Controlling the uncontrollable – How organizations can stay safe on social media
Many organizations are choosing to have a social media presence today in order to capitalize on its potential for inexpensive, large scale communication—whether it is to further a cause, generate publicity, or generally be noticed by specific target groups. Unfortunately, social media’s fundamental tenet of promoting free thought and communication also tends to pose significant fraud and reputation risks for organizations.
For starters, verification of facts prior to posting information tends to be overlooked in the rush for being the ‘first to post’, potentially resulting in the rapid spread of misinformation. Customer complaints on social media have also been known to go viral, causing damage to the brand and preventing a chance for resolution.
There have also been cases where fraudsters have created fake social media profiles offering job opportunities on behalf of organizations. Unethical competitors can run campaigns using fake accounts to post unfavourable product/service reviews. Yet another example of social media fraud is identity theft—fraudsters can steal personal information and use it to access financial information.
We have also observed cases where confidential business information or intellectual property was released on social media by fraudsters. Further, social media networks often change their privacy settings and unless users monitor this carefully, they may inadvertently reveal confidential information on the platform.
Removing offending posts on social media is difficult and, many times, offense may appear to be the only defence for organizations. In our experience, the following measures may help organizations safeguard themselves from social media fraud:
- Monitoring the brand name for misuse – There are tools available to monitor brand mentions and sentiment on social media. These can help understand how the brand is perceived and take corrective action wherever necessary.
- Training and awareness for employees – Clear guidelines on what content is permissible for social media sharing, who is authorized to comment in an official capacity, disclaimers that must be used on personal profiles, etc. must be outlined. Further, a dedicated training program to help employees understand the potential implications of their actions on social media could be useful.
- Managing employee accessibility to social media sites through content filtering or by limiting network through-put – Often, employees use smartphones to access social media sites, opening up the risk of malware entering the network. Appropriate controls may need to be installed and continuously updated on mobile devices to better manage such risks.
- Customer education – Disgruntled customers can pose a significant risk of bad-mouthing the brand on social media. To curb this, many organizations have a dedicated customer service channel or closed group on social media where customers are encouraged to post complaints.
- Having a social media fraud response plan – Organizations may not always be able to prevent social media fraud, but they can be better prepared to deal with it. Having a reaction plan and corresponding timelines to deal with well-known instances of social media fraud may help limit the spread of misinformation and control the damage.
Social media provides an opportunity for organizations to improve their customer reach at a fraction of the costs that using traditional media may incur. If adequate safeguards are put in place to prevent fraud, this platform may become a robust channel for organizations to grow business, attract quality talent, and gain customer loyalty.
Authored by: Sumit Makhija, Partner, Deloitte India