While it was once regarded as more of a toy than a tool, in today’s relentlessly competitive business landscape it is beyond question that social media plays a legitimate and significant role in acquiring and retaining customers, differentiating brands, building communities, promoting products and services, generating market research, and even facilitating profitable mergers and acquisitions. Indeed, a Deloitte survey found that 56 percent of M&A practitioners used social media for the primary purpose of identifying potential acquisition targets.
In light of the above, more businesses — from small start-ups to large enterprises — are realizing, often with a degree of concern and anxiety, that while they know they have a large and useful social media footprint, they frankly don’t know what it looks like, where it is, and what it’s doing. Social media accounts have just organically grown over the years, and the folks who started various accounts might have since moved onto other parts of the company; or maybe to another organization. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that businesses can regain control of their social media profile — and in so doing, safeguard and strengthen their brand and reputation — by conducting a social media discovery. While each business is unique, generally here are the three areas that must be explored, in order to ensure that no virtual social media stone is left unturned:
- Business Web Presence
Many businesses who undertake a social media discovery are surprised — and often shocked — to discover the existence of dozens (or sometimes hundreds!) of social media accounts, wikis, boards, discussions, and other points-of-presence that were created without executive approval, let alone awareness.
What’s more, there are usually several other auto-generated pages and community-generated sites that, while not under direct control of the business, are nevertheless part of its social media profile, and therefore need to be identified and categorized. And we haven’t even touched upon brand squatters (well, that is until now), who are a whole different kind of problem. Still, a social media discovery shines a light on whether it’s necessary to pull out the checkbook and acquire a domain or account — or whether it’s necessary to give the legal team a call and have them look into the matter.
- Third-Party Accounts
Channel partners, retailers, enthusiastic customers, employees, and high-profile executives with a social media following all need to be identified during the social media discovery process.
And with respect to employees, which can be a sensitive topic: the courts have confirmed that businesses have both a right and responsibility to govern and safeguard their brand by monitoring employee social media use – even when the activity takes place on personal time rather than business time. This is not a “Big Brother is Watching” issue. This is an “if we don’t keep an eye on what our people are saying and doing on social media, we might get sued, fined, hacked, or go out of business” issue.
- Infringing Properties
Unfortunately, the social media landscape has some bad apples; i.e. individuals and even companies that are poaching brand names to sell counterfeit goods, steal traffic (i.e. deceive customers into thinking they’re visiting legitimate business A, when they’re really being funneled to illegitimate business B), and so on. All of these malicious social media points-of-presence need to be part of the discovery and routed to compliance/legal teams ASAP.
A Final Word
Conducting a social media discovery is critically important — but if the process is manual, it can also be excessively time-consuming, tedious and riddled with human error. What’s more, this is just one part of the overall social media audit and governance plan (the other big pieces of the puzzle are monitoring and protecting). As such, using the right social media audit tools will save time, and ensure that the process is effective and worthwhile.