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Mismanage your social media and it could impact on your bottom line. - Part 1

24 March 2014 | 04:21 am

16498592_mAn organisation’s reputation can be quickly damaged through the instant spread of bad news or a negative incident via social media. In a social world a crisis can begin on social media.  It only takes disgruntled customers to take to Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and the results can be costly.  Even worse, a disgruntled employee with access to corporate social media accounts can damage and discredit the company.

So is your business prepared? Are you vulnerable to attack? Senior managers need to recognise that social media poses real risks from both inside and outside the organisation that can have potentially devastating effects on the bottom line, United Airlines breaks guitars was one such case. A little-known Canadian country and western singer claimed that his guitar had been damaged by baggage handlers at Chicago's O'Hare airport and was frustrated by the company’s handling of his complaint. He took to YouTube to “name and shame” the company posting a song that chronicled his year-long attempt to win compensation from United. The video recorded 4 million hits and had other airlines offering him free tickets – a nightmare PR situation for United.

If you have any concerns at all about usage of social media in your organisation then you need to move it up the management agenda immediately. These are some of the threats and practices that could potentially harm your business as a result of the misuse of social media.

Insider Threats

Early in 2013 HMV faced huge embarrassment when disgruntled staff members used their access to the company’s Twitter account to live Tweet during the firing of employees as the company went into receivership.  This was the result of HMV not having a method of controlling access to its social media accounts.  Therefore, when a rogue employee started down this route it was impossible to close the person out. A full-scale campaign of store sit-ins followed which prolonged the period of negative publicity for the organisation.

Employees Sharing Confidential Information

Employees need to be made aware that their personal social media channels will be linked to the organisation they work for and therefore could come under the same scrutiny.  CFO of US clothing retailer found this out to his cost. He was fired for “improperly” communicating company information through social media. Francesca’s is a publicly traded company and the CFO was dismissed for sharing inside information.

Loss of Control over Access to Social Media Assets

Many organisations empower their employees or marketing agencies to create social media accounts on their behalf.  But who owns these accounts and who has ultimate control?  Accounts can be set up in minutes but who is responsible for keeping track of these communication channels? This means there are real real practicalities to consider.  What happens when an employee leaves an organisation along with usernames and passwords to social media accounts?  In the event of them being the only person with knowledge of this vital information the account ends up remaining dormant and the organisation has to start from scratch and restart to build its fan base all over again.

Theft of Company-Owned Assets 

An ex-employee can rename an organisation’s social media accounts if they have direct control of usernames and passwords.  There are known cases of ex-employees moving to a competitive organisation, changing the name of an account and immediately having contact with fans and followers on behalf of their new company.

Sharing Usernames and Passwords

Employees are often required to share password and login details in order to access social media accounts. With the integration of social media across an organisation, including customer services, there may be a requirement for hundreds of users to access a single Twitter account.  This situation happens in both corporate and government organisations.  However, very few entities have robust audit trails, therefore if a rogue post goes out the chances of identifying the source is typically impossible. Electronic audit trails are essential to tame social media misuse.

Social Service Responses 

Unanswered complaints and enquiries posted by customers on an organisation’s social media profiles can damage a company’s reputation and alienate its public.  Many businesses are already using social media to sell their products and follow what customers are saying about their services.  It’s just another way of meeting customer service expectations and maintaining competitive advantage.

Read Part 2 - Mismanage your social media and it could impact on your bottom line.

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