By Amanda Vega, EO Arizona member and CEO of Amanda Vega Consulting
We’ve all heard about the benefits of using social media, but is leveraging it always a good idea for every entrepreneur or business model? Are there risks involved that could be detrimental to business objectives? The use of social media does not make sense for everyone, and yes, there are numerous risks involved of which many people may not be aware.
In my experience, social media can detract from business objectives if used improperly. For example, consider Twitter. A general lack of awareness and security neglect regarding your account can lead to problems and potential fines. As a business owner, here are some risks to keep in mind:
- Data leaks of confidential and proprietary information – business plans, availability of personnel, confidential client information.
- Malware and viruses – abbreviated URLs could be masking a virus that can infect your network. Also, look out for links that go to sites offering fake services.
- Improper use – using Twitter for a customer service complaint could result in a back and forth disgruntled match. Remember, Twitter only has 140 characters, so certain issues should be directed offline.
When using any type of social network, people need to think about integrity, compliance and security when creating a post. It is important to show employees what to look out for; this could include internal training on how to use the services properly. Most important, create a policy in a language that is understood by employees, and then have them sign it. Are you allowing employees to use social media during working hours? For what purposes would you allow this? Make sure this is clear in your policy so there is no confusion.
Here’s another example: Let’s say you have medically related products that you want to start promoting via online social mediums. If you’re operating in the US, there are both FTC and FDA regulations that you need to abide by. And if you are publicly traded, then FINRA laws will also apply. Making sure that the people involved in marketing are trained on all compliance issues can save the company headaches in the long run. Also, you must understand how to use testimonials of your products or services properly. You must use genuine customers who experience the products, and if there were incentives or any exchange of goods, this must be fully disclosed.
What we have found is that many entrepreneurs leave the social media tasks to the marketing people, without informing the other key players. It is imperative to involve all the key decision makers, including marketing, IT and corporate compliance. And it’s vital to realize that a social media policy, without training or constant updates is only half of a policy. If there is any change to a social media strategy that involves employee personnel, this should be noted and agreed to in the corporate policy documents, of course, but the daily changes in social may make this challenging.
So use social for the great good it can give you. And remember to talk WITH people, not AT them, and when hiring a social media team, ensure they have the right regulatory certifications and knowledge.