For marketers, investing in social media means exposure; exposure to new prospects, exposure to new followers and influencers, exposure for the brand, and exposure to a significant return on investment (ROI).
All signs point to a continued investment in social media for just about every industry. According to a study of CMOs by Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, chief marketing officers (CMOs) in enterprise organizations will spend nearly 11 percent of budget on social media in 2016 and nearly 23 percent by 2020.
Organizations are seeing serious results as they guide prospects coming in via social media channels through three stages:
- Closed won business and retention
Long story short: more exposure equals more ROI and more budget.
But exposure has another, less friendly meaning. It can also mean more exposure to social media risks and the bad guys who use it to target individuals and brands.
But what do we mean by risks and bad guys? What kinds of things do marketers need to be on the lookout for on social media? Consider these scenarios:
Potential threat No. 1: scammers
Imagine you’re the social media manager for a retailer with many distributed brick and mortar stores. You establish governance for individual stores to create their own social media pages, post coupons, and run localized promotions. Once you audit all the pages for brand compliance, it’s off to the races. In the long run, the localized promotions do much better than corporate promotion, different stores establish their own followings and see huge social ROI by interacting with their community. Your CMO is thrilled.
One morning you get an email from your director of customer support. Phone lines have been ringing off the hook, all from a specific region of the country. A fake profile has hijacked your well-manicured social media footprint, exploited your hashtags, and launched a scam disguised as a coupon. The almost-too-good-to-be-true discount prompts customer to call a phone number where they are coerced into giving out credit card information. Some had even arrived at the physical store, expecting half-off on everything they bought. Follower counts in that region suffer and customers are wary of engaging with the brand.
In this scenario, the organization had no way of identifying the scam before it impacted the bottom line of the business. Now that the scam has proliferated, the organization needs to have governance in place to warn customers in the region and communicate about reimbursements. More importantly, they need to begin proactively identifying the scams and getting them taken down by social networks.
Potential threat No. 2: cyber criminals
Imagine you’re the social media manager for a wealth management firm. You’ve recently rolled out an employee advocacy program to your advisors and they’re using it successfully to grow their personal business. Your CMO is thrilled.
You begin to notice a curious trend. Advisors in some areas are having very little success at all with the program. Upon investigation, you find that six accounts for one of the advisors are using an image of the advisor, linking back to the corporate page and actively engaging with customers. But only one is distributing content via your prescribed employee advocacy channels. The other five accounts all post links with targeted messages that redirect to a malicious page, asking for account information. You confirm with your security team that the area has seen a huge spike in customer complaints of phishing attempts and stolen personally identifiable information. No wonder your investment in the program wasn’t paying off.
In this scenario, the organization was not monitoring their social media assets—which include employee accounts in any employee advocacy program—for abuse. Fake profiles are extremely easy to make, and organizations need to monitor for impersonators of their brand and employees, especially if they’re engaging with customers. Social networks will take down impersonator accounts, which violate terms of services.
Potential threat No. 3: careless coworkers
Imagine you’re the social media manager of a family health care organization. You have been working diligently to create a reputable brand online. You post relevant, high-quality content via your Hootsuite dashboard. You engage with influencers. You pre-schedule all the right Tweets and are quick to respond to inquiries. People who fill out the “How Did You Hear About Us?” survey in the waiting area increasingly check off “social media.” Follower count and engagement skyrocket. You’re seen as the authoritative thought leader in the space. Your CMO is thrilled.
You first hear about the story in the local press: a doctor at the organization accidentally posted images of patient health records, thinking they were private. The press has a field day. Where was he trying to post those pictures? What is the recourse for the patients exposed in the incident? What are the legal and economic ramifications of such a blatant HIPAA violation?
Your PR crisis team starts working around the clock. More questions start flying internally. How does this impact our brand reputation? How many followers will we lose? And, most importantly, why doesn’t the social media team have governance and controls in place to avoid or quickly detect things of this nature?
In this scenario, the social media team did not work with the risk and compliance department to train employees on compliant, safe social media usage. In a regulated industry, this is a must for every social media manager. However, mistakes inevitably happen. In this case, a social media team needs to have tools to identify such a blunder as quickly as possible and an established social media crisis policy to help tackle the issue. How are you going to respond to press? Do you post an apology? On which channels?
Protecting your social ROI
Getting a successful campaign rolling can be difficult even without accounting for the potential risks mentioned above. But any social media marketer who wants to reach maximum ROI must take steps to minimize risk.
Keep in mind that these are worst case scenarios. But it’s better to be prepared for the worst than suffer through it unexpectedly. Organizations need to have:
- A documented policy for what to do when something goes wrong
- A tool that monitors social media for bad guys and malicious behavior
- A way of taking action and getting bad stuff taken down
- Lines of communication to other areas of the business
- In a decentralized social landscape, a tool like Hootsuite Amplify to manage and help govern employee social media usage
We like to say there are three types of social media marketers: those who don’t know about the problems, those who ignore the problems, and those who recognize their full social ROI. Now that there’s no excuse to be in the first camp, will you ignore the problem or take a better approach?