I began calling for the proper management of social media risks in 2009. Back then we were still trying to convince people they should use the various social media tools to advance their associations and nonprofits. The big fear was (and still is) “what if someone says something bad about us?” There are numerous examples of social media horror stories such as the Domino’s Pizza video, United Breaks Guitars, Greenpeace’s attack on Nestlé’s Facebook page, Susan G. Komen versus Planned Parenthood, and Progressive Insurance. Bad public relations incidents are still the most significant risk with social media but is also very manageable.
As I wrote in my first post on social media risks for SocialFish in May 2009, The Hidden Risks of Social Media: It’s Not What You Think,
Lack of active participation in social media may be your greatest risk. Your association may not have a formal social media strategy but many of your employees and members (especially chapters) are already participating through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, FriendFeed or Ning, just to name a few. People are conversing about your association – if they aren’t talking about the association, then you have a larger problem.
Social media has changed how we live and work. It is a fact of life and you better be prepared to deal with bad or negative publicity whether it starts on social media or is played out on the various outposts.
Altimer Group, a consultancy founded by Charlene Li, “provides research and advisory for companies challenged by business disruptions, enabling them to pursue new opportunities and business models.” As a research organization Altimeter focuses on how disruptive trends can be used by organizations. Social media is definitely a disruptive trend. The firm’s most recent research was on social media risks addressed in its report Guarding the Social Gates: The Imperative for Social Media Risk Management. They also hosted a webinar on the topic. As a risk management consultant I’m always pleased and excited when other people and organizations talk about the importance of risk management. I strongly encourage you to read the report and listen to the webinar. Share the information with the key people within your association or nonprofit.
Social media is unusual because it is a source of risk but also a valuable resource for mitigating risks especially negative publicity. Not all PR crises start on social media (nasty tweet or video) but they are all “played out” on social media. For example the Susan G. Komen incident started with a corporate decision reported in the press but quickly moved onto the social media stage. The Penn State scandal started with a newspaper report that promptly moved to the online world. The teachable moment is that if your association is not ready to respond quickly via social media you are at a distinct disadvantage. You will get criticized not only for the original incident but how you handled it.
There is nothing new in the report, just reinforces what I and other risk management types have been saying. Every organization regardless of its size should identify and analyze its risks arising from social media and develop its techniques to manage these risks. If your organization already has a risk management program adding social media to the mix is easy but few associations have such a plan. Croydon Consulting (me) has experience with managing these risks. I’m a member of the SocialFish team so often partner with Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer to address these risk management issues. We are also working with Epic PR Group to further enhance our capabilities.
Social media is too important to your association’s success to leave managing the risks to chance or fate. Follow the steps provided in Guarding the Social Gates or seek help from the many resources available (like me). Sorry for the blatant sales pitch but this is one issue that can’t wait. Good luck.