Only 66% Of Companies Agree: Social Media Poses Significant Risk To Brand Reputation

Two-thirds of companies agree that social media poses a significant or critical risk of damage to their organization’s reputation.  This begs the question:  what planet are the other 34% living on?

Moreover, many companies have not yet implemented policies, procedures or training to help mitigate those risks.  Data from a recently-released Altimeter report, “Guarding the Social Gates: The Imperative for Social Media Risk Management,” makes it clear that many companies still don’t understand either the benefits — or the risks — that social media can bring to their brand or organization.

According to Altimeter’s survey of 92 professionals involved in social media risk management, damage to brand reputation was the risk considered significant or critical by 66% of respondents, the largest percentage.  This was followed by the risk of confidential information being released, cited by 32%; legal, regulatory or compliance regulations, cited by 30%; and brand hijacking or identity theft, cited by 25%.

Not surprisingly, respondents feel that the most widely-used platforms are the ones that pose the greatest risks:  Facebook (35%), Twitter (25%), YouTube and other video-sharing sites (15%) were the top three social networks cited as posing a “significant” risk.  When looking at platforms that pose a “moderate” or “significant” risk, however, company blogs and blog comments move into the third-highest position.

Managing the Risks From Social Media: Identify, Assess, Mitigate, Evaluate 

Slightly more than half of the companies surveyed — 56% — currently take the time to assess the risks they are facing from social media, a process that includes assessing both the likelihood of an individual event, as well as the potential damage from that event.  This is a crucial step in the 4-step process Altimeter proposes for managing social media risks, since this would make it clear what the potential damage looks like.  (Data point: United’s stock price fell 10%, losing $180 million in value, in the 4 days after David Caroll posted his “United Breaks Guitars” video.)

So who’s on the hook if something goes wrong?  42% of companies rely on their social media teams to help manage these risks; only 18% involve corporate communications, 13% involve marketing, and about 8% involve legal.

And many companies still don’t have policies in place designed to help manage social media risks:  only 59% have a privacy policy, for instance, and only 56% have an employee policy on the personal use of social media.  Only 30% update their policies annually.

Training?  40% train employees only when they are hired — what about the person you hired 5 years ago?  23% admit that employees are never trained on social media policies.

My prediction, based on these latest figures:  we will continue to see many more serious (and occasionally entertaining) social media fails in the coming months.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen to your company.