Social Media Said to Present Significant Reputational Risks

August 13, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

Brand Metrics | Privacy & Security | Social Media

altimeter-social-media-biz-risks-august2012.pngSocial networks present enormous branding opportunities, but also critical reputational risks to businesses, according to an August 2012 study by Altimeter Group. When asked to estimate the level of risk that social networks present for businesses, 35% of the respondents – for whom social media risk management is their primary or a significant part of their responsibility – identified reputation or damage to the brand as a critical risk. Other critical risks include: release of other confidential information (15%); loss of intellectual property, legal, regulatory and compliance issues; and disclosure of personal data (each at 13%); and identity theft and/or highjacking (12%).

Although the survey sample was small (52 responses for the above questions), the job roles of the respondents lends weight to these findings. Of the 12 businesses identified, a majority saw social media presenting at least moderate risk for 9. For example, while 35% perceived social media to pose a critical risk to a brand’s reputation, another 31% saw it presenting a significant risk. Just 6% saw no risk at all. Respondents also believe social media presents considerable risks to information management. Interestingly, just 4% of respondents identified loss of employee productivity as a critical risk to business.

Facebook, Twitter Are Risk Management Minefields

Data from Altimeter’s “Guarding the Social Gates: The Imperative for Social Media Risk Management” reveals that among social media channels, 35% of respondents feel Facebook poses a significant risk to their organization, followed by Twitter (25%) and video sharing sites (YouTube, Vimeo, etc. – 15%).

These three present some of the broadest reach, visibility and adoption among consumers (hence the proportional opportunity and risk). But sheer exposure is not the only challenge these platforms represent; respondents said that Facebook’s frequent privacy policy changes left them exposed until they were able to assess the changes and adjust accordingly.

Blogs and blog comments, whether they be third-party (10%) or company-managed (8%) are seen as a significant source of risk by fewer, though a notable proportion see them presenting moderate risks (28% and 37%, respectively).

LinkedIn was cited by just 5% as presenting significant risks, followed by a three-way tie at 3% for Pinterest, photo-sharing sites (like Flickr and Foursquare), and enterprise and internal social networks like Chatter.

1 in 3 Do Not Assess Their Risks

Of the 39 professionals who responded to a question about their risk assessment, only 22 (56.4%) regularly assess their social media risk. 13 do not (33.3%), citing a lack of internal resources as the reason; they are not blind to the risks, but are hard pressed to manage or pay for risk assessment. Just over 10% of respondents do not know if their companies currently assess their social media risks.

Of companies that have been subject to social media criticism however strong (ranging from a single complaint to a full-scale campaign), fully 72% rated their preparedness as average or below, with 20% being completely unprepared, according to a July 2012 report by Ethical Corporation and Useful Social Media. Just 15% of companies reported that they were fully engaged with the problem.

About The Data: Altimeter group conducted both quantitative and qualitative studies using a combination of an online survey, qualitative interviews and an analysis of publicly available information. Quantitative interviews included surveys of 92 professionals from various industries and backgrounds who in their current roles are responsible for social media risk management as a primary or significant function of their jobs. Qualitative interviews involved 36 companies; roles interviewed included social media managers, compliance officers, corporate counsel, chief security officers (CSOs), social media risk managers, and senior executives of vendors, agencies and end users.

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