A Marketing Land survey examining corporate social media risks and rewards from advisory firm Grant Thornton found that 71 percent of the executives polled said their company was concerned about possible risks posed by social media. Those worries are well founded. The Network published an article breaking down the costs for large companies of poor social media compliance training and put the overall number at $3.5 million per social media incident. The breakdown: direct financial costs ($641K), reputation damage ($638K), lost revenue ($619K), reduction in stock price ($1M) and litigation costs ($650K). Obviously not all social media incidents are the same, and mileage as well as costs will vary depending on your size and exposure. However, no matter what you’re size, any social media incident will likely incur costs in some, if not all, of the areas mentioned above. That makes social media use, and broad adoption a concern for executives and managers. This is especially relevant today as more and more brands seek to activate their employees to share on social media on behalf of the company. In this article I’ll look at some of the top concerns executives and managers have regarding social media content, interaction, and policies. I’ll then look at two distinctly different approaches to mitigating the risks. First, let’s look at some of the most common concerns about social media from executives and managers.
Concern 1: Legal issues
There are a host of legal issues surrounding social media content, use and interaction including the following:
Copyright infringement. Many social media content creators don’t verify copyright, properly attribute or have a clear understanding of fair use rules.
Trademark infringement. Fewer social media content creators and managers check for trademark infringement, or follow best practices to avoid trademark infringement.Proper disclosure of affiliations, compensation, relationship when writing about or reviewing companies, products, and services as regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.
National Labor Relations Board regulations and guidelines regarding fair and appropriate social media policies.
Employee, consumer, and corporate privacy. Data and information for all three entities must be protected or it opens the brand up to litigation or harm due to exposure of trade secrets.
Defamation. Some social forums aren’t moderated closely enough, and many don’t have a basic appropriate use policy in place.
Issues in any of these areas can lead to problems that range from headache grade to full scale litigation. Social media community management and content marketing are hard enough without having to worry about all of these things. Executives and managers want to feel confident their social media team is up to speed on how to do things right, and that there are checks and balances in the process to help ensure the wrong things don’t happen.
Concern 2: Policies
Social media policies continue to be problem area for many organizations. Social media policies are such a concern I wrote an article on why organizations should consider updating their policies more regularly. In that I referenced an Associations Now article that stated “78 percent of organizations surveyed have some sort of policy in place.” That means 22 percent don’t have policy and are leaving themselves exposed in a variety of ways to employee misuse of social media either intentional or unintentional. It’s also likely that many of the policies in place are sorely in need of update. What are the issues? There are many, starting with how to get started. Re-examining social media policies takes time, effort, and input from a lot of different sources. Executives and managers are cautious about opening that can of worms due to the amount of time and resources the process can take. More than that, many don’t feel like they have a good idea where to begin.
Beyond getting started, social media policies are increasingly being impacted by decisions from regulatory bodies like the Federal Trade Commission and the National Labor Relations Board. Just keeping up the current regulations, rulings, and decisions surrounding social media policies can be daunting. In addition, organizations generally need to be better about training their employees on what the social media policies are. As I stated in the policy article, it’s not good enough to tell people about the policy or ask them to read it. Employees need to receive training on the social media policies. Executives and managers want to stay up to date and feel confident that the organization is protected and that employees have good, clear guidance. At the same time, they don’t want polices, and the policy update process to be a black box that they are afraid to touch.
Concern 3: Dealing with negative online feedback
No matter what size your organization, executives and manager worry about negative online comments. Comments posted in response to content, or in online forums about products and services can potentially damage the brand, and require some sort of response. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that this is an open ended proposition – anyone can say anything. Most people realize that anyone can say anything about you online anyway, but it hits closer to home when those comments come attached to your company page, or piece of content. Executives and managers want to feel a level of comfort about the fact that their social media, customer service, and public relations people can handle this.
Concern 4: Employee misuse of social media
This is an area of growing concern for executives and managers. Maximize Social Business published an article with some results from a 2014 survey of 110 businesses by the law firm Proskauer and found that only 37.5% of the business provide employee training on the appropriate use of social media, while 52.3% of the respondents said that they have faced employee misuse of social media. Of those, 71.2% have had to take disciplinary action due to employee misuse of social media). This is why executives and managers are concerned. Each time that happens there are costs. Direct financial costs, and the potential for reputation damage, lost revenue, reduction in stock price, and litigation costs. And no-one wants to deal with employee issues. What’s worse is that, in the same survey, 81% of the respondents predicted that the misuse of social media will become more of an issue in the future. Moreover, the article points out that only a paltry 17.5% of businesses have provisions protecting against misuse of social media by former employees. So there’s a lot to be concerned about.
Concern 5: How to ensure social media activities are relevant to the business
Many executives and managers still have concerns that the driving force behind their social media plan is FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. Being on social media for the sake of being on social media. They’re having difficulty connecting social media activities to business outcomes. They get reports of growth in likes and followers, but don’t see how that translates to business goals. An eMarketerarticle covered a survey commissioned by SimplyMeasured and conducted by TrustRadius of 600 social media marketers in June of 2015 and results are scary. Across the board, nearly 50% of small, medium, and enterprise size businesses had difficulty connecting social media activities to business outcomes. What do executives and managers want? That’s simple. Clear reporting that shows how social media activities are helping achieve defined and relevant business goals. They want to see how social activities are generating new leads, supporting sales, improving customer service, and fostering customer relationships.
Concern 6: Measuring ROI of social media activities
Moving up a notch in that same eMarketer graphic, the top concern, and challenge, continues to be effective measurement, calculation and reporting of social media return on investment. Nearly 60% of businesses of all sizes have difficulty doing this. Many probably aren’t doing much more than eyeballing charts to make sure the lines are moving in the same direction. As business use of social media becomes more entrenched from the marketing, sales, and customer service perspective, and more required from the consumer perspective, more money and more resources will be applied to it. It can’t continue to be a black whole. Executives and managers want to bring measurement and reporting out of the dark ages. They need issues five and six addressed so they see how social media is impacting the business, and thoughtfully optimize processes and plans for growth.
Yin and Yang of Responses
Amazingly, even with all of these concerns, many executives and managers take no action. Others take a rigid discouraging approach. That same Maximize Social Business article reported that 58.8% of respondents in their survey monitored employee use of social media at work, and 64% blocked employee access to social media sites at work, treating social media as a distraction, and something from which their employees need protection.
With the ubiquitous nature of smartphones that can easily bypass WI-FI networks, and therefore, network restrictions, many question if access to social media sites really can be restricted. Furthermore, there is mounting evidence the organizations should be encouraging their employees to participate in social networks on their behalf. A recent Gallup survey showed the companies with a large number of socially engaged employees have better productivity and help those companies achieve higher earnings per share. In addition, Adobe’s digital marking team noted that people want to connect with employees who work for brands, not just social media team member or PR people. When employees engage it creates trust and a number of other benefits for the brand and employees.
A 4-Step Approach: Empowering Your Team Combined with Training and Thoughtful Processes
Other organizations seek to empower their employees. We’re in this camp for two reasons. First, it addresses the fact that social networks are readily accessible and that people have a desire to connect and share. Second because of the benefits to brands are so great. But organizations that seek to empower their employees need to thoughtfully address the concerns listed above. The way we help our clients do that is through four steps:
Policies: Strong, clear policies are the cornerstone of a socially engaged organization that is thoughtful and compliant. Compliant with their values as well as internal and external regulations. Organizations should have a policy process that addresses two things: clarity and the changing landscape of social media. Clarity in policies is best achieved, in our experience by including lots of concrete examples. Examples that everyday people, your employees, can easily understand. To make sure policies don’t stagnate, they need to be taken out of the black box. They need to be reviewed and updated regularly by a workgroup make up of people from all parts of the organization the must review and sign-off on the policies. Policy changes should be incorporated quickly, and published regularly.
Training: Social media training needs to be built into your brand’s employee experience. New employees (and all existing employees) should get basic social media training when they are onboarded. Training on those social media policies, and basic training on social media interactions and organizational expectations. Social media team members and anyone sharing on social media on behalf of the organization should get advanced training that addresses those legal concerns like copyright, FTC regulations and so forth. Like the social media policies, that training should include very concrete examples that are clear and easy to understand. In addition, organizations often need training on tools and technology so that they can accurately measure and clearly reports social media activities. Beyond initial training, socially active organizations need to hold refresher trainings for everyone at regular intervals. One nice thing about these training is that employees often see them as a perk.
Process Implementation: If training provides the path for dealing with the concerns listed earlier in this article, good process provides the guardrails along the way. Having a good process in place for content creation, sharing, community monitoring, feedback response, and social service, as well as for consistent monitoring and review will make every member of your extended social media team better. Good process helps the team work together to double-check work before it’s published. It can keep things like copyright checks, disclosures, and proper attribution from falling through the cracks.
Getting Outside Help: These are sometimes three dirty little words. No team or department likes to admit they need help. It doesn’t matter whether you’re just too busy to get to it, or you just aren’t good at doing it, getting help is better than letting something sit. Especially if that something can potentially cost you a lot of money if the wrong set of circumstances converge. If policies just aren’t getting updated, if you still only generate content at the last minute, or if responding to one piece of negative feedback kills an afternoon for the entire team, you need help. Training help, process help, policy help, or help with all three. Forget asking why. Accept that you need some help, and get it. It will make things better.
Over to you
If you have stories about how training, or process, or getting outside help has helped, or hurt, some of the core social media challenges you were facing, let me know in the comments.