8 common social media risks for organisations

Many well-known companies are coming under scrutiny for their social media blunders including United Airlines, McDonalds and Yahoo to name a few recent examples. Here’s our list of the eight most common social media risks which could affect your organisation, and how you can help avoid them.

Who is responsible for social media anyway?

Social media has typically sat within the marketing department. As the importance and impact of the channel has grown beyond marketing to encompass things like customer service and community engagement, there is growing complexity over who ultimately is responsible to oversee social media channels. One argument is that social media should be owned by marketing, and have policies and procedures in place to prevent the misuse of corporate social accounts. Yet, others such as customer support and local teams need access to the accounts in order to publish timely updates and replies.

The IT department could also have something in place to prevent the misuse of corporate social media assets. And then the HR department traditionally gets involved in the event that an employee acts against the best interests of the organisation on social media. This confusion over responsibility between different departments does not help to avoid serious social media blunders.

United Airlines recently hit the headlines for dragging a customer off of an overbooked flight. Filmed by fellow passengers the brand received more than 2.5 million mentions on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in the 48 hours from the incident. Positive sentiment of 91% reported the day before, switched to 68.9% negative the day after the footage emerged. It was United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz’s response that created much debate, implying that the customer was at fault, so much for the customer is always right…

Had there been a clearly defined strategy of ownership for crafting the response from all areas of the business, the backlash around the CEO’s message could have been avoided. Ultimately, Munoz should have taken the time to assess the facts to formulate an appropriate response taking into consideration viewpoints from marketing, HR, legal, etc.

Insider risks to social media

Employees form the foundation of any enterprise, key to its successes but also a potential social media risk. From disgruntled employees taking ownership of corporate accounts to post their personal views, employees leaving the organisation and taking with them the account usernames and passwords, through to local teams creating local social media accounts with no central control or visibility. A lack of oversight of employees’ social activities can prove to be a significant risk of enterprise social media.

Earlier this year a former employee of the Badlands National Park in America sent out three tweets about climate change through the corporate accounts. The act was seen as a protest against newly elected President, Donald Trump’s position on climate change. The tweets were later removed and the organisation later tweeted that it regretted the ‘mistaken’ tweet.

This scenario could have been prevented using an enterprise social media management platform which enables content to be pre-validated before it is published out publicly.

Theft of company-owned social media assets

Many employees have direct access to the corporate social media channels (they may have even created the accounts themselves), giving them the power to rename the social media channels should they choose. There have been cases where former employees have moved to a competitive business, changed the name of the previous organisation’s social media channels, and immediately started contacting the fans and followers on behalf of their new company.

The need for good contracts and agreements between employers and employees when it comes to social media is paramount. What might appear as theft to one person could be perfectly legitimate in the eyes of another.

“Oops, that wasn’t my personal account”

Another risk linked to employees… When team members manage an organisation’s social media account via their personal devices or accounts (be it Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn), mistakes can easily happen.

This was certainly the case for one contractor who accidentally posted an obscene tweet to the official Chrysler Twitter account instead of his personal account. The incident resulted in the 28-year-old being dismissed and Chrysler chose not to continue working with the marketing firm.

Restricting the number of employees who have direct access to an social media accounts can mitigate the risk but stifle its use. Alternatively, adopting a ‘two sets of eyes’ policy can ensure social media content is validated before it is published.

Public passwords

Sharing of passwords is extremely commonplace (defeating the purpose of having a password entirely!) Typically, employees are required to share password and login details in order to access company social media accounts. In large multi-dimensional organisations there may be hundreds of employees sharing passwords to access a single account. There is a significant risk of a rogue post being published, and very little chance of being able to identify from which team or team member the post came from.

In 2015, French TV network suffered a cyber attack resulting in obscene messages being posted through their corporate channels, forcing them to take 11 television channels off air. It was difficult to believe that the situation could get any worse. However, shortly after the attack, the network’s social media passwords were inadvertently revealed during an interview that was filmed in the network’s office. The passwords were written on sticky notes that were plastered on the desk behind the interviewee.

Sharing login details for your corporate social media accounts is a big risk. As an enterprise, it is better to adopt a social media platform that provides a secure login for each team member to access the accounts.

Customer service risks

Many customers are turning to social media to source information and to air their grievances regarding products and services. One survey reported that 68% of respondents felt social media gave them a better voice (Oracle). However, many teams responsible for corporate social media are simply not equipped to deal with any significant number of customer services inquiries, and lack the necessary skills and knowledge to respond effectively.

Often, the social media team will simply try direct the customer to use an alternative channel for customer support issues or try to take the problem “offline”. This is extremely annoying to the customer who is looking for a quick response at that moment. Here are some great examples of organisations that have got social customer service just right!

Providing excellent customer service via corporate social media accounts is complex but worthwhile. Download our Ultimate Guide to Social Customer Service Fundamentals to learn how to avoid a potentially costly social customer service mistake.

Embarrassment by association

Celebrity endorsement is big business on social media. However, the reputation damage can be significant as a result of the actions by the “brand ambassador” you are working with. A misplaced tweet or photograph posted on Facebook can spread around the world in minutes. Intentionally or otherwise, brand ambassadors can land an organisation into trouble, for example, by breaching advertising guidelines.

Recently, popular social media influencers Kim Kardashian, Rita Ora and Rihanna are under scrutiny for promoting products on social media and not clearly admitting that they are being paid to it, risking a breach of consumer rights regulations.

Influencer marketing is a successful tactic in targeting specific audiences and one that companies can embrace if the right processes and policies are put in place. Take a look at our blog ‘Social Media Law: When to use #Ad in influencer marketing’ to uncover some principles to help keep on the right side of the law.

Social media legal risks

Few people realise that posting, tweeting or retweeting a libellous piece of content will leave the person or organisation involved, open to prosecution. A tweet, like any email, which expressly or implicitly makes adverse comments about others, can easily be forwarded, shared or retweeted, it is unpredictable what could go viral. Today, UK legal regulations are being updated and put in place, and as a result enterprises are opening themselves up to social media legal risks, ignorance is not an excuse!

Ensuring your organisation is up to speed on the latest legal regulations affecting social media is a solid foundation to avoiding the associated risk. Regulatory bodies are publishing advisory notes and regulations (such as the FCA Social Media Guidance) to guide industries in best practice on social media. Check with your Regulatory Body to see if there is any specific guidance for your industry regarding social media law.

In conclusion, as an enterprise you must consider these most common risks of social media, and begin to establish some social media compliance and governance processes to help mitigate the most likely risks.