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Boardroom Basics: Social Media Risk – Hype or Reality?

24 April 2014 | 09:19 am

10103568_mlSocial media faux pas receive much publicity but are they a one-minute wonder or do they have a serious impact on your business?

The last week has seen much reporting on the misuse of social media and some of the consequences as a result of this. US Airways, part of American Airlines, accidentally tweeted a pornographic photograph to a passenger who was sitting on a delayed aircraft. This image remained on Twitter for an hour and was retweeted millions of times. Was this just a case of a mistake that has been forgotten about a week later or are there longer-term consequences?

It is always difficult to quantify the damage to a business as a result of misuse of social media but in this case a number of things happened. Firstly, the corporate Twitter account was suspended immediately the error was discovered. This removed a key customer engagement tool that must have impacted on customer service in the short term. The reputation of the airline may also have been damaged, as it became a laughing stock around the world. Finally, although difficult to actually attribute to the error, the share price of American airlines fell almost $4 per share in the two days following the incident; however, this has since gone back up.

Only yesterday it was demonstrated how a seemingly innocent social media campaign can impact on the reputation of an organisation. The New York Police Department launched a campaign through Twitter requesting that users share pictures of themselves posing with police officers with the best of them to be featured on their Facebook page.  Unfortunately, this resulted in not only happy smiling photographs being sent in, but the posting of some photos that some claimed showed images of police brutality.

The way the NYPD have dealt with this is to be applauded. They have not shied away from the results but have embraced the fact that social media has created new ways to communicate effectively with the community and provided “an open forum for an uncensored exchange” that is “good for our city."

The internet is awash with reports and lists of social media faux pas from hacking of accounts to malicious postings from disaffected employees. Therefore, the risks of using social media are not to be taken lightly and these risks are not hyped but are a reality. Taking measures to prevent them, as you do with other policies such as health and safety, will help you reduce the risks to your business. You do not want to be the next headline maker and butt of jokes so take your social media risks seriously and look at how you operate now, not after the damage has been done.

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