The Dark Side of Corporate Social Media

Social media is a fast and inexpensive way for companies to disseminate information about its products and services. It also helps businesses connect quickly with their customers by allowing them to give almost instantaneous feedback on any issue. Many times people are more comfortable expressing themselves via Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites since they are communicating daily in their personal lives in an informal way that these mediums facilitate.

This informality, however, makes businesses more susceptible to new areas of cyber risk. Reputational damage is emerging as a significant concern among risk managers as danger lurks in many ways when a company sets up its website, Facebook page or Twitter feed.

We all know that people and companies can be painted with a broad brush, and people tend to remember the negative over the positive, and just one wrong comment can taint a lifetime of hard work to build a strong reputation. A single employee can make a controversial posting that gets attributed to your company; these opinions can even rank high in search engine results, always haunting your company. A consumer may make inflammatory comments about your competitors, which if not monitored aggressively, can be seen as tacit approval. Inappropriate photos, links, and messages can also damage your reputation.

Danger lurks almost everywhere. There are potential HIPAA violations, copyright and trademark infringement, libel and slander, and reputational damage that can be done by commenters who blast you.

The best way to help insulate yourself or company from these issues is to have strong policies on social media use and diligent monitoring of your sites. Don’t allow negative comments to go unresponded to. Start a constructive dialog with the consumer. If they are way off base, they will likely show their true colors when responding with measured reasonable responses. For employees, clear and unambiguous policies and procedures are a must. Lay out the specific rules employees must follow, with education regarding the dangers of informal social media posting.

Certainly the positives that can be gained by use of social media cannot be denied and will continue to grow as the technology evolves. It is important though to think about potential areas of risk to help anticipate the problems can arise from corporate use of social media.

Author Mark B. Hartig

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