Social media: opportunity or hazard?

Many businesses still regard social media as a risky proposition. But the biggest risk may not be what you think. Here are some concerns SMEs often have with social media and what to do about them.

Damage to business reputation

It certainly could happen if you’re not on top of things, but what does it say about your image if you’re absent from social media? What hope will you have of employing or selling to millennials?

Action: Get professional on social media. Develop internal skills or establish a good quality outsourced arrangement.

“Interns shouldn’t run the show” – Australian Communications and Media Authority

Security

Hacking, data theft, viruses, malicious links are all potential threats. Just using common sense will avoid many of them. And the same issues arise anyway with email and website access.

A chalkboard with SOCIAL MEDIA written in middle, with diagrams drawn around itAction: Make sure your online security systems are effective and up-to-date; including those for mobile devices. Ensure all personnel use strong passwords.

Tip: Never put your birthday on social media sites. Not even without the year; it’s not that difficult to guess the year if you check out your picture, education records etc.

“No legitimate service or network administrator will ask you for your password” - US Federal Bureau of Investigation

Online criticism

This may happen whether you’re active on social media or not. And, at least, you can find out any negative things people are saying about your business.

Action: Monitor social media chat about your business. Make measured responses to any adverse comments. Done well, this can even work in your favour!

“Consumer feedback, good or bad, should be seen as ‘emotional capital’. It can help you shape your business by listening to your customer’s feedback” - Kim Chandler McDonald, Author.

Information leakage

Might staff reveal valuable information about your business, or even give away intellectual property via social media? Although this could happen anyway via email, or even during a chat down at the pub.

Action: Ensure all employees and contractors are aware what they can and cannot divulge. See also advice regarding a social media policy document below.

Employee behaviour

Could your employees damage your business reputation by posting inappropriate images? Might they waste time at work with excessive use of social media?

Action: Establish a comprehensive social media policy document and educate your staff accordingly.

Tip: Think long and hard before blocking social media channels. Many of your staff should be using social media to promote your business and for business networking.

“Develop a strong set of social media guidelines to provide to new employees about using social media and upholding the values of the brand when posting” - Australian Communications and Media Authority

The biggest risks

Loss of revenue and competitive disadvantage are your biggest risks if you don’t engage on social media. More and more people, especially buyers, are using social media to glean information before making purchasing decisions. If your business is not there, it’s like boarding up half the shop windows!

Action: Get active on social media and turn it into a source of prospects for your business.

“Today’s customers expect that the organisation they do business with will be ‘on’ social media…” - Gary Gill, Partner, Risk Consulting, KPM G Australia.

Richard Carter, Business Connection Resources.The bottom line

You need to take advantage of the opportunities presented by social media whilst managing the risks, just like many other business scenarios.

Richard Carter is the owner of Business Connection Resources.

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