Social media has become one of the most powerful tools businesses can use to communicate with clients, reach new consumers and build brand awareness.
But countless recent examples show that poor planning and mishandling social media can cause major long-term damage to a company’s reputation and bottom line.
Despite billions of pounds now being spent globally advertising across online platforms, our research shows many companies are failing to protect themselves from significant legal and reputational risks, leaving them vulnerable to hacking, damaging comments and being locked out.
Almost four in 10 SMEs do not have a process in place to deal with social media hacking, three in 10 do not have a process to deal with damaging comments and nearly a quarter of SMEs have been left locked out of their social media accounts.
Here’s how best to respond in each of the following emergency situations.
What to do if You Are Hacked
- If you can log in to the account, do so and immediately change the password.
- Change passwords to all of your other social media accounts.
- If the hacker has posted or sent messages from your account be sure to take screenshots before you delete them in the event that you need to take further action.
- Report the hack to the social media platform, and consider also reporting it to the police.
- Post an update from your social media account once you have reclaimed it explaining that the account was compromised, ensuring that the response is crafted by the right person or team of people.
- Work on preventative measures to stop your social media profiles from being hacked again.
Have you been hacked? To find out more read: Hacked! What to do if Your Company Social Media is Compromised.
What to do if You Receive Defamatory Comments or Damaging Complaints Online
Whether you should comment on a defamatory post left on your company’s social media pages or choose to leave and report it to the corresponding social network should be informed by your social media policy and crisis communications plan. This is likely to depend on a number of variables, such as:
- Whether it is illegal or not – what is unlawful in the UK might not be in the US, or elsewhere.
- The level of damage to your brand – Data will be key in determining whether a defamatory comment has caused your firm financial harm. Use the reaction on social media, alongside other metrics such as website analytics to indicate how serious the situation is and what financial harm can be linked to any negative comment.
You might want to choose the option that is likely to provoke the least backlash, even though there will be cases where you will have no other option than to “go legal”. Be sure to strike the right tone (especially if your normal tone is conversational) and know when you need to say sorry in public, but do so without admitting liability.
- Complaints should be handled as quickly as possible, with every effort made to take the conversation off line. If the complaint has been posted online, such as on your business’s Facebook page, it looks worse to leave it sitting there without any reply. You shouldn’t always simply delete it and pretend it didn’t happen.
- If you receive a complaint via a private message then you should still attempt to reply within a reasonable amount of time. If you don’t, that customer complaint could soon become public. This would make your business look bad – especially if it refers ti how you failed to reply until they complained publicly.
Have you received defamatory comments or damaging complaints online? To find out more read: How to Handle Defamatory Comments or Damaging Complaints on Social Media (coming soon).
How to Avoid Being Locked Out
Know who controls the passwords to your accounts – this should be more than one person in case they are off work sick, on annual leave or have left the business. Our research found that 16 per cent of SME owners and decision-makers did not understand how to access all of their company social media accounts and that 2 per cent simply didn’t know who updated them.
Have a system in place to ensure the login details for your social media accounts are always passed on before someone leaves your company, or are held centrally. Ensure that social media accounts are set up by or associated with a centrally-accessible company email account. If they are associated with a personal email account, then you may run the risk of losing immediate control of the account when that person leaves the business.
Processes such as these should be addressed within your company social media policy. To find out more read: Why a Social Media Policy is a Must For Your Company (coming soon).
Not everyone should have access to your company social media accounts but everyone should have a basic understanding of the following:
- How personal social media accounts can be linked to and reflect on a business.
- What business information they are not allowed to disclose online.
- How to use privacy settings for personal accounts.
- Best practice on what to do and not to do,
Any account in which a staff member identifies themselves as an employee of your company means that they are publicly representing your company, whether they realise it or not and whether or not their profile carries a disclaimer confirming that their view is “not that of their employer”.
Sometimes an employee’s comments can be traced back to your business even if they do not identify themselves as an employee of your company within a specific social network. So if, for example, they make a comment on Twitter or Youtube, with the same name or username that they use on another network where they have listed your company as where they work, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, the comment can be traced back to your business.
If you provide training for everyone then you will empower them with the best practice for both the company’s social media accounts and their personal accounts. This should encourage employee advocacy which is where employees support their company online through their own personal accounts. This is something that, when done right, can be a great asset to your business.
Steve Kuncewicz is a business advisory lawyer with expertise in media and social media law.