What is it for? And why do we need to "follow" anyone on this Twitter?
Over the last 10 years, it seems we have been moving at time warp speeds. We went from crafting our first corporate email, to surfing the illusive worldwide web, to us all owning cellphones, to chatting via instant messaging, to upgrading to smartphones, to downloading apps, to blogging, and to microblogging on sites such as Twitter. We are clearly in a high-speed techno race with social media tools sprouting everywhere. At times, it feels difficult to catch one's breath.
The newness of these tools and their mind-boggling speed of adoption captures many headlines lately. The user statistics are truly impressive. But have we had a chance to consider at all the consequences (risks) and prepare for this shift in communication and customer-elicitation medium?
Social media is becoming a regular part of how an individual or company operates, and one day no one will even think twice about it.
But until then, businesses will need to mature and evolve to this new paradigm and prepare for possible consequences that potentially could expose an organization to regulatory, legal, technical, and reputational risks.
Businesses engage with social media for numerous reasons including marketing, collecting information, and customer communications. Facebook welcomes hundreds of millions of customers to share information at the simple click of a button, allowing members to engage in a "megadialogue."
In principle, it is like organizing an enticing party and inviting all who are interested.
Your organization could create such a social media presence and buzz that you may have difficulty sustaining your own momentum or you may not be ready to scale up or you may encounter some awkward technical failures.
Imagine being invited to "the party of the season" and then when you arrive you are turned away at the door because there is no room for you.
Or, if you are finally allowed in, imagine that you can't hear yourself talk, that people are belligerent and that the fire marshal is on the way to shut the place down for breaking the law.
So make sure you can handle the traffic associated with your social media presence. Create policies, processes and clear timelines for responses. Ensure all communications are being tracked for auditing purposes. Make sure you have marshalling procedures and practices for those conversations that can quickly veer off-topic or turn into shouting matches.
But also consider what to do if no one comes to your party. There's no shortage of deserted online communities, some of them very expensive and brilliantly designed. Ensure there is a clear plan to the use and strategy around your communities.
Successful companies always have guarded their reputation and brand in a very structured and deliberate fashion, using controlled messaging and dedicated spokespeople.
In many ways, the same idea applies to managing the global soapbox of social media. Having a social media risk management program that considers technical solutions, policies and procedures and a crisis response plan is essential.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques.
August 23, 2011
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