Social media: a dish best served rare, medium, or well-cooked?

By Charlie Pownall

You know the drill. Take awesome new product, prepare lashings of oozing content, sprinkle with social media stardust, and serve in fancy package to hungry bloggers to share with their friends.

Hey presto - you've a hit on your hands!

If only it was so straight-forward. Studies show that people feel increasingly little connection with brands and share less information about them. Trust in both companies and governments is low.

People prefer to read online reviews than hear direct from marketers, but expect the questions, suggestions, and complaints that they do express online to be heard and acted upon instantly. And when they do share an opinion, it is just as likely to be negative as positive.

Organisations of all types have little choice but to communicate with their audiences in social media. But as organisations in Singapore such as Scoot, McDonalds, SMRT, and NTUC Income have discovered, low quality service delivery, marketing, employee behaviour, and other activities can seriously jeopardise health and reputation.

And as companies embrace social media beyond the confines of PR and marketing - to drive product innovation, get products to market more quickly, strengthen employee loyalty - the greater the risks, and the harder they must work to ensure that the risks are properly balanced with the rewards.

How then can you protect your firm's reputation effectively in social media?

First, it is about understanding the full range of internal and external threats, considering carefully how likely they are to take place, and what the potential impact would be on your firm's reputation.

Then it is about putting in place the structures, capabilities, policies, and protocols that minimise the likelihood of negative incidents happening.

Finally, you need to make sure that any resulting public issues and crises are managed effectively.

As any head of communications, corporate affairs director, or risk manager knows, business and reputation risks vary significantly by industry and by company. Nonetheless, it is also clear that some risks are more equal than others.

Here are ten questions to ask to help get the ball rolling:
• Does social media change the nature of known risks to our reputation? How?
• What are the unknown risks to our reputation, and how do we go about identifying and tracking them?
• How well prepared are we to handle what might be thrown at us? Do our external teams understand their respective responsibilities, and know what requires escalating?
• How can we limit the potential for existing and former employees to tarnish our brand?
• How should we respond publicly in social media to a leak of confidential customer information?
• What do we do if our marketing or social media marketing campaigns backfire?
• How should we use social media to respond to a crisis?
• Do we have a social media policy? To what extent do our people understand and live by it? Is there anything they are not clear about?
• Are we social media compliant in all jurisdictions? How are we keeping track of regulatory changes?
• What's the optimal operating structure for minimising social media risks - central, wheel and spoke, or local?

Asking and answering these kinds of questions in a systematic manner helps organisations focus on the abundant opportunities inherent in social media, rather than the risks.

Only when quality is assured can a dish be served rare with confidence.

Charlie Pownall is the Workshop Leader for the Social Media Risk & Reputation Management Workshop.

Social Media Risk & Reputation Management
26 – 27 May 2014
Sheraton Towers, Singapore

Organizer: Pacific Conferences

Click here to register.

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