Risky Business: How to Protect Your Social Media Presence

Posted by Emily Lange Rodecker on May 14, 2013

Social media has a love-hate relationship with risk. You’re encouraged and expected to take some risks by trying new content concepts, playing around with your posting schedule, and developing methods to elicit customer engagement. Being at the mercy of your customers, fans, and followers can be risky indeed – but it can also prove beneficial for your marketing, brand awareness, and customer service efforts.

But what about those other risks, such as those that involve human error? Mistakes happen – and they could land you in hot water with your employer, the media, the law, or industry regulatory bodies.Not to mention the potential risk to your reputation, risk with your employees using social media personally and professionally, and risks to your account security.

Manage Social Risk


Standing quietly and safely on the sidelines

is no longer an option. Social media continues to maintain a strong foothold in the business world, making it necessary to get your company online and into the social sphere.

So what can you do to mitigate these risks and ensure a secure social presence?

Risk: Employee Error
Imagine a rogue and regretful tweet has posted from your account and caught the attention of a very influential blogger. He notices it’s an error, and instead of politely notifying your social media manager, he shares the blunder with his entire network. Your team now has to stop everything and get on damage control. Representatives from marketing, PR, legal, and customer service are on the case – instead of dealing with their regular workload. Depending on your company rules or the level of offensiveness in this accidental tweet, you may have to let that employee go. If so, you’re now without a social media mana­­ger in the midst of a social PR crisis. Yikes.

How to Manage It:

  • Create a detailed social media policy that specifically outlines what’s allowed and what’s not (and includes the repercussions that could result from breaking the rules).
  • Conduct regular training sessions to keep your staff educated and up to speed on the latest rules, regulations, and procedures.
  • If you are going to encourage your employees to use mobile devices to access social media for your company account, consider supplying a department device to lessen the chance of personal account confusion.
  • Gremln’s enterprise offerings include the ability to supervise your team social media efforts. From monitoring the keywords and phrases you want to prohibit from posts to providing varying levels of access to each team member, you can implement safeguards to help protect your account.

Risk: Online Reputation
It’s likely that your company is being mentioned online even if you don’t have an active social media presence. Customers can say anything they want about your brand and your products/services. It’s pretty risky to let that go unmonitored! The financial industry regulatory bodies (FFIEC, SEC, and FINRA) have all strongly suggested banks get online to protect their good name and diminish the potential reputation damage done when customer comments, questions, and frustrations are left unanswered. Even if you aren’t in the financial industry, it’s a good rule of thumb to be aware of what’s being said about your business.

How to Manage It:

  • Defend your brand when negative comments are expressed by finding out what the problem is and how you can amend the situation. Respond quickly, kindly, and concisely.
  • Run searches of social networks and blog posts to see how your company or brand is being mentioned taking care to include common misspellings, acronyms, or nicknames your company may have.
  • Think before you respond to every post that mentions your company name or issues a complaint. In some cases, spammers or trolls will be encroaching on your social media space and do not deserve your time. Consider this before you post: will participating in such a negative conversation make the situation better, or worse? You don’t want your brand to appear condescending, self-righteous, or petty – so if you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Risk: Fraudulent Accounts
What’s stopping anyone from “brandjacking” your company on social media? These accounts can be seen as satire, and are therefore in legal realm (unless particularly libelous) so it is entirely possible for someone to find a reason to create a moniker aligned with your brand, leaving with you with little to do in terms of shutting it down. Fraudulent accounts happen – and have been known to do brand damage. Someone created a Twitter account for @BPGlobalPR when BP was dealing with the oil spill in the gulf and tweeted insensitive comments. UK bank Tesco suffered from a pseudo Twitter account that targeted unknowing customers and attempted to steal personal account information. Several fake credit union accounts have been popping up recently, attempting to bamboozle unsuspecting followers into submitting financially sensitive information. Don’t let this happen to you!

How to Manage It:

  • Claim your social accounts and handles to protect against fraudulent accounts being created in your name. Even if you haven’t figured out exactly how you want to use social media for your company, register for your brand name, common misspellings of your name, popular acronyms.
  • Report instances of fraud to the social networks. Know the steps to take so if a fraudulent account is created in your name and is libelous in nature, you can get take immediate action.
  • If you’re a large brand, research the steps you can take to “verify” your accounts with Twitter Verification and Google Plus. (Sadly, not every business has enough ‘cred’ for this, and not every social network provides this as an option.)
  • Get your logo and any other company-affiliated collateral copyrighted and make it clear that you have such a copyright clearly visible on your social media profile pages, so you can take legal action against those who are using your material illegally.

Risk: Account Security
Worried your account might get hacked? It’s been happening quite a bit lately; Burger King, The Associated PressThe Guardian, E! Online, and The Onion are just a few extremely public accounts that have experienced a hack within the past few months. Know what you can to do to protect yourself against ever getting hacked, as well as how to immediately jump into action should your account be compromised.

How to Manage It:

  • A memo sent by Twitter to The Guardian contained the following advice for protecting the organizations’ Twitter accounts: “Change your Twitter account passwords… never send passwords via email, even internally. Ensure that passwords are strong – at least 20 characters long. Use either randomly-generated passwords (like ‘LauH6maicaza1Neez3zi) or a random string of words (like ‘hewn clothes titles yachts refine’). It’s definitely worth taking a look at the various social networks’ suggested security measures (TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus)
  • It may seem self-explanatory, but be sure to educate your staff and board members on Internet safety precautions. For example, don't open emails from suspicious or unknown parties; if you do happen to open those emails, do not click on any suspicious or unknown links.
  • Have protocol in place for a potential hack or suspected hack – change your passwords immediately, notify the social network to the situation, and alert your customers or social audience so they know not to trust unusual activity from your account.
  • Know the steps for how to counter such a breach even if you’ve never been hacked and don’t “expect” it to happen. If the unthinkable happens and your account is compromised, you can take immediate action rather than having to do all the research while you’re under siege.

RiskBlurring the Line of Personal and Professional
Your employees may use social media personally or professionally – if they’re well-known in their fields or list the company name in their online bio, there’s risk associated with letting them post as they please. While of course you don’t want an employee complaining about how much they hate their job to all their friends and followers, you also don’t want gabby (albeit well-intentioned) staffers sharing not-yet-released company projects or proprietary information.

How to Manage It:

  • Spend some time with your human resources department to decide how you want to allow social media use and company affiliation with your employees. You want to make sure you don’t hinder employee rights, but also be careful to protect your brand and company. A social media policy, clear roles & responsibilities, and secure platforms (like Gremln!) for accessing your social media accounts can all help in managing the risk of employee social media use.
  • Be overtly clear with your employees concerning confidential information so they are aware of content that should not be posted under any circumstances.
  • Social media use and the workplace is a topic currently under debate. Many states in the US are currently working on legislation to address employee rights and business social media policies. Make sure you stay up-to-date with the latest state laws and regulations.


What it boils down to is this: the more effort you put in to your social media program on the front end – with trained, educated employees, proper safety precautions, and tools to help you stay compliant – the more you’ll protect your social media accounts, saving your company time and resources in the long run. Your front-end security measures will make your social media team run more smoothly and efficiently.

What are your safeguarding measures to protect your social media accounts from risky business?

Topics: Business, business, facebook, linkedin, risk management, social media, Social Media for Small Business, twitter

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