Tips to safely use social media for your business

Social media has rapidly become one of the most important marketing tools for businesses today. One study found that 46% of consumers rely on social media to help them make important purchasing decisions. Another study by PayPal found that the rate for mobile commerce in Canada is projected to grow by 34% a year. Did you know that 43% of people are more likely to visit a store after seeing a deal offered on Twitter? There’s simply no denying social media’s importance as a brand marketing tool.

And while it’s important for a modern business to make use of these digital platforms, it’s also important to understand the new risks they can present. Social media has the power to engage your customers and promote your brand, but the wrong post could damage your business’ reputation. These outlets also present a new cyber risk for business owners. In this article we provide some helpful tips on how to minimize some of the risks to your business with smarter social media practices.

Crafting a smart social media strategy

There’s no guarantee that good social media habits will save your business from digital disaster, but taking some steps toward a careful and comprehensive social media policy can go far in terms of protection and prevention.

Always check your facts. Mistakes can happen, but it’s best to try to mitigate them as much as possible. One wrong step could cost you your reputation with your customers. Coca Cola had a social media blunder in 2016, when the brand tweeted a cartoon with a snow-covered map of Russia. Unfortunately, the map was outdated and missing Kaliningrad. Following the mistake, the hashtag #BanCocaCola was trending all over Russia. Always double check that what you’re posting is accurate and correct. A study done by the SANS Institute found that 49% of executives surveyed felt the use of social media could damage their company reputation, however the same study found that only 1/3 of these executives are actively combatting these concerns.

Stay on top of your pages. Social media is not only a useful marketing tool, but a strong customer service platform as well. Consumers will often reach out to a brand or business on social media to ask a question, lodge a complaint or get more information. Did you know that 40% of consumers expect to hear back from a company on social media within an hour? Updating your pages regularly can help you develop trust with your customers and strengthen your credibility as a brand.

Prioritize privacy. Depending on the type of business you operate, you may store sensitive information on company computers. Your customers, employees and business partners trust you to keep this type of information private and confidential. More importantly, the sharing of this information could be illegal and bring severe penalties to you and your business. Personal details should never be shared, and neither should information regarding lawsuits, potential acquisitions or transactions that involve the company or its personnel. A good rule of thumb: if it isn’t already public information, don’t share it on social media.

Beware of cyberattacks. Social media is becoming a more attractive target for cyber hackers due to the growing popularity of these platforms. Theft of hard data (data that can directly hurt a consumer or business) increased by 56% in 2015. There are more than 1.6 billion social network users worldwide—it’s become one of the most popular ways for online users to spend their time, which is why hackers are using it to gain access to networks and important information. According to the 2016 Symantec Internet Security Threat Report, these are the most popular techniques for social hackers:

  1. Manual sharing: this tactic actually has the user do most of the work on behalf of the hacker. Hackers will entice victims with intriguing and engaging content that prompts them to share it with their friends, further spreading the scam.
  2. Fake offering: this type of attack involves the hacker inviting users to fake events with fake incentives such as gift card giveaways. In most cases, users are asked to provide their credentials in order to receive the free giveaway.
  3. Life-jacking: using fake “like” buttons on Facebook to trick users into downloading malware. After it’s installed, it may start posting content and updates to the user’s newsfeed and profile.
  4. Fake apps: this technique involves inviting users to download an app that is described to work in conjunction with a social platform. In reality, once the app is downloaded it provides hackers access to the user’s credentials.
  5. Fake plugin: have you ever been asked to install a plugin in order to view a piece of content such as a video? This is a common hacking technique. When the plugin is installed, it provides hackers access to your credentials.

Understand the legal implications. There are often legal issues that can be tied to what’s published on social media. Topics such as copyright, trademark, tortious interference, defamation, slander, right to publicity and product disparagement are just some of the legal areas that every business owner should understand before developing a social media marketing strategy. If you’re a Northbridge Insurance customer, you have access to our Legal Assist service, which can provide some guidance on these areas and how they could present a risk to your business.

Implement rules. Your employees mean well, but mistakes can happen. Putting together a set of rules and guidelines on how to use the business’ social media pages for anyone who has access to them will help manage the risk of error or misrepresentation. It’s also best to limit access to only those who need to have logins and passwords in order to avoid unauthorized posting and sharing. Here are some key points you may want to include in your guidelines:

  • Are you respecting confidentiality? If the information you are about to share is not open to the public, it should remain private. Don’t share any sensitive company, personal or employee information online. If you’re ever unsure, please check with your supervisor.
  • Are you making it clear that your views are your own? While you can speak about the company, don’t speak for the company (unless you have been authorized to do so).
  • Is what you’re sharing accurate? Honesty is the best policy. Please double check any facts to ensure you are not publishing anything incorrect or misleading.
  • Do you have permission? Don’t assume anyone else will be okay with a personal post just because you’d be okay with it. If your post involves or affects others, check with them before sharing anything online.
  • Are you staying positive? Use social media outlets that are approved by the company and only post content that promotes or inspires others. If you come across a negative post about the company, avoid the temptation to react yourself. Instead, pass the post along to the appropriate individual.
  • Have you thought twice? What you post on the internet will stay there forever and it can always be traced back to you. Do not post anything you may regret in the future.

There’s no denying the importance of a corporate social media presence in today’s digital age, but it’s also important to recognize the risks that go along with it. Understanding these risks can help you better prepare yourself and your employees to safely and effectively use social media.