Social media can offer a wide range of fantastic benefits to a small business including raising awareness of products and services, obtaining leads and providing real time customer services. All this can be achieved on a small marketing budget but there can be a huge cost if a company’s security is put at risk.
So what are these risks and what can you do to mitigate them? Businesses and their clients face risks both internally and externally. Employees could release private or commercially sensitive information, for example; personal details of clients. This could be accidental or deliberate. There are also external threats such as hacking and phishing where data can be stolen. Security breaches can result in loss of reputation, lost productivity and most significant of all; loss in revenue.
Whilst it’s not possible to eliminate such risks altogether it’s recommended that the following actions are taken:
Create a Social Media Policy – Companies should have a documented social media policy stating the benefits of social networks but clearly spelling out what employees can post and what’s expected of them. It should be specific, with examples of good and bad practice. Guidance should be taken from an employment lawyer and social media expert and the policy should be reviewed by a human resources specialist.
Update Information Security Policy – The Information Security Policy should be updated to include reference to social networks. Just like other online services, advice on user names and passwords should be clearly documented. For example, a strong unique password should be used for each social network and two factor authentication set up. This is a system whereby a text message with a code is sent to the user’s mobile phone at login and provides an extra layer of security to reduce the risk of hacking. The Information Security Policy should be created by an IT Security Specialist and reviewed by a Human Resources specialist.
Educate yourself and employees – Ensure that you and your employees understand both the benefits and risks of social media. A bespoke in-house social media workshop for you and your team or a documented social media strategy from a professional Social Media Consultant will show you how you can use social networks to achieve your business objectives, mitigate risks and manage both positive and negative feedback.
Establish purpose of employees social networks – Your employees are likely to have their own social networks so it’s important to establish how these relate to your business. If, for example, your employees regularly share and re-tweet, this will help raise awareness of what your business has to offer. Are your employees using LinkedIn for their own career development or to promote your business? Use of employee social networks should be agreed and documented in your Social Media Policy and/or in employment contracts so everyone is clear on social network ownership and use.
Use a social media dashboard – Using a tool like Buffer - find out more - can help you and your team manage your social networks more effectively and securely. There is no need to circulate user names and passwords and the risk of posting a personal post or tweet to your company’s social network is dramatically reduced. Buffer also allows posts and tweets to be scheduled throughout each day which gives you a regular presence on your social networks and increases awareness.
The social web can be a dangerous place. By taking the appropriate steps above you’ll reduce risks and be better prepared if and when something goes wrong.