There are over 2.2 billion active social media users worldwide, which, considering the entire global population is around 7.3 billion, means that there is a lot of pressure on companies to engage in social media activities through fear of being left behind in competitive new markets. Many companies are uncertain about social media, not just because they haven’t got a complete grasp of how to use it effectively, but also because the use of social media within your business can bring great risks. Here are 5 ways an active social media presence can increase your business risk:
EXCESSIVE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE WORKPLACE
Some companies ban the use of social media completely during company hours, some only allow access to marketing and digital teams, and some encourage employees to be as active on social media as possible. Most companies now have their own social media policies, but businesses who employ an open, free-use policy can find themselves at risk from excessive social media use in the workplace. This can have a serious impact on productivity and employee focus, and increase exposure to viruses or malware.
DAMAGE FROM INSIDE THE BUSINESS
While you may be able to control or regulate employees’ use of social media within the workplace, activity outside of work hours is much harder to control. Employees can unwittingly damage a company’s image through inappropriate online conversations or spontaneously posting things that reflect badly on a business. Many employees take to their own social media accounts to vent about frustrations in their work life, and this can have a negative effect on recruitment, morale and business reputation. In larger high profile businesses, this can spark a chain of events that ends in lawsuits and people losing their jobs. Careless use of social media can also bring management practices under severe scrutiny, as well as damaging business deals and relationships.
When Twitter CFO Anthony Noto, publicly tweeted: “I still think we should buy them. He is on your schedule for Dec 15 or 16–we will need to sell him. I have a plan.” It was clearly intended to be a private message, but it kicked up a storm of speculation surrounding who Twitter were about to buy and a string of negative media coverage.
DAMAGE FROM OUTSIDE THE BUSINESS
One of the benefits of social media is that it enables businesses to interact with consumers on a far more personal level. It also enables customers, clients or associates to publicly express their views about a business. In many cases scores of negative reviews or comments can be crippling for sales and public image. Positive attempts to use social media to your company’s advantage can easily be turned against you by an unforgiving public.
In 2014 the New York City Police Department fell victim to this sort of negative backlash, after tweeting: “Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD”. They were hoping to raise awareness around how much work the NYPD do in the community, however, hundreds of people used the hashtag to highlight images of police brutality, once again seriously damaging the NYPD’s reputation and fuelling tension on the streets.
No one is immune to hacking. Even Microsoft’s official blog and social media accounts were hacked multiple times in 2014 by the Syrian Electronic Army, in order to post pro-Bashar al-Assad messages. While this stunt perhaps did not damage Microsoft as a business, it did highlight that even the world’s most powerful technology companies are at risk to cyber-hacking. Even Twitter executives have had their Twitter accounts hacked, and Anthony Noto was in the headlines again when he appeared to send out a series of tweets linking to spam sites.
Hacking does not just put your business at risk in the form of a few embarrassing Facebook or Twitter posts though. It can also lead to leaks of passwords, private messages, marketing data and in extreme cases, like the famous Sony email hacking, it can result in the public exposure of company emails, staff salaries, confidential documents and employment records.
THEFT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
If your employees are interacting regularly with social media then there is a chance that confidential information, ideas and intellectual property could be stolen by rival businesses. On top of this, many companies are unaware of what intellectual property they are giving away for free, when they engage with in social media activities, as many social media sites take ownership of images and information that are uploaded through their platform. All user agreements and contracts should be thoroughly reviewed before being agreed to, even when agreeing to terms from companies that you may feel like you cannot afford to avoid, like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Another mistake that has led to countless lawsuits is the sharing of other people’s intellectual property through social media channels. Photos and videos on Google are usually not free for use, but many employees fall into the trap of believing that if they have obtained a video, audio file or photograph from a well known website, that they may use that intellectual property how they please. This is, of course, not the case and your business could find itself tangled in an expensive lawsuit.
Concerned about your companies’ social media exposure? With every business comes a unique set of risks, and it’s important to speak to a specialist professional risks insurance broker such as Bluefin Professions with cross-industry knowledge to discuss your requirements and ensure your business is fully protected.