Marketers Move to Protect Themselves from the Dark Side of Social Media

In the wide open world of social media, it’s easier for marketers to forget that using the format can result in negative consequences. Businesses that fail to develop and stick to a social media policy put themselves at risk for trouble. These troubles range from brand damage to fines levied for accidental release of confidential information.

Altimeter’s new report on social media and businesses highlights the many ways that this marketing channel can bring trouble. The top 4 risk areas are:

  • Brand Damage
  • Release of Confidential Information
  • Legal, regulatory and compliance violations
  • Identity Theft or Hijacking

Marketers believe the top social networks, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, pose the most risk of generating problems. The risk comes from the extensive reach and popularity of these networks as marketers communicate with fans in these spaces. In addition, Facebook frequently changes its privacy policies and leaves marketers scrambling after the fact to adjust their settings as necessary. In other cases, marketers must watch for external bloggers with large followings. These individuals can post negative comments and reach a significant number of consumers long before a marketer discovers the spreading brand damage.

To avoid these situations marketers should develop an internal social media policy. So far, here’s where businesses stand on this front:

  • Privacy policy 58.8%
  • Employee policy on personal use of social media 55.9%
  • Disclosure, confidentiality and ethics policies 52.9%
  • Corporate policy on official corporate uses of social media 50%

Once a policy is in place, employees can be trained to follow it. Businesses must also become proactive instead of reactive by using 3rd party tools to listen for trouble in the online universe. Currently, only 56.4% of firms are actively assessing their social media risk.

The social media format may be far less expensive to use than traditional paid media. But marketers are discovering they’ll need to apply more resources to manage the channel. Currently fewer than half, 43%, of surveyed marketers have assigned a full time staff member to assessing social media risk. As the channel grows, staffing and the related expense will likely increase, too.

[Source: 2012 Altimeter Social Media Risk Management Survey. Altimeter​.com. 9 Aug. 2012. Web. 21 Aug. 2012]


Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.