage limitation after a social media hack.

Step 1. Regain control by resetting passwords

The first thing to do (or at least attempt) is to regain control of any hacked accounts. You will do that by changing the password on the account (ideally to something not quite so easy to hack!) If you can’t get access to the account, because the hackers have changed the password, then try resetting your password using the forgotten password link on the site. You should then get a message, sent to the email registered as belonging to the account’s administrator, which will allow you to reset the password. At the same time you should also change the password of the account administrator’s email address. This may have been hacked too and if it has then it will be all too easy for the hackers to gain control again.

If you can’t regain control

If the hackers have locked you out of your account and you can’t get back in, then you will need to contact the social platform directly. This may take a little time as there will be forms to fill in and proof to provide so it is important to start this process as soon as possible. All the big social media sites provide an easy way into this process:

  • Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hacked
  • YouTube: support.google.com/youtube/answer/175276?hl=en (link to AutoRecovery at bottom of page)
  • LinkedIn: help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1501/ft/eng (link to Contact Us at bottom of page)
  • Twitter: support.twitter.com/articles/185703-my-account-has-been-hacked (link to Contact Support at bottom of page)
  • Google+: support.google.com/mail/answer/50270?hl=en

Lock down content publishing if you can

If you can, it’s a good idea to lock down any publishing activity while you check the security of all your social media accounts. Some software providers such as Nexgate’s ProfileLock will do this automatically should they detect an unauthorised change to your profiles.

Step 2. Protect your other platforms

The next thing you need to do is to check all your other social media platforms and ensure they have not been hacked as well. If they are safe check that they have a secure password and that this is different from the passwords on your other social media sites.

Step 3. Get back to normal

Once you have control back you will want to get your social media accounts back to the state they were in before the hacking incident.

Delete unwanted content

You will need to delete any unwanted content such as tweets that have been sent out without your authorisation. This doesn’t guarantee the content will disappear completely and for ever. Other people may have seen it and saved it or shared it with other people. But you can at least limit the possibility of other people seeing being exposed to messages you don’t want them to see.

Check account settings

Back in control, you will also want to make sure there aren’t any nasty surprises waiting for you. Have any automated responses been tampered with? Does your profile or email signature contain new and unwanted links? Have any Twitter lists been tampered with? Do you have new some “friends” you weren’t expecting to see?

Step 4. Let people know

There is no point in hiding the fact that you have been hacked. If it is embarrassing they are bound to find out. It is far better to tell people what has happened and apologise for it.

Tell your audience

Post messages, e.g. tweets, to anyone following you apologising for any inconvenience or offence caused. It may be appropriate to pay to promote these messages if that option is available on the platform you are using. If you don’t it is highly likely that many people who follow your social media accounts won’t see your explanation. It may also be sensible to put a message upon your website and any other “static” content such as blogs and even social media profiles. Some companies have ready-made web pages that are pre-approved and can be published quickly in the event of an emergency. It is likely that you will want this page to be a template of some sort so that the precise content can be adapted to suit the nature of the crisis.

Tell your employees

Make sure you have a clear communication plan that is directed towards your employees. They may need reassurance that the damage won’t affect them; they will certainly need to know what to do and say if they are asked about the crisis by friends or peers.

Tell the media

It is also sensible to tell the media, who are likely to pick up on a crisis anyway. Of course if the breach is trivial then there may not be any reason to do this but if the breach is potentially damaging then you will want to make sure any relevant media have your version of events as soon as possible.

5. Review your security

Once things have settled down you will want to review your security to reduce the risk of anything similar happening again. You will of course cover off the basics: make sure that passwords are robust and that you have managed and limited access to your social media accounts. But there are a few other things you need to do as well.

Review any apps that have access

Review any applications that have access to your social media accounts and remove any that you don’t recognize. Apps may include measurement tools, media owner sites, or tools that link different social media platforms. For instance if you want to see the apps that have access to your Twitter profile you can find them at twitter.com/settings/applications. If in doubt it may be safest to delete all applications and then start adding apps to your account from scratch.

Check for viruses

Run a virus scan on any devices that have been used to access your social media accounts to ensure you haven’t picked up a virus or other malware. Don’t forget to check any mobile devices that may be used and if home computers are ever used to access your social media accounts then ask the relevant people to check these too.

Enable 2-factor authentication

Many social networks now offer “2-factor authentication”. This is a security system which requires a number sent to a device like a mobile phone as well as your password to get access. Generally this makes it very difficult for a hacker to break into your account. So if this hasn’t been set up on your social media accounts you should do so right away, unless you are using software such as Single Sign On software that makes this unnecessary.

Review your training

Most hacking events are the result of human error – clicking on a phishing URL or using weak passwords for instance. In order to guard against future risk, review the knowledge of anyone who has the ability to log on to your social media accounts, whether or not they ever do so. Do they understand the need for strong passwords, are they aware of the risks caused by cookies, do they always check which site they are going to when clicking on shortened URLs, are they aware of how they might get fooled in a phishing attach? If your staff are knowledgeable about these issues then the chance of a social media hack will be very much reduced. Any other tips? Please do let us know.

Reducing the risk of social media hacks

Imagine you are the CEO of a bank. Despite the grey suit you are down with the kids, tweeting regularly, and generally being hip.

And then your twitter account is hacked. Someone sends out a tweet in your name that says your bank has made huge losses in the financial markets and doesn’t have enough money to repay current account holders. People panic and there is a run on the bank…

Couldn’t happen could it! Or could it? It’s only a year since the AP Twitter account was hacked and messages about bombs in the White House caused a massive 143 point drop on the Dow Jones Index.

Social media are very credible and as a result very powerful.

So of course you want to avoid your social media accounts getting hacked. It’s not easy, in fact it is impossible to guarantee absolute security (and I won’t be surprised if someone hacks into this blog just because I am writing about security!), but there some steps you can take to keep them reasonably secure.

How do social media hacks happen?

First of all though, knowing how social media accounts get hacked will help protect you. Generally this happens because someone who wants to cause mischief or wreak revenge gets access to a password. And they get access in a number of ways including:

  • Simple passwords are hacked using “brute force” software that runs through all the possible combinations of letters and numbers
  • Unprotected portable devices are lost or stolen
  • Devices are infected with spyware
  • People who know a password leave a company and that password isn’t changed
  • A shared personal device allows access to a social media account by non-authorised people
  • Password lists are made available to non authorised people

So what can you do about this?

Use strong passwords

The very first thing you need to do is ensure that social media passwords are strong. That means: a minimum of 12 characters including at least one each of an upper case letter, a lower case letter, a number, and a keyboard symbol (like ! % or &).

Words and names should not be used as part of this: so Password isn’t a great password. And guess what. People realise that numbers are commonly substituted for letters. So P455w0rd isn’t great either!

As words and names are a no-no you will need a simple trick to come up with a great password. It’s easy in fact. Think of a phrase such as “I love my wife Delvina and my two boys Caspar and Tarquin!”. Now take the first letters and turn that into a password: “IlmwD&m2bC&T!”. Complex but easy to remember. And so much better than Password!

Next it is sensible to ensure that passwords are different for all your social media accounts. After all if one does get hacked you don’t want them all being hacked. And change them a couple of times a year. Scott Aurnou has written an excellent post on passwords.

Limit access

The next step is to limit the number of people who have access to the social media accounts. Simple if they are your own accounts but more complex in a company where you may want several people to be able to post content.

Start by doing an audit. And remember to check whether any third parties like your PR company also have access (if so do you will want to know whether they share your password with all their employees).

Next, severely limit the number of people who have access in future. And make sure that written into their contracts is a stipulation that passwords must not be shared and an explanation of sanctions if they do so. If necessary appoint an “editor” who uploads content written by other people. Oh, and do make sure you keep a record of who does have access somewhere.

Ideally, and if budgets allow, you will also implement Single Sign On (SSO) technology (such as Nexgate provide) to manage access to your social media accounts. This means that when people sign into their work computers only authorised people will be given access to social media accounts, but they will be given access without having to input a password. As they don’t know the passwords then you can simply deny them access should they leave or their role change.

One more thing to lookout for. Some social media platforms including Facebook and Google+ require business pages to be set up from private social media accounts. If this is the case you will have trouble managing these accounts in the future if the person who set them up leaves your company. The easiest thing to do is probably to start afresh with these platforms, even if it means sacrificing some assets such as people who Like you.

Prevent cookie attacks

Several big social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook are designed to remain open continuously, so that every time you go to your computer or mobile phone you can read and post content.

Convenient; but keeping an account open all the time can give people a really easy way into your social media account, especially if the account is open on a mobile device which subsequently gets lost or if you are using a shared device and forget to log out.

As people will inevitably forget to log off on some occasions, the most secure way to handle this is to require access to corporate social media only via fixed company equipment. This does mean that people won’t be able to post updates from Twitter and Facebook when they are out and about. I’ll come you how you manage that disadvantage in a moment.

Avoid phishing attacks

Another common problem is “phishing” which is where a hacker sends you message that seems to be from your social network, asking you to log in to your account for some plausible reason. They provide you with a handy link. You, thinking you are logging into your Twitter account, enter your username and password into a fake login page, which promptly captures the data. You have been hacked. Often these attacks are highly personalised and will use your name, as a result looking very credible.

The only way to prevent phishing attach is through education. Train people to look for suspicious emails. Get people to check the actual address of the site they are logging into by looking at the address bar or better still avoid clicking on links (especially shortened URLs) in emails and navigate directly to their social media account instead.

Additional security can be provided by using the SSO technology mentioned earlier as these tools won’t automatically complete your log in information if you aren’t on a legitimate site. But if you don’t have that then education (and common sense) is your only defence.

Protect mobile devices & manage wi-fi use

Business people who have a requirement to post on social media sites for their employers are highly likely to have a smart phone or a laptop. And mobile devices represent a real risk because:

  • They can be lost or stolen
  • They may connect to the internet via unsecure or dangerous connections

The easiest way to manage risk this is to limit access to corporate social media accounts via fixed computers in secure office locations. This might sound draconian but in practice most social media can be managed in this way with executives who are out of the office mailing posts to colleagues who can post from the secure location of the office.

But what about newsy posts that require immediate publication? For instance tweets at a conference or Facebook posts at an industry event? Here are some ideas:

  • Ensure the mobile device you are using is adequately password protected, especially if you are using a password vault like LastPass to make logging on to a number of different accounts easy
  • Password vaults remember passwords for you. Ideally I wouldn’t use them on a mobile device but if you do make sure you have the ability to lock or wipe it remotely in case you lose it; (IT managers should audit the remote use of social media and where appropriate provide such remote locking or wiping capabilities to privately owned devices)
  • If you are logging on to Twitter or Facebook on a mobile device make sure you log off after you finish
  • If you are accessing social media via wi-fi then check to make sure it is the official wi-fi (check the exact name) and don’t be tempted to use an unsecured wi-fi that seems to offer easy access; (personally I would never use wi-fi outside the home or office for any sensitive purpose, but then I am a cynic)
  • If you are tweeting via wi-fi then don’t use the corporate account, or your own account if you are a prominent person (e.g. a director of a large corporate). Set up a secondary account and use it for out-of-office events. Use the hashtag for the event to ensure that people find your posts. Get colleagues to follow the secondary account and share your posts via the main corporate account as soon as possible

Educate

Ultimately a lot of protection can be gained through education. Help people understand where the risks lie and what they can do to minimise them. Education is a cornerstone of security. It won’t protect you all the time (nothing will) but with the right processes and attitudes in place the risks can be reduced massively.

Social media risks: are you tooled up?

Angry customers dissing your brand; employees who give away trade secrets in their Facebook posts, chief execs whose Twitter accounts get hacked: The risks from social media are not always easy to manage. Even the well known risk of negative PR can be hard to manage if you don’t have the right social listening tools in place. The tools available to help manage social media risks go a long way beyond social listening, but let’s start with that.

Social listening tools

There are dozens of social listening tools available. Some of these are free. Some of them cost a modest amount, a few hundred dollars a year. And some can cost thousands. But they all do the same thing: identify what people are saying about your brand or company on social media platforms. So why pay, when there are so many free tools? Well, it depends on resources of course, and the importance of social media listening to your organisation. Some things to consider (beyond cost) when choosing a tool are:

  • Which platforms are monitored? There are a lot of tools that just focus on Twitter for instance
  • How much data can you get? Some tools will only give you results for a limited number of posts or a limited time frame
  • Is anything beyond a list of posts included? Some tools include analysis of sentiment (are the posts positive, negative or neutral) or potential reach; others enable you to filter the results by language, influence, demographics or region
  • Is the tool primarily a listening tool or does it double up as a content management tool?

Free multi-platform tools worth considering include Social Mention, Ice Rocket (especially good for blogs) and Google Alerts (you set up an email alerts so that  Google tells you whenever anyone uses your brand name, strapline or url).

Point of presence tools

Tools that can identify brand “points of presence” are similar to social listening tools although they perform a slightly different function. By a point of presence we mean a site on the internet that is, or purports to be, associated with your brand. Many social listening tools just listen for conversations and won’t be able to pick up sites that are using your brand assets such as your brand name, logo or strapline. If someone is using your brand assets this may be because they are a fan. But it may also be because they want to say unpleasant things about you, or to sell fake products. Having a tool that will identify when your brand name, logos and straplines are being used can be an important safeguard. Some tools can help you identify when your logo is being used while others will look for “strings” of text to find brands in URLs or social media profile pages. For a free way to identify places where your logo is being used, paste its image into Google images. To find your brand name in a URL, go to Google Advanced Search and select “in the URL”, within the “terms appearing” option. And to find mentions in particular social media platforms simply type in the platform name (e.g. Twitter.com) into the “site or domain” option of Google Advanced Search. Free tools have their limitations and a much more powerful paid solution that is worth investigating is provided by Brandle.

Moderation

If you are serious about posting to social media platforms the chances are that you already have a moderation tool. But if you don’t, then should you consider it? Moderation tools can help you prevent inappropriate posts by employees – for instance posts containing particular words can be flagged up for authorisation by a more senior person. This is a risk for companies that don’t have content marketing management tools in place, simply because without them it is easy for an enthusiastic employee to forget whether they are posting on their personal account or the company’s account. Moderation tools can also manage the risks that exist if your site accepts content from the general public, e.g. reviews or forums. It can be expensive to use a human to moderate all the posts that come in so automating the process to delete or quarantine any posts with unsuitable language can be a sensible investment. One company in this space is Discussit although if human moderation (which provides better risk management)  is also necessary, then a specialist firm like eModeration, which can moderate posts in many different languages, is also worth investigating.

Productivity

One of the big risks from social media is the potential loss of productivity that can occur when employees spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter. As preventing their use totally is likely to be counter productive, one strategy can be to manage their use possibly by limiting the times when access is available to social media platforms although tools like Websense provide more sophisticated management such as letting people use LinkedIn but disallowing job searches or letting people post on Facebook but not chat.

Archiving

Saving social media conversations in case of future legal actions is a sensible precaution if budgets allow (or if you work in a regulated industry where this is required). There are many archiving tools available and things to consider include:

  • Is the archive easily searchable and rapidly available?
  • Are actions (e.g. retweets) and metadata (e.g. tags) archived as well as original content?
  • Are “conversations” (forum threads, series of tweets etc) archived as conversations or individual posts?
  • Does all content get archived or can posts that are subsequently deleted become lost?

Archiving can be expensive and choosing the right tool isn’t easy. There is a comprehensive (probably over-comprehensive) list of options at USA’s National Archives; companies worth looking at include Smarsh, Hanzo Archive, and  Archive Social.

Security

One of the big risks associated with social media is inadequate security: having the corporate Twitter account hacked can be embarrassing but could also result in real reputational damage. Protection requires secure passwords – and yet according to SplashData the most common password is “123456”. Any social media account using that (or “password”, the second most common password) is ignoring some massive risks. Some content management platforms such as Crowd Control HQ can force certain password protocols on users of corporate social media platforms, making them more secure while at the same time providing an easier way to manage complex passwords.

Testing and practising

You can take a lot of time and effort developing ways of reducing social media risk. And you can invest in the best tools to help you with this. But unless you test your systems then you can still be wrong footed. To that end various tools are available that enable you to practise managing a social media crisis. These use a combination of software, content templates and real people to simulate a PR crisis over a number of hours or days which you can then respond to. As well as giving your social media team experience of what it is like to handle a crisis, your processes (any template content, together with management and escalation processes) will be stress tested and any weaknesses should be uncovered. A number of PR companies have developed services here. Check out Polpeo for an excellent example.

Disclaimer

We don’t have any formal connection with any of the tools and services mentioned in this post. They are all well thought of but there are many more out there, and the right tool for you will depend on your budget, your corporate and social media goals, and your particular circumstances. If you want some advice about what is right for you then call us on 07855 341 589 or email jeremy@socialmediarisk.co.uk: we would be happy to explore your options.

Social media risks? Too important to be left to the marketing department

Social media risks? They are all about business reputation aren’t they? Not at all. They stretch right across most organisations.

To demonstrate this we have created a matrix (consultants do love a matrix!) dividing business concerns into four areas:

  • operational efficiency
  • costs and competitiveness
  • customer influence
  • stakeholder support

Operational efficiency is about the smooth running of an organisation – everything from managing logistics to having a motivated and talented set of employees

Costs and competitiveness concerns the heart of any commercial organisation – the ability to deliver a profit; but is also relevant for not-for-profit organisations which need to operate within budgets

Customer influence considers the way customers and prospective customers feel about an organisation and their brands and products

Stakeholder support concerns the degree to which stakeholders such as shareholders and regulators have confidence in the organisation.

As you can see from the image below, social media risks are spread right across these four areas.

 Image

In the top left, under Costs and competitiveness we have a number of fairly unrelated risks. Social media use can result in the accidental disclosure of confidential information resulting in breach of confidence cases or the loss of a potential patent application. Employees can infringe the IP of third parties bringing potential damages on the company. And, in the carelessness which typifies so much of social media use, contracts can be accidentally entered into. And breaches of data rules can be expensive as well as damaging to a company’s reputation.

Bottom left we have Customer influence. Most of the issues here are about reputation management. Badly managed social media use might result in breaches of advertising rules (which can also be expensive) or a loss of control of company assets, such as the company Facebook page (again, an expensive thing to rectify). Employees can post inappropriate comments that damage the reputation of their employer. Obsolete content can circulate via social media long after a marketing campaign has finished and this brings its own reputational problems. And problems with products and services can sometimes escalate into a full blown social media PR crisis.

There are a good number of issues in the area of Operational efficiency. Problems with social media use can create issues with employee motivation caused perhaps by bullying or over-rigid and unfair management. This in turn can lead to the perception of a company being a bad employer, making it hard to recruit the best talent. Managerial over-enthusiasm can result in staff privacy being breached and even problems with the duty of care employees have to their staff.

And finally there is the area of Stakeholder support. Having the confidence of non-executive stakeholders such as the Board, shareholders and external regulators is very important. And this confidence can easily be damaged through social media. Potential risks include the impersonation of Board members, a failure to adhere to regulations, accidental disclosure of financial information, and even the libelling of clients and suppliers! It is a key part of corporate governance to manage this.

All in all, it is surprising how far social media risks penetrate into every corner of an organisation. And these risks are too complex to leave to a single organisational function such as marketing or PR. Multi-functional teams are required to manage the risks appropriately.