Thursday, August 30, 2012

Stay out and stay safe?

The best and worst ways to manage social media risk

By guest blogger Tamera Lang

There's no shortage of examples of social media misfortunes. Is there any wonder companies fear social media and what it could do to corporate reputation? CEOs, legal counsel and risk/compliance officers could arguably be forgiven for driving a "stay out and stay safe" agenda - but are they doing themselves a disservice?

The problem is, staying out of social media is not the answer to staying safe. If your customers, target markets, employees and competitors are on social media, what they do and say can affect you even if you're not there yet. It doesn't make sense to allow your key stakeholders (and competitors) to stake their claim in social media, while you sit back and get left behind.

I'm not advocating a head-first, whizz bang social media campaign - in fact, I think that's dangerous. What most companies and/or brands do without a social media presence or capability need is a measured, risk-management driven approach. The idea is to stay safe and be clean in the online environment.

The first step is to check the basic hygiene factors. Take the temperature of your online presence - what is already out there about your company, brand and products? Register the obvious user names on all major social media platforms, even those which you may not want to use: it's important to secure your presence to fend off imposters. Appoint your online sign-off team, drawing on departments which will potentially benefit from social media as well as those with risk management capabilities (we recommend, at a minimum legal/compliance, operations, PR/corporate affairs, marketing and customer service). Implement some basic social media monitoring and identify (then follow) your key digital influencers. Put in place a social media policy for your staff and train up the C-suite level on the social media basics.

Have you noticed that none of the hygiene factors involve actually posting or interacting on social media? It's deliberate, because this is not about converting your marketing spend, PR activity or customer service functions to social media (at least, not yet). The aim of the hygiene check is two-fold: to undertake a scoping to ascertain your online reputation, as well as to prepare your organisation in case a social media strategy should be (or needs to be) pursued. It's the risk management approach - be prepared and know your battleground. There's a lot of preparatory work that needs to be considered before leaping in to social media.

Using BlueChip's online reputation risk checklist (email us for a free copy), particularly the hygiene factors, is just the first step. Keeping the risks in check is good practice and could save your company a lot of pain.

Tamera Lang is currently undertaking an internship with BlueChip Communication

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