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Avoiding the Risks Inherent in Your Firm’s Social Media Presence


More and more companies are developing a social media presence to increase their exposure and reach new clients.

Typically, an organization will put a person in charge of the company’s social media accounts and making posts to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other sites. If managed properly, your organization can reap significant benefits from a creative online presence, but if you mismanage it, the risks can be significant.

The dangers that you face include libel risk, reputational damage from posting controversial or misleading material, cyber security risks and copyright infringement risk.

To avoid any of these issues, you should have in place policies that require reviews of posts, only allowing certain individuals access to your organization’s social media accounts, and other safeguards.

Let’s look at some of the main risks you face with an online presence.

 

Libel

Libel refers to written defamation that hurts someone’s professional reputation. Slander is the spoken version of libel. While you might think that you could never do this in a social media post, many small businesses have been sued for this very offense.

For instance, any time you tweet about someone else or another company that could be reasonably construed as negative, you risk being accused of libel. Or if you start or participate in a thread and accuse a competitor of shoddy workmanship, that business could file a libel claim against you.

 

To meet the libel standard:

  • The statement must be false.
  • Must be made publicly.
  • Must have caused harm to someone’s professional reputation.

 

What to do: Create an approval process involving a senior leader for any social media communication. Do not give a junior person full control, as their inexperience could cause irreparable damage.

 

Copyright infringement

This refers to the use, distribution, display or derivation of copyrighted work without the creator’s permission. Copyrighted work usually includes:

  • Music
  • Art
  • Photography
  • Film
  • Writing

 

Most typically, this risk would arise if your designated social media manager posts someone else’s graphic design and claims it as your company’s own on your social media page. Your firm could be sued for damages in these circumstances.

 

What to do: Before posting images that aren’t your own on your social media pages, ensure that they aren’t subject to copyright.

 

Reputational risk

Poorly managed social media that creates negative publicity can hurt your company’s reputation.

 

What to do: As in libel management, create an internal approval process.

 

Security issues

There is always a risk of your organization being hacked, or its database being infiltrated by a botnet, spyware, ransomware and a host of other cyber nasties. There are all types of cyber traps floating around social media awaiting someone to click on a rogue link to set off an attack on their computer system.

 

For businesses, the risk is mainly the potential of confidential company information being leaked outside the company.

 

What to do: Have your IT department or outside IT professional ensure that all of your accounts have the proper privacy and security settings. This can protect confidential information, and reduce the chances of having your account hacked or falling victim to cyber theft.

The larger your company, the greater the need for more sophisticated security systems.

 

Monitor posts by third parties

One of the biggest risks to your company is having outsiders post on your social media page, particularly if they disparage or complain about your company or one of its products or services.

 

What to do: Monitor all of the social media platforms you operate on, so you can quickly identify negative feedback and address it before it gains support. If somebody is posting blatantly offensive material or is extremely critical of your company, you can block them from your page.