In our current digital era, social media is no longer just an interpersonal communication stream but a widespread tool used to connect, promote and build brands. The digital space is now defined by its ability to create a culture of promotion, giving brands opportunities like never before to really make a statement. More than a decade ago, when sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram started to grow, people were constantly experimenting with different ways to use and excel on the platforms. Throughout this period of ongoing experimentation, brands have discovered creative ways to use these platforms to conduct real-time conversations with customers, show off their personalities and garner expansive reach and shareability. However, with such a tumultuous opportunity for growth and greatness, there is also the opportunity for threats. The widespread nature of social media means it can become a confusing space where audiences are larger and more directly involved with brands. With more opportunities for criticism, ensuring brand security can be a challenge. In this sense, staying safe online while maintaining the presence you want to convey takes more than good intentions. To ensure your brand doesn’t get caught red-handed in a social media crossfire, we have created a strategic guide to ensure your brand image remains secure.
Branding Risks on Social Media
However, before we dive into the strategies, it’s important to understand the risks and exactly how they can affect your brand.
Simply put, it’s human nature to make mistakes. The digital world is fast-paced, and it is all too easy for employees to accidentally expose your brand to threats online. While human error is accidental, a Global Security survey has identified that employee errors are responsible for 20% of cyberattacks, making it a large risk and certainly one to pay close attention to. Human error not only includes extreme scenarios, but something as simple as clicking on the wrong link has the potential to cause a great deal of damage.
Unattended social media accounts
Not reserving your brand's handle across all social media platforms puts you at higher risk of inconsistent messaging. If you don’t secure your brand name, it not only makes it more difficult for customers to find you but gives other people the chance to either make accounts on your behalf or hijack your brand name.
Phishing attacks and scams
Scams have always been the bane of the internet's existence. Both frustrating and harmful, phishing attempts can put your brand at great information security risks. The goal of these scammers is to get passwords, bank details or any other private information out of your brand or employees, and it is understandably an issue you would want to avoid.
It doesn’t take much to create a social media account online, meaning it is relatively easy for imposters to create fake accounts pretending to be your brand. While there are means of preventing and dealing with such an issue, it can be extremely frustrating and is certainly a risk you want to look out for.
Malware attacks and hacks
Along with scams, hackers are up there with one of the most frustrating and insidious risks with social media use. If hackers gain access to your social media accounts, the amount of brand and reputation damage they can create can be enormous.
While this risk is essentially in your control, knowing what privacy settings are optimal for your brand can be confusing. While most people seem to be aware of the potential privacy risks of using social media, studies have shown that only 19% of Facebook users trust the platform with their personal information. Trust is extremely important when utilising a social media platform for such expansive brand activities, meaning privacy should be a high priority for businesses.
Brand Safety Strategies
Now that we have gotten the doom and gloom of the risks of social media out of the way, it’s time to look forward to the strategies you can implement to minimise these risks and keep your brand secure.
Conduct a social media audit
First and foremost, before you spend the time worrying about threats affecting your brand, it is highly recommended you conduct a social media audit to identify exactly where your safety stands online. Using simple monitoring or social media listening tools can help you uncover any potential branding issues. Tools like Mention can assist you with searching for any accounts that may be using your brand name, potentially misrepresenting your brand online. Such tools can also help you conduct competitor analysis to see how your competitors use social media and potentially identify their mistakes and what branding fails not to make yourself. If you happen to discover a fraudulent account during this audit, many processes within most social media platforms allow you to claim any fake accounts. If the platform you are using doesn’t allow this to happen, ensure you continue closely monitoring the fake account in case your customers unintentionally interact with the wrong account.
Keep your passwords secure
The ultimate way to secure your company's passwords is highly debatable, depending on who you ask. However, what’s important is that your credentials remain secure and only accessible to those who truly need to access them when they need to access them. Creating one document and storing it in a password secured cloud solution is ideal for protecting your credentials. This way, there is only one master password that needs to be remembered, in addition to two-factor authentication, and if there is a change in management, your brand isn’t left with multiple accounts they are unsure how to log in to. Some brands simply aren’t comfortable using one spreadsheet as the only source of password information at the risk that this data could get lost. To negotiate these concerns with the risks, password managers like LastPass are specifically set up to keep and safely share your login credentials securely.
Set up one generic brand email solely for your social media accounts
Two-factor authentication is a fantastic invention and is set up to guarantee your security. However, this means that if you happen to lose access to the email account connected with your social media account, it is likely you will end up locked out of everything. For instance, if you allow your social media manager to sign up to every social media platform using their personal work email, if they leave and their email is removed from your business, you won’t gain access to your social media accounts. Creating a custom email account solely for social media is the best way to mitigate this risk. Tip: a good generic email could be something like email@example.com
Use a separate social media posting and monitoring tool solely for your brand
The last thing you want is for your brands and your staff's accounts to get muddled up with one another. Keeping your brand social media accounts separate in every essence from other accounts within your business will prevent many incidents from occurring. More often than not, brands are rightly ridiculed because a social media manager has accidentally posted a controversial message intended for their personal account onto your branded account. The best way to avoid such a scenario is to ensure that a separate, mobile-friendly social media management app is used for your brand and cannot get confused or tied together with your social media manager’s personal accounts.
Ensure your marketing is aligned with your customer service
Social media has massively affected people's attention spans, and along with it, their patience and willingness to put up with false claims. How your brand is represented online directly represents the image and values your customers expect from you. If you are actively posting on social media yet not responding to direct messages from customers asking for help, this is certainly not a good look on your brand's behalf.Likewise, if you are making promises via social media posts to provide a certain level of service, not matching these standards with your actions can cause irreparable branding failures. To avoid customers amplifying such a customer service issue, ensure your social media and customer service teams are aligned, on the same page, and able to work together to ensure things are running smoothly.
Create a social media policy
That massive pessimistic list of social media risks we previously listed wasn’t for no reason. Rather, it is an important list that you and your entire team should be aware of. Knowing the potential risks and issues can prevent people from making mindless decisions simply because they were unaware. Creating a social media policy is the best way to efficiently train your staff on the issues and risks of social media use and ensure that risk mitigators are being practised as often as possible. When preparing such a policy, not only should you consider external branding factors, but you should also speak internally to your staff about what risks they anticipate. This will help you develop suitable procedures to mitigate risks quickly if they do occur. In particular, there are a few vital things you should always cover in your social media policy, including:
- Legal risks: Ensure your social media team is aware of any usage, copyright, and platform legalities that come with posting on social platforms.
- Roles: Include specific and meaningful descriptions of each role (e.g. branding manager, content creator, customer support, etc.) to avoid confusion.
- Brand vision: A simple brand vision statement will help ensure all of your content efforts are consistent and contribute to your branding intentions.
- Brand voice: Similar to your brand vision, specifically outline your intentions for creating a recognisable and consistent brand voice and tone and how to convey this throughout posts.
- Privacy: Confidentiality is key. In your social media policy, you should outline a list of topics, ideas, or information that is off limit and never to be disclosed to the public through social media content.
Ultimately, this strategic list may seem extremely extensive and overwhelming, making a secure social media strategy seem out of reach. However, once these strategies have been set up within your brand, they don’t require constant maintenance and attention. Instead, they remain in place to minimise the amount of work and hassle you have to do daily. These strategies can be considered preventative measures and are understandably much better than having to constantly scramble to find a cure. Cleaning up social media branding messes can be tough, so put in the work before you start aimlessly posting in the infinite digital sphere. Social media marketing can be an exciting space where you have the opportunity to grow your business like never before. For more advice on how to safely do so, contact Anchor Digital today. Our team of professionals keeps up with the trends, changes, and trajectories that exist online to provide you with the most relevant information to contribute to your success.