86% of businesses are concerned about loss of income and a reduced customer base due to reputational risk. Additionally, loss of talent and damage to the employer brand were also large concerns (at 61.5% and 56.5%). Yet just 68% of clients have no framework in place for reputational risk, according to Willis Towers Watson’s 2020 Reputational Risk Management Survey Report.
In today’s digital world, one of the biggest brand reputation risks come from social media. Those cringe worthy stories are frequently in the news: a major household name is suddenly and unwittingly associated with an employee ranting about their job; or a misinterpreted tweet on a controversial topic forces the crisis team to fly into action.
The answer is not to do nothing.
For one, the benefits to businesses of socially active employees are significant:
- Companies achieve on average €414 in Earned Media Value for each post they share. (Employee Advocacy Benchmark Report, Sociuu, May 2020)
- Best practice companies sees £1300 in Earned Media Value for each post they share. (Employee Advocacy Benchmark Report, Sociuu, May 2020)
- 39% increase in company brand awareness. (Dynamic Signal 2019 Customer Impact Study)
- 12% increase in company ratings e.g. Glassdoor. (Dynamic Signal 2019 Customer Impact Study)
- 40% increase in engagement per share. (Dynamic Signal 2019 Customer Impact Study)
And as Jonathan Armstrong, partner at Cordery Compliance (part of LexisNexis) rightly points out in Raconteur, not doing anything is no longer an option. The tides are changing:
“Previously, reputation was often about not doing things. But corporations are now expected to step in, for example on Black Lives Matters, to fill voids left by governments.”
The changing tides are reflected in how employees act on social media now, too. They're much more active and willing to voice their opinions on wide-ranging topics in both a personal and professional capacity.
All of which can lead for things to quickly go wrong for a brand. But, with the right guidelines and social media training in place, the benefits of ‘free advertising’ can far outweigh the risks.
So, What Are The Most Common Social Media Brand Reputation Risks And How Can They Be Avoided?
In today’s digital age, everything is news. Even those once-taboo topics of culture, politics and religion are now the heavyweights of the social media newsfeed and sharing opinions is commonplace.
Opinions and debates in these arenas can be bad news for brand reputations. For the business world, this creates a balancing act between recognising and respecting people’s freedom of speech and avoiding being stuck in a media frenzy following brand association with a thorny issue.
Minimise this brand reputation social media risk by:
- Creating clear, firm guidelines as part of the Social Media Policy to help employees navigate their way through the news and information they see and hear online versus that which forms part of the corporate narrative;
- Providing scenario-based training for employees to help them understand good and bad practice - and the often-unwitting consequences that can arise from social media posts gone wrong;
[Our eLearning Social Media Practioner course starts at just £8.45 pp and is packed full of quiz questions to check your employees’ understanding of your social media policy using real-life examples. Find out more here.)
- Taking social media guidelines a step further than governance or crisis management and moving employees from engagement to advocacy – where they can be trained to understand how to best promote the brand they love.
Misquoted Brand Opinions
With access to so much unfiltered social media content, there’s always the chance that an employee might comment on a topic or thread, giving what they genuinely believe to be a corporate point of view. However, if they’ve misinterpreted the corporate message, or inadvertently picked a topic that’s hot for all the wrong reasons, it could quickly cause damage to the brand reputation.
Minimise this social media risk by:
- Making sure social media guidelines are clear about the corporate policy on commenting on public issues;
- Ensuring the corporate narrative is clear and easy to understand to minimise the chance of it being misinterpreted in public;
- Making sure that employees are clear that comments or opinions are their own
- Creating a strong voice with your official branded social media channels;
- Familiarising employees with these channels, which provide a rich seam of curated content to be shared or discussed.
A common problem for brand reputations on social media is the employee rant. At the end of a rubbish day it can be all too easy with a smartphone in hand for a disgruntled team member to let off some frustration. But, what goes on the web stays on the web, and the negative press for the brand – and the employee – can be very damaging.
Minimise this social media risk by:
- Reminding all employees of the corporate Code of Conduct. This type of behaviour doesn’t fit in with social etiquette, which is why the ripples are so wide when it happens. When employees sign their contract to join the company, include a code of conduct and remind them that it applies to online and offline behaviour;
- Walking the talk. A business that wants its employees to champion the brand needs to create a brand worth championing. Employees who are well treated and feel valued will be much more engaged and this will lead to better respect and less ranting;
- Encouraging feedback within your organisation. Rants are often a cry for help. Making sure employees know how they can get their point across will reduce the need for them to resort to desperate measures to be heard.
This risk has been further elevated by the implementation of the GDPR. Any breach of legislation - whether copyright, photo permissions, confidentiality or GDPR itself - could cause a brand a lot of legal problems as well as reputational harm.
But this risk is nothing new. Whether operating in person, on email, in print or on social media, employees and employers need to be mindful of legislative matters.
Minimise this social media risk to brand reputation by:
- Including all legislative elements – GDPR, confidentiality, copyright, photo credits/permissions, official company business – in the social media policy. Boundaries of what is and isn’t allowed should be clearly stated and all employees should sign the policy to say they’ve read and understood it;
- Back up the ‘understood’ part of the above action by ensuring regular training is given to refresh employees on the detail of the legislation. Think belt-and-braces by adding this training to onboarding processes and having FAQs and discussion forums on the intranet.
And, If Something Does Go Wrong?
Employees need to be clear that they must not sit back and wait if they are aware they’ve posted something in error. The best approach is to make some immediate headway towards setting the record straight – or refer it to the crisis or social media team if it relates to something legal.
The benefits of employees using social media on behalf of a brand can be a win-win for the employer and employee. And with just a little care and attention to the riskier elements, the benefits will far outweigh the risks to your brand’s reputation.
A social media policy can help your organisation guard against the risks but it’s only effective if your employees have read and understood how it works in practice.
Our Social Practitioner eLearning course brings your social media policy to life with informative and engaging training that’s packed full of quiz questions to check your employees’ understanding using real-life examples.
All from just £8.45 per person.
To find out more about our eLearning social media course, head here.
Editors Note: This blog was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated to refresh the knowledge and accuracy of “4 Common Social Media Security Risks And How To Avoid Them”.