It's no surprise that many brands hold out on joining the social networks because of fear of risk.
Ever heard people in your organization state the following?
Our customers and prospects aren't on social media so it doesn't matter anyway.
If we avoid Twitter then we avoid risk.
If we stay off the social networks we won't have a problem.
We must control what our employees say and do online.
We need a policy so we can control.
Our employees don't need access to Facebook from work.
Facebook is for kids. Don't worry about it.
The truth is that there is no opt-out of social media. Your clients, prospects, employees and broader community are on the social networks regardless if you are or not. Social media will reveal your organization from the inside out. Empowering your employees is a must so that you can shine the best you possible.
Ignoring social media is not going to make it go away and it will increase your risk of a future problem or crisis more than it will help.
Social media is truly creating a revolution for brands of all sizes. Brands can no longer hide behind corporate collateral, websites and glossy brand images. Now, your employees are on the front lines. Your brand is likely being talked about in online circles 24/7 across the globe.
The best thing you can do is accept the fact that social media is here to stay and figure out how you can integrate it to the DNA of your business. It's not a band-aid you slap on to solve the latest marketing or sale pipeline problem.
Think not what can the technology do for you but instead, what can you do with the technology?
17 Tips to Mitigate Social Media Risk
1. Acknowledge your audience and customers are on Facebook.
Learn quick that your customers, employees, future clients and community is on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, even if you are not!
Regardless if you have chosen to keep your brand far from the social networks, there is still a conversation happening in your honor. You might as well join the conversation. Start by listening via social technology listening tools to learn what is being said about you, your employees and your brand. Then you can move on to engaging and becoming a part of the healthy beating heart of social media.
2. Acknowledge risk exists for your brand.
You can't mitigate what you don't acknowledge. The first step is to acknowledge there is risk associated with social networks and your brand. The key is to acknowledge, identify, mitigate and plan for the risk. Manage it proactively versus letting it catch you by surprise.
3. Staying off of the social networks does not mitigate the risk.
There is no “off button” when it comes to social media. You can't choose to opt-out. Because the rest of the world IS on social media, the fact that you decide to stay off of the social networks does not mitigate your risk. Chances are a good majority (if not close to all) of your employees are already using social media. Ignoring this fact is a bigger risk than engaging in social media activities.
4. Don't wing it.
Take time to develop a social business strategy and plan. This includes setting goals, objectives and knowing your audience. Becoming a social business is a journey, not a destination. Why are you leveraging social media? What is your vision? What is the roadmap that will help you reach your goals? What does success look like? Who needs to join you on your journey and why?
In order to achieve a real return on your investment you will need to align social media to business goals and objectives where it can have a positive impact.
Eliminate the Random Acts of Marketing (RAMs) by integrating and aligning. RAMs will eat every last morsel of your ROI before you have time to figure out what's for breakfast!
5. Look at social media governance and policy as guidance, not just control.
Social media governance and policy implemented correctly can empower your employees more than it will control them.
The goal is to empower them and ignite their hearts and minds to want to be loyal brand evangelists. You must give them more than a job if you don't want them bashing you on the social networks to their family and friends.
A social media policy will protect both your brand and your employees from risk. When developing the social media policy and establishing governance, make sure to include the proper stakeholders internally such as human resources, sales, marketing, legal and customer service.
6. Empowering employees, empowers your brand.
Your brand is your employees, period! If you can't trust your employees why should your clients trust your brand which is made up of your employees? Your employees are making hundreds if not thousands to hundreds of thousands of brand impressions each and every day on the social networks.
When you choose to ignore social media, you choose to ignore these conversations are happening. As a result you are also choosing to ignore the fact that both good and bad impressions are being made with or without your involvement or consent.
Consider creating a center of excellence where employees can collaborate, learn and help one another succeed. Within these centers of excellence standard processes and procedures will be developed that can help mitigate risk, empower employees and increase likelihood of success for the brand and the people within.
7. Brands can't be perfect because human beings are not perfect.
Bottom line, brands are made up of human beings. Human beings are obviously not perfect. This means your brand can not be perfect.
Your employees are going to make mistakes. They will make big mistakes. You must plan for it and be ready to manage the risk when it happens.
There is no policy you can implement that is going to ensure perfection and that your employees never make mistakes.
As with everything in life, business and social media, embrace imperfect perfection.
8. Don't wait until you have a crisis to implement a crisis management plan.
Do you think a crisis is likely to happen during working hours or on a Saturday night at 10:00 pm when your social media staff is out having fun? You guessed it. The crisis may very well happen on Saturday night.
When a crisis happens, what is the process your team should follow to mitigate the risk? When do they escalate to management? Who do they escalate it to? How do they handle the situation? When and how do you respond to an irate social network community member? How do you mitigate the risk when your team is scattered all over the globe and it's 12:00 midnight?
9. Hire smart.
Hire people you can trust and want to invest and empower. If you can't trust your employees on the social networks, it may very well be a hiring and personnel problem you have, versus a problem with the social networks.
10. Be careful who gets the social media keys!
Don't just hire an intern you just met via one 30 minute interview to manage your entire social media presence and strategy. Social media should be integrated into your marketing and business processes and activities. Ensure that your social media team is thinking bigger than Facebook or LinkedIn. They should be aligning to business goals and focusing on needs of audience.
Hiring interns can work for many brands. However, make sure that you assign them responsibilities that are appropriate for their skills, experience and knowledge of your brand and audience needs. Just because they know Facebook and Twitter doesn't mean they know how to represent your brand and communicate your brand promise to your most important clients who may very well be communicating with them on Facebook!
You better be ready for whoever is representing your brand on the social networks to be quoted by the media. Anything and everything your brand page posts, tweets, pins or does online can easily be copied, pasted, blogged about and published on any new or traditional media including TV and radio.
11. Focus on value to your audience and relationships that last.
One of the easiest ways to damage your brand is to launch a social media program focused only on selling. You must first think of the needs of your audience. What is it they want and need from you? How can you provide the highest value possible.
If you only tweet, post, pin and Facebook content about yourself and your brand you are very likely going to be viewed as a spammer and self centered brand by those who come in contact with you.
Throw away the old spam tactics and focus on building relationships that will endure the technology evolution.
12. Create an editorial calendar.
Create an editorial calendar that aligns the content you publish on the social networks and blogs with the needs of your audience.
The content editorial calendar will prevent your teams from “winging it” and also help ensure a more consistent message that supports your value proposition and key messages.
Of course you must still remain dynamic and communicate as a human being. You must also be agile and be able to communicate with your audiences real-time.
The editorial calendar will simply help you be consistent and much more efficient in how you develop and publish content for consumption for all audiences.
13. Create a master social media logon list.
I know this sounds easy and something that would not be overlooked. However, the majority of brands that start working with us, don't have this. They are usually scrambling to find the logons to the social networks.
The appropriate members of your social team should have access to the list at all times. They should be able to access it in a moment's notice, even if on a Saturday night to mitigate risk from a crisis.
14. Be careful what applications are authorized to use social networks.
It is a good idea to visit your social network authorizations at least once a week if you have more than one person working on them. You should develop a policy for what application require approval before authorizing integration / sign-on via your social network accounts. This is very important.
15. Consider investing in brand dedicated devices.
If you have a social media team who is executing your social media for your brand, it is a good idea to invest in a dedicated device. This way you can keep their personal social network accounts separate from the brand pages. With applications such as Hootsuite and others, it is one easy click to accidentally post to the wrong account. This has happened to numerous brand with much negative PR back lash. Don't let it happen to your brand.
16. Ban the social media ban.
Is it really appropriate for you to ban social network use by your employees while they are at work? If you currently have a social media “ban” in place, I highly encourage you to reassess if it is necessary. Are you doing your brand more damage than good?
If you don't know where to start with this, hire a 3rd party such as agency or consultant to help you. Avoiding risk and banning are activities that may very well be hurting your brand more than helping it.
17. Acknowledge you need help.
If none of this makes sense to you or if you don't know where to start, get some help. It will be better to have a partner who can help you through the valleys and mountains versus trying to do this on your own. We help brands of all sizes, from entrepreneurs to Fortune 100 organizations. We can start with a social media or social business audit. We do everything from custom workshops, employee training programs, development of social media policies to comprehensive planning and do for you execution.
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