Risk management and social media: Play nicely, be careful

Regardless of your company’s marketing budget, social media have become a powerful way to communicate with customers, strategic partners and just about anyone else you wish to influence.

 

Thanks to the energy of such tools as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, your message can be heard even on a shoestring budget.

However, improper usage can result in risks and serious consequences for you and your firm. The following guidelines for social media participation can help to mitigate these risks:

<KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE – Write or share posts knowing everyone, including valued clients and the folks who sign your paycheck, could potentially see what you post or share. Remember your contribution to the social media gabfest will be globally accessible today, tomorrow and long into the future.

<BE RESPECTFUL – Do not disparage competitors or criticize other people and organizations through posts or shares. This includes existing and former clients, as it could result in lost clients and legal consequences. What’s more, who among us is perfect?

<BE CONVERSATIONAL – Write as you speak to real people in a professional situation. Avoid stuffy corporate-speak and mannered language. In fact, avoid words such as “mannered.” That said, also avoid slang and street talk that could unfairly diminish you and your intellect.

<ADD VALUE – Social media are no different than any other type of business communication. They should help build your business, improve professional skills, solve problems and be inspired to reach greater heights. As in all things, leave the world a better place through your social media activity.

<SPREAD THE GOOD WORD – When you have something good to say about your firm, colleagues and clients, say it on multiple social media platforms.

<HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY – Never represent yourself or your firm in a false or misleading way. Be transparent about your identity and relationship to your firm.

<STAY IN THE ZONE – Stick close to your areas of expertise, especially when referencing products and services manufactured and/or sold by your company. If you are pressed to cover something in which you are not an expert, make this clear to readers.

<NO DEMAGOGUERY – As a general rule, share deeply held personal opinions with friends and family offline. Even one-to-one texts and email could be turned against you by someone who does not respect your confidence.

<WHEN IN DOUBT, DON’T DO IT – If you have to think twice about writing or sharing a post, typically it’s a sign it should not be published or shared.

<OBSERVE COPYRIGHT LAWS – Give credit where credit is due.

<RESPECT CONFIDENTIALITY – Ask permission to repeat conversations and to forward communications.

<AVOID HOT BUTTONS – Do not participate in social media when the topic is a breaking event. Let the dust settle and wait for all facts before weighing in. Even then, proceed with great care.

<FOLLOW YOUR FIRM’S CODE OF CONDUCT – Just as there are things you would not do or say in a meeting or with a customer, the same is true for social media.

<FOLLOW YOUR FIRM’S PRIVACY POLICY.

<ADHERE TO YOUR FIRM’S EMAIL AND INTERNET USAGE POLICIES – If your firm hasn’t drafted and published these policies, now’s the time. If it is not available in-house, get help from professionals.

<WHAT HAPPENS AT SOCIAL EVENTS STAYS AT SOCIAL EVENTS – Photo-sharing sites such as Snapchat and Instagram are social media. Post photos taken at company gatherings with the greatest care, thoughtfulness and consideration. Carefully review all four corners of a photo before sharing it.

<BE NONCONFRONTATIONAL – Avoid sarcasm and be mindful of your tone when posting online. Do not escalate a potentially volatile situation. Instead, politely disengage from the conversation.

Based in Warrington, Bob Dietzel is co-founder and Principal of KMRD Partners Inc., a risk and human capital management consulting and insurance brokerage firm with three offices in southeastern Pennsylvania. He can be reached at bdietzel@kmrdpartners.com.

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