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.

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The 3 Ps of managing an online PR crisis

It happens sometimes: consumers react badly about a product feature, something you have said, or some brand imagery and the conversation goes viral. All of a sudden you are in the middle of  a PR crisis.

While this doesn’t happen that often, it is important to be aware of the potential for a PR crisis and take steps to be able to manage them if they happen: monitoring social media is a very effective way of identifying a possible crisis so that action can be taken before it happens.

Social media dashboards: social listening is a way to identify PR crises before they happen

Monitor social media to identify potential PR problems before they happen

Ideally you will be monitoring social media constantly – especially if you are providing a constant service such as an airline, internet service provider, broadcaster or bank.

If resourcing this is difficult in the UK, then potentially you could outsource monitoring outside office hours to an experienced supplier in a different time-zone. You will have to designate an employee (authorised to take appropriate action) to be on call for emergencies outside office hours in this case.

If you are not monitoring 24/7, then it is important to have someone responsible for checking for problems at the very start of each work day.

Be prepared! It is important to have plans in place to enable appropriate actions to be taken in the event of a crisis.

Getting a quick press release out is no longer likely to be sufficient. You need to be able to respond, rapidly, in the places where the crisis is building. This is likely to be Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.

Preparation involves the three Ps of crisis management: predictions, protocols and practice.

Predictions

The first thing to do is try to predict the possible things that could go wrong: a faulty product batch, sabotage, an unexpected senior resignation etc. That way you can develop some likely positioning statements.

This is really when the lawyers should be consulted: before a crisis happens so that during a crisis actions can be taken swiftly using  holding statements that have been pre-prepared to meet the most likely eventualities.

Protocols

You also need to have protocols in place for responses: rules for how you will react and the responsibilities of individal team members. These should include:

  • Key messages including apologising (if appropriate), saying there is a plan for dealing with the problem; and committing to find out the cause so repetitions can be prevented
  • Guidelines on tone of voice to be used in various circumstances
  • Team structures that allow decisions to be made quickly and then empower individuals to execute agreed plans
  • Using an external person to feedback an “outside view” of proposed actions before they are implemented

Practice

And finally you need to practice. Getting colleagues to fire awkward questions or comments at you is one way of doing this: it will help you get used to using the pre-prepared holding statements as well as giving you  practice in responding according to the protocols you have agreed. Ideally you will create realistic crisis simulations: companies such as polpeo.com specialise in providing realistic training in online crisis management.

Predictions, protocols and practice: these won’t prevent a crisis – but they should stop a crisis turning into a full blown disaster.

If you would like more detailed advice about setting up systems to help you manage potential online PR crises then please get in touch with us on hello@mosoco.co.uk, @mosocolondon or 07855 341 589.