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Protecting Yourself And Your Company On Social Media-Part One of Three

by Scott M. Lewis
We have all had it happen: a disgruntled employee or customer. Then you hear that someone has posted a negative comment about you or your company on social media. How do you know when that happens? How can you monitor comments about you or your company to ensure you’re not wrongly accused or convicted based solely on an individual’s feelings?
I remember when people had the courtesy to move on from a bad situation regardless of who was at fault, or to say their peace to your face. Now, it’s easy to hide behind a keyboard, making comments anonymously and then disappearing into cyberspace. I don’t know -- I was taught that if you’re afraid to put your name on something and take credit for it, then you should keep your opinion to yourself. However, things no longer seem to be done that way. How do you protect yourself and your company? In this series, we will explore some of the basic steps you should take in the world of social media and fake news. 
Many good things come out of social media. Social media platforms have become a favorite when it comes to brand recognition, gaining company or personal visibility with a large audience, and engaging customers in conversations about your company’s ongoing activities.  With the excellent exposure and popularity associated with social media, the lines between personal and professional communications are becoming blurred, forcing individuals and companies to search for ways to control messages and branding. Many opinions exist about how to control social media messaging. Still, according to Post Beyond, there are several necessary steps you should take to optimize social media outcomes. 
Develop a Robust Social Media Policy. Leaving social media branding or acceptable posting guidelines open to interpretation (or “common sense”) is like opening Pandora’s box. Creating and maintaining a current and relevant social media policy is critical for holding employees accountable for their social media behavior. Doing so creates business awareness about the power of social media and the messages sent to consumers. Again, according to Post Beyond, some of the items that your social media policy should include are: 
- Brand vision and the message of your branding
- Goals for acceptable uses of social media for the entire organization 
- Roles in the company: who is and is NOT responsible for posting information about the company
- Clear rules, regulations, and privacy considerations about what and when items will be posted
- Consequences and legal risks, including compliance and handling of client information 
Implement an Effective Social Listening Program. Social listening is about keeping track of what is being said about your organization. With the Internet moving at lightning speed, humans cannot possibly track and respond to all information being posted. For example, Twitter alone reports approximately 100,000 posts per minute, so using human beings to track your branding would be an impossible task. Critical features of social listening software to consider are:
- Flexible queries that help improve results 
- Reports that outline who is talking about your brand, competitors, and industry
- Twitter, Facebook, Indeed, and LinkedIn filters that search for negative keywords
- Demographic data, including interests, occupations, and locations of your audience
- The ability to identify trends in your industry
The key to using social listening software effectively is knowing what you DON’T know and removing negative feedback or offering rebuttal comments -- which you have to be careful of because employees are not limited to human resource rules. 
Still, companies must be careful about what they write in rebuttals. 
Social listening software also allows you to look for oversharing, complaints from employees or customers, and false information about you, your team, or the company. Social listening tools can also push people who are searching for information about your company to positive feedback so that the process can work both ways. 
Create a Viable Crisis Plan. Technology cannot protect you from everything, so having a crisis plan is essential to your overall social media strategy. At some point, you may have to face an angry employee or an instance when a confidential picture gets posted. The key to dealing effectively with any controversy is to be honest and, most importantly, to avoid adding fuel to the fire by trying to over-explain a lousy situation. Stick to the facts, the real problem, and the solution, and involve only those individuals who need to be involved. An inappropriate posting will happen at some point. Most happen by accident, but in the world of social media, news travels fast. A combination of policies, technology, and oversight can help to protect you. 
Raise Social Media Awareness. As mentioned earlier, most social media snafus are simple mistakes or lack of social media awareness on the part of employees. Social media has become such a big part of our lives. At times, we treat our business’s social media as if our postings were personal, giving away information that we would not or should not make public from a business perspective. Steps you can take to raise employee social media awareness are:
- Invest in training for employees allowed to post on behalf of the company, including appropriate uses of social media and company policies 
- Ensure that employees officially using social media understand how information can be used in cyberattacks, which is common. Include what to look out for, how to prevent an attack from a social media platform, and the company’s overall potential and risk due to social media 
- Employ checks and balances in the form of internal processes to review tweets or social media posts before they’re posted. Ensure that information is accurate, current, and relevant to reduce mistakes and protect employees and the company’s reputation.   
- Limit access to social media accounts; not all employees need to access the company’s social media sites. Lock down your social media feeds so that no post goes live until it is reviewed. This will cut down on misinformation, phishing, and disgruntled posting in your social media feeds. 
- Change social media passwords regularly, anytime you feel accounts have been compromised, and whenever personnel change on your social media team.   
About the Author: Scott Lewis is the President and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies, which includes Liberty One Software. Scott has more than 36 years of experience in the technology industry and is a nationally recognized speaker and author on technology subjects. Scott has worked with hundreds of large and small businesses to empower them to use technology to improve work processes, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Scott has designed thousands of systems for large, medium, and small companies, and Winning Technologies’ goal is to work with companies on the selection, implementation, management, and support of technology resources. Learn more about Winning Technologies at www.winningtech.com or call 877-379-8279. To learn more about Business Manager 365, visit www.businessmanager365.com.

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