EXPOSED! Managing social media risk

Have you ever been in a situation where someone has made an offensive or highly inappropriate comment on your Facebook Page or Instagram post? What did you do?

Thankfully for most of us, it’s not something we have to deal with all that often. What often happens is the comment is removed without explanation, our response is defensive and inflames the situation, or an official policy statement is posted.

None of these are an ideal way of handling the situation.

Some risk-averse organisations and businesses are overbearing in their moderation, killing the ‘social’ in social media and all chances of genuine engagement in the process.

There is a middle ground and opportunity in these situations IF you handle things well from the start.

Let’s jump back a few steps. Have you done a risk assessment as part of your communications planning and do you have post-moderation policy in place? No? Most people and organisations don’t.

How to assess risk

It’s not hard to address this when you’re developing or refining your digital marketing plan. Here’s the process:

  1. List all the potential probable risks relevant to your business that may be raised online e.g. faulty product lines, negative customer feedback, poor customer service etc. I wouldn’t expect to see more than half a dozen risks listed.
  2. Put these into a 5-column table – Risks. Probability. Impact. Risk Score. Timeframe.

Kim V Goldsmith Digital Marketing Strategist

  1. Score each risk for Probability (of it occurring) – 1 low 2 moderate 3 high
  2. Score each risk for Impact (on your business) – 1 low 2 moderate 3 high
  3. Multiply each one for a Risk Score for those risks you’ve identified.
  4. Start with the highest risk scores and determine the proximity of the event – Short. Medium. Longer term.
  5. Look at the high scoring short-term risks as a priority. In the example above it’s the risk of poor customer service due to being understaffed. You shouldn’t have more than two of these types of risks if you’re on top of things.
  6. What will be your response to these if they become an issue in your digital marketing activities? Prepare your responses so that everyone knows what they’ll be. Look for the opportunities to gain feedback, engage meaningfully with your audience and generally remain connected. You could even ask for help.

Accountability and transparency are critical in these situations.

How to respond to risk

Kim V Goldsmith Digital StrategistThere are several accepted responses to risk to consider.

  1. Accept the risk as it is.
  2. Mitigate the risk through planning.
  3. Transfer the risk to another party (or share the risk e.g. with a supplier).
  4. Avoid the risk by not proceeding.

Mitigation is the preferred response to identifying risk issues. This is something that happens BEFORE you go online. However, once you’re in the space, you need to know how to respond appropriately.

Having a social media policy, including an editorial policy, in place is one of the first things you need to do. This must be accessible to your audience as you may find yourself referring to it when things heat up. Think about putting it on your website and in Notes on your Facebook Page.

If an incident does occur, this infographic gives you some responses to consider.

Don’t forget that managing risk is about averting it to start with, so if you’re getting compliments and great feedback, don’t forget to thank people and start a conversation.

Put your PR hat on

You need to be able to respond to negative comments in a rational, considered manner – responding from the head not the heart in an honest, accountable and transparent manner. A mantra from my PR days.

The other important thing to do is personalise your responses as much as possible. You’re talking to people and it must sound like you’re talking to people. Bland policy statements do not wash on social media.

And remember, not everything needs to be communicated in the public space. This is also something that reminds me of my PR days when I spent as much time advising clients to take debates off the front page of the local newspapers and talk back radio, instead going behind closed doors for some solid one-on-one discussion. That negotiation training I did 15 years ago has paid for itself ten-fold over the years.

If you need a hand to work through your communications risk management process, connect with me.

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