We talk a lot about the opportunities offered by social media, but there’s no denying that there are serious risks that come along with it too. From a damaged reputation to financial losses, there are many ways that social media could potentially end up being more harmful than helpful.
Luckily it’s not all doom and gloom. We spoke with David Chan, strategic alliances director at Proofpoint, a leading cybersecurity company, about the biggest risks facing businesses on social media—and how they can be avoided.
To hear more from David and other social media and marketing experts, watch our free online social media conference, Connect via Hootsuite, on-demand.
Q&A with David Chan from Proofpoint
Let’s start by talking about employee advocacy. Having employees posting on social media on behalf of your brand is a great way to increase reach, but it also comes with risks. How can businesses avoid these risks while still empowering employees to be advocates on social?
It takes more than just money to create a successful and safe employee advocacy program; it requires an investment of time and human resources. You need to assemble a team to vet the platform that employees will use, provide training, and launch the program through a pilot.
Once you’ve launched a pilot program, you need to spend time evaluating the initial results and closely monitor the content being posted while continuing to train your employees. This is where an automation tool can make a huge difference, since it ensures your team doesn’t have to spend all their time monitoring the conversations that are happening. Our solution, SocialSight, is designed to support these types of employee advocacy programs through automated monitoring.
We’ve seen how quickly one misguided Tweet can spiral out of control and damage a company’s image on social media. But aside from brand perception and reputation, are there other risks to using social that can hurt a business?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, there are financial, physical, and personnel threats that businesses need to be aware of when using social media.
Financial threats can often come in the form of fake accounts. We’ve seen many cases where fake accounts offer free coupons for things like subscription services or software licenses, for example. In one case we had a very large media company that was losing about a million dollars a month in cheap licenses that were given away for free to trusting customers through these fake accounts.
Physical threats are another big risk that can develop on social media—threats to buildings, events, or even cities. A lot of potentially dangerous conversations happen on the internet; not just on social media but on what’s being called the “dark web,” online places that are somewhat hidden and out of sight from the public.
And then finally, there are personnel threats. There can be threats to executives of brands who, for whatever reason, have angered consumers. Many of those threats happen on the dark web as well, but we can control those. We can find them and we can shut them down through monitoring both social media and the dark web.
How can businesses avoid these financial, physical, and personnel risks?
There are three key components to protecting your business against these types of threats. One, you need to identify high profile targets—whether that’s your product (i.e. software licenses), physical sites, or executives.
After you’ve identified those targets, you should be using tools that automate the process of monitoring these conversations on social and surfacing threats.
Finally, you need to have a remediation process in place so that everyone knows what to do when a threat is found. Who gets informed? What’s the process to shut them down? And how is the situation communicated across the organization?
Are there risks for businesses that are specifically conducting customer service on social? How can businesses protect customers?
Spammers and hackers often create fake social media profiles using a real brand name and logo, and pretend to be the customer service arm of a company. As they interact with unknowing consumers, they often get financial information or other sensitive data from them. Businesses need to be able to quickly identify these fake social accounts and determine whether any dialogue is happening between them and their customers in order to protect them.
A monitoring solution can help stop these accounts in their tracks. Proofpoint, for example, can identify fake accounts through the logos used and the type of communication happening between the fake account and the customer. We can determine whether or not sensitive data like credit card information has been exchanged, and quickly shut them down.
Are these risks just as big for small to midsized business as they are for large enterprise organizations?
Absolutely. Anybody—any brand that’s on social—can run into these issues. Since most businesses are on social to reach their customers and drive more sales, the question is: does the cost of handling these threats manually outweigh the cost of investing in solutions like automation tools? Any business—big or small—can benefit from using automation tools to reduce the risks and magnify the benefits of using social media.
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