Maddie Grant of SocialFish sent me the link to Altimeter Group’s Guarding the Social Gates: The Imperative for Social Media Risk Management. My initial response was rather snarky – “D’oh! That’s what I have been saying” – there is nothing new here. But after thinking about it, anything that gets associations to use risk management is a good thing. Altimeter Group is a highly respected consultancy and its call to action will get people’s attention far beyond anything I could ever do.
Social Media Risk Management Staff?
Altimeter Group “surveyed 92 professionals from various industries and backgrounds who, in their current professional roles, said that social media risk management was their primary job function or a significant part of their professional responsibilities.” There are social media risk managers? Obviously Altimeter only spoke with very large companies. Very few businesses and even fewer associations have a social media staff of that size. An association’s social media staff (if it has one) is usually small and doubtful the term risk management appears anywhere in the job description (although it should).
The report states in the section Social Media has Unrecognized Risks: “Companies are often aware of the risks at some level, but instead of taking specific concrete actions they cross their fingers and hope they dodge the bullet.” No truer words have ever been written but it doesn’t only apply to social media risk management. Very few organizations (only the biggest) including associations have a formal risk management program, much less a department. Most have had good luck and nothing bad has happened yet.
New Types of Risk?
The Executive Summary begins with: “Social media is the modern Pandora’s box: it has had a meteoric rise as a tool to interact and engage with customers, but also a dark underside exposing companies to new types of risk.” I beg to differ (New Media – Old Risks); the risks of social media are not new. The risks identified in the report have existed forever:
- Damage to its reputation (brand);
- Release of confidential or proprietary information;
- Legal, regulatory and compliance violations; and
- Identity theft or hijacking.
However the difference today is that social media enables the wider and quicker dissemination of either good or bad information. You have to be ready to respond immediately, it can’t wait until Monday or your response has been through multiple rounds of management approval.
The report offers valuable information and guidance, but it is written for large organizations with a dedicated social media staff and perhaps with an enterprise-wide risk management program. The challenge is to translate this call to action so it works for associations of all shapes and sizes. I’m working with my friends at SocialFish to create this for you.
In the meantime, read the report, takes notes, figure out how you can make it work for your association. It includes a review of the risk management process (1) identify, (2) assess and prioritize; (3) mitigate and manage risks and (4) evaluate and modify your responses and works through some of the social media risks. Learn more about the social media risks and receive valuable techniques to safeguard your organization.
Also don’t forget: while social media can cause a problem, it is also an excellent technique to respond to all types of negative events. People go to social media sites to learn more about a problem and how the organization is responding to the incident. During natural disasters or other unusual events (e.g. the Aurora shooting) people use Facebook and Twitter to let their family and friends now they are OK. The American Red Cross and local governmental entities will tweet and post useful information during and after the event. Social media should be a part of your disaster recovery and business continuity plans. It is also an essential element of your crisis communications plan.
Although I take exception to establishing only a social media risk management plan, anything that gets people to focus on the practice of risk management is a good thing. Take the principles and techniques in the report to establish your risk management program for the entire association and all of its most significant threats.
So get moving – manage those risks now. Contact SocialFish or comment on this post if you would be interested in an association-specific social media risk management toolkit.