As a social marketer, you’re on the front lines of risk management. When communicating with a global audience on social media, you have a responsibility to reduce the risks. This includes taking measures to prevent potential hazards. That’s why a social media risk management plan must be an essential part of your brand strategy.
Below, let’s go over the biggest risks of social media that businesses must prepare for. We’ll also share expert tips from Hootsuite’s own social media team for assessing and mitigating those risks so your organization can safely publish and interact on social.
Bonus: Get a free, customizable social media policy template to quickly and easily create guidelines for your company and employees.
What is social media risk management?
Social media risk management is the process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks that stem from social media.
Your brand, customers, and employees are all active on social media. That means your social channels are a common ground where conversations — both good and bad — and crises can start.
What are the risks of social media for businesses?
Having a social media presence is essential for most brands. But every social channel has unique risks.
Let’s explore some potential risks businesses face on social media platforms. We’ll cover how staying proactive can help mitigate risk and protect your business.
Damage to reputation
Your company’s social presence contributes significantly to its overall brand reputation. Negative comments, inappropriate posts, or bad reviews can all damage your brand’s reputation.
Because social media is so public, social media crises can spiral out of control if they’re not addressed quickly. Depending on the severity of the situation and how it’s handled, these fallouts can also affect how people perceive your brand.
If your social account passwords get into the wrong hands, then a security breach is a major risk.
A security breach can have serious consequences. Spammy posts may be published on your account, your team may be locked out, and customer data may be stolen. Any of these scenarios can also damage your brand trust, so it’s critical to have security protocols in place.
Security breaches can also become a risk if someone on your marketing or social team leaves the organization.
To ensure your social media accounts are secure, create a clear plan for times of transition. That way, you can quickly remove access to social accounts for employees who are no longer with the company.
Social media compliance refers to following rules and regulations set by regulatory bodies, social platforms, and your own company. This includes adhering to the guidelines of each platform. Your industry may require additional caution when using social media. Ensure that you remain compliant with industry regulations when posting online.
Brands can face legal troubles if they post something violating a law, regulation, or contract.
For example, if you work with brand partners or influencers for sponsored content or giveaways, make sure you’re following advertising regulations.
Have your legal team review all contracts. They should give the green light on the social content that all parties plan to share.
In addition to watching for compliance violations, your legal team’s protocols should also be a top priority. And your responsibility doesn’t necessarily stop at your business’s official social posts. You should also have a policy that covers your employees’ social activity and conduct if you want to avoid legal issues.
You should encourage employees to share exciting work updates online. But you should also have social media guidelines covering what they can and cannot post. This is especially important if your business operates in a regulated industry.
Any negative situation, like a PR crisis, compliance violation, or security breach, can compound into bigger issues. These may eventually impact your company’s bottom line. Just ask pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Its stock fell 4.37% in the fall of 2022 when a fake account tweeted that insulin was free.
The potential of a financial fallout is another major reason why having a solid social media risk management plan is essential when you’re active on social media.
5 steps to managing risk on social media
We asked Trish Riswick, Hootsuite’s own Social Engagement Specialist, for her top tips to help you manage different social media risks. Follow these steps and best practices to create a solid social media risk management plan.
1. Define your social media policy
The first step in managing risk on social media is to have a clearly defined social media policy.
Your organization’s social media policy should outline a plan of action for different scenarios. These may include emergencies, PR crises, or security breaches.
The policy should clearly state what everyone’s roles are in crisis scenarios — from the legal team to PR to customer service.
Your social media policy should also cover what to do when someone who manages your brand’s social media leaves the organization.
Define your handover process and outline the steps you need to take to secure your accounts. Make sure that everything will continue to run smoothly in their absence.
2. Train your employees
Your employees are some of your company’s best brand advocates. But without clear guidelines or regular training, employees can put your business at risk. They may post something that is not compliant or that could damage your reputation.
“Many employees want to be more active on social and want to showcase what they’re doing at their company,” says Riswick. “However, they need to understand what they can and cannot post.”
This is where social media guidelines for employees come into play. Your risk management plan should include a social media policy that addresses what employees can share on their social accounts. It should cover everything from confidentiality to industry regulations.
Ultimately, employees should be encouraged to share work or company updates on social media. Employee posts can help amplify your business activities and get your company in front of a larger audience.
To ensure employees are posting safely, use a tool like Hootsuite Amplify. Amplify enables you to generate on-brand, pre-approved social media content. These posts can be conveniently shared by employees when they want to post an update about the company.
3. Monitor your social media accounts
Brands must keep a close eye on their mentions so they can quickly step in if needed. But it’s not just the social team who needs to monitor social chatter.
Depending on the nature of a conversation, teams like customer service or PR may need to be looped in.
To make sure that mentions are seen by the right teams, you need a clear process for routing information.
“A lot of information can get lost when moving from team to team,” says Riswick. The solution? Riswick recommends having an internal system to flag and relay critical messages.
“Categorizing and tagging messages helps more people in the company have eyes on what is happening. They can use that information to improve their area of the organization.”
4. Respond promptly to negative feedback
Social moves fast. A negative comment or review can gain traction within minutes or even seconds. It’s critical to have a response plan ready to go so you can address feedback the instant it comes up.
“My best practice is to always move that conversation from public to private as quickly as possible. Negativity breeds more negativity,” suggests Riswick.
If a customer brings an issue to your attention through one of your social channels, start by addressing it publicly. You want to let them know you are aware of the issue. Then, take the conversation to a private channel to sort out the problem.
Responding promptly to negative feedback on social also helps avoid a potential PR nightmare that can snowball from public negative comments.
5. Review and revise your policy on a regular basis
Your organization’s social media policy isn’t set in stone — it should be revised as often as social media changes.
“In order to stay compliant within your industry, you need to revise your policy on a regular basis,” says Riswick. “This not only protects the brand but, more importantly, protects employees.”
Stay informed about emerging trends and new social media platforms. Monitor industry regulations and federal, state, and local laws. Use the info you find to revise your policy as needed.
When you make changes, update employees. This ensures they are always aware of what is and isn’t okay to post.
4 tools for social media risk management
If you want to improve your brand’s approach to social media risk management, here are a few tools to keep in your tech stack.
The key to mitigating a potential social media crisis is to spot it early, and Hootsuite helps with that. You can use Hootsuite to keep an eye on brand mentions, assess brand sentiment, and quickly step in to address feedback or customer issues.
Hootsuite Streams is an easy way to approach social listening. It lets you see everything that’s happening on social, not just on your accounts. You can monitor specific phrases or hashtags and can keep an eye on developing conversations.
You can also use Streams to track the mentions where people tag your accounts on social.
If you want to level up your social media customer service, Hootsuite Inbox allows you to manage all of your social media messages in one place. This includes private DMs, public comments, emoji reactions, and more.
Want to track all online mentions? Including ones outside of your social channels? Mentionlytics alerts you of all brand or keyword mentions from across the web. This includes news articles as well as social channels — even YouTube and Reddit.
NetBase is a social listening and analysis tool. It allows you to monitor both owned and earned conversations using custom streams created directly in Hootsuite. The app helps your brand stay on top of everything from customer feedback to PR and digital campaigns.
There are several major risks for brands active on social media. These can include security breaches, compliance violations, legal action, and negative feedback. These risks can have serious consequences, including reputation damage and financial or legal repercussions.
How can organizations manage the risk of social media?
Organizations can manage the risks of social media by developing a social media risk management plan. The plan should outline a clear process to follow when a potential social crisis arises.
How can social media risks be mitigated?
There are several ways to mitigate social media risks. Start by creating a social media policy, training your employees, monitoring your social accounts, and responding promptly to negative feedback.
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