Most Companies Believe Social’s Risks Are Avoidable, But Few Assess Them

GrantThornton-Concern-Surrounding-Risks-of-Social-Media-Use-Sept2013Asked their level of concern surrounding potential risks associated with their social media strategy, 71% of respondents to a recent study [pdf] from Grant Thornton chose the response indicating that their company is concerned but they believe the risks can be mitigated or avoided. About 1 in 8 respondents are very concerned about social’s potential risks, although that percentage is matched by the proportion who do not believe there are any appreciable risks. Interestingly, despite most believing that social’s risks are avoidable, few are taking action to prevent them.

Among the senior executives surveyed – who hail mostly from small to mid-sized private companies – only 18% said their company performs social media risk assessments. Similarly, just 21% have an incident management plan in place should there be an issue with fraud or privacy breaches related to social media. Low levels in this area are likely related to only 1% of respondents claiming to have been afflicted by a fraud incident involving social media.

When asked to rank 6 potential risks when using social media, respondents from private companies were most likely to choose negative comments about the company as the top risk, followed closely by disclosure of proprietary information. Respondents from public companies most often ranked disclosure of proprietary information as their top risk, while the exposure of personally identifiable information was the top choice for the second spot.

Overall, 57% of the respondents are either extremely confident (47%) or confident (10%) that sensitive information is adequately protected on their social media platforms. And some companies do appear to be taking steps to better protect themselves. This year, 36% said they conduct social media training, up from 21% in 2011. Even so, a plurality 45% don’t have any training programs in place (the remaining 19% don’t know or unsure).

A study released earlier this year by McKinsey found that most executives from around the world associate risks with social technology use, ranging from increased risk of confidential information being leaked (55%), to employees posting content on external social sites that reflects negatively on the company (30%). An earlier survey from Altimeter Group conducted among social media risk management professionals found a leading 35% identifying reputation or damage to the brand as a critical risk.

About the Data: The Grant Thornton survey was conducted among 111 senior-level executives from public and private companies during May and June 2013.