SOCIAL MEDIA CHALLENGES WHICH BUSINESSES FACE
With the exponentially increasing reach of social media, businesses are seizing the opportunity to sell their products and services to millions of connected consumers. Discussions usually center on the ethical issues behind disclosures and fair representation but there are other ethical challenges like “digital assassination.” The balance of power has shifted away from businesses to social media users, who are much greater in number than the resources businesses can allocate. A prevalent issue is how can companies participate in social media and protect their reputation from unwarranted attacks?
USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO PREVENT REPUTATION ATTACKS ON BRANDS
Instead of managing social media reputation crises after they occur, businesses can use social media to prevent attacks on their brand in these ways:
- Be aware of what’s being said about your brand using monitoring tools – I use Google Alerts to identify information about a brand or organization in which I’m interested.
- Know who is copying your material and if it is being used in a negative way.
- Have active social media sites of your own through which you can respond to negative comments.
- Use verified accounts features to ensure users know which is your official site.
- Promote your fan communities
- Have a consistent, clear and truthful message
Source: Influential Marketing Blog – 6 Ways to Protect Your Brand with Social Media by Rohit Bhargava
WHEN SOCIAL MEDIA USERS ATTACK BRANDS
As if cyber saboteurs, trolls, hackers, and malware weren’t enough to worry about in the online world, brands now have to deal with the growing numbers of consumers who have found a voice through social media. Unfortunately many businesses act only after an issue becomes a crisis. An account of a hotel who refused a refund request resulted in a backlash which the author of the article deemed “far worse than the offense.” The cost of poor customer service has increased to the point that businesses must carefully manage their online interaction to minimize or prevent reputation damage.
SOLUTIONS TO MANAGING ONLINE ATTACKS
Here are some solutions suggesting a timely, respectful and ethical approach which may help businesses manage bad reviews, complaints and attacks through social media:
- Train and empower staff – they can make timely decisions which may resolve issues at the onset
- Put a social media policy in place
- Manage access to social media stringently
- Be aware of social media activity and respond immediately
- Solve the issue
- Publish your point of view asap
- Research the people behind unwarranted or malicious attacks to understand better what you may be dealing with. This may inform your course of action.
Source: Protect your business from a social media attack (Jan 21, 2014 – Writer Daniel Edward Craig on ehotelier.com)
GUIDELINES FOR THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Several guidelines exist to ensure both the consumer and businesses are protected.
- WOMMA’s Code of Ethics
- Bloomberg’s Business News Advisory (Social Media Law and Policy Report)
- National Advertising Division
- FTC Guidelines (Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising)
There are also legal guidelines for various industries. FINRA’s is one such example. The basic tenet of all these guidelines is fairness, honesty, transparency through disclosure and ethical practices.
CHECKLIST FOR ETHICAL SOCIAL MEDIA BEHAVIOR (from socialmedia.org)
Socialmedia.org is a great resource for businesses operating in the social media space to help establish credibility and legitimacy and prevent or manage brand attacks through social media. Their “Three Guides for Social Media Outreach” are:
- Require disclosure and truthfulness in social media outreach
- Monitor the conversation and correct misstatements
- Create social media policies and training programs
SOCIAL MEDIA ETHICAL USAGE TOOLKIT
The socialmedia.org website also offer a Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit from socialmedia.org with great information, questions and examples for businesses and organization to self-police their social media behavior in these areas:
- Identity disclosure
- Managing personal and unofficial social media participation
- Social media outreach campaigns
- Advocacy programs
- Compensation and Incentives
- Agency and Contractor disclosures
- Assessing a social media vendor’s ethics
- Monitoring and Responding
- Policies and training
- Artistic and Entertainment Communication
- General best practices