The new social media audit is evolving to a risk-aware approach

January 22, 2021 · READ

In any other year, you may have just completed the annual social media audit or are preparing to have one done to assess the effectiveness of efforts on your social channels and identify opportunities for improvement. But if we’ve learned anything from the past year, it’s that we still have to plan for a future where the visibility ahead is limited by a dense fog of uncertainty.

This year requires a reset as you confront the challenges of an uncertain 2021 by applying what the profession has learned from handling multiple simultaneous risks and crises in 2020. You’ll modify the playbook, recalibrate your resources, and adjust your approach.

That includes evolving the social media audit so it has a more risk-aware approach.

Allow me to explain. Until now, a social media audit was typically conducted by the digital team—often the community or social media manager. They would compile and audit things such as:

  • All of the brand’s social media accounts, including employee, regional offices, fan, and imposter accounts.
  • Whether or not the accounts are complete and on brand.
  • If all channels are owned by one person and the passwords are centralized, or not.
  • The year’s most engaging posts on each social network.
  • What the general sentiment is and how it’s changed year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter.
  • The demographics of fans and followers on each social network. 
  • Whether the channel performance fits the brand’s social media mission—and whether or not the goals were met.
  • If there is a return-on-investment that matches the effort.

For an annual process, this has always worked well in the past. It gives you insight into what’s working, what’s not, and which imposter accounts to remove. 

What it doesn’t do, however, is help you predict what triggers people to create those imposter accounts, whether or not they’re filled with harmful content, and how to respond. It doesn’t give you an early-warning advantage to the risks you have lying in wait in your social media accounts. Nor does it help you identify the online instigators—or trolls, harassers, activists, and sophisticated bad actors—intent on killing your brand.

Questions to ask as you establish your new social media audit

To stay relevant, stay ahead, and stay competitive in this new environment, new practices should be adopted. While social media teams must absolutely still be involved in the annual audit process, other stakeholders—chief communications officers, internal auditors, general counsel—increasingly play a role. 

The additional team members allow for the social media audit to evolve from one of engagement and sentiment to being risk-aware.

Among corporations, establishing a social media presence is now more than accepted; it’s expected. In spite of the unquestioned value of social media, its effect on a brand’s risk environment is still categorized as nonstandard or atypical.

As brands look at their social media audits to determine if the activity is worth the risk, adding colleagues to the team can help to shake out different types of scenarios that they are each attuned to. 

To help the larger team establish the scope of your new social media audit, ask yourselves the following questions:

  • What are the current policies around each kind of harmful content—hate speech, online harms, profanity, or illegal content.
  • What is the process for escalating issues emerging on brand-owned social media pages and ads?
  • What moderation tools or partners are currently being used and how many failures have been recorded?
  • Which languages are, or are not, currently supported? And is there a firm understanding of cultural nuance in conversation?
  • What known topics have emerged as risks to the organization via owned and paid social media? 
  • Who are the actors and groups that posed a threat to the organization in the past year? How many were flagged, removed, and tracked?
  • Does the current moderation policy need to be updated to reflect current events, issues, and situations from this past year?
  • What is the average response time, during business hours, outside of and during holidays?
  • Which markets require moderation and are they receiving it 24/7?
  • Are the credentials for your social media pages centralized, and can the passwords be automatically updated?
  • Do all mobile phones assigned to logging in use two-factor authentication?
  • Do external agencies or partners you no longer work with still have access to your owned social media?
  • Are your community guidelines updated for clarity and transparency?

Answering these questions can reduce the risks associated with social media activity and help optimize brand reputation at the same time. If the brand finds it is unable to acclimate to the shifting landscape of social media, find a risk intelligence partner who can help.

The new social media audit takes a holistic approach to manage risks

Despite its advantages, social media has accelerated a wide array of risks—reputational, operational, and financial—that lurk at every touchpoint of your brand on social media platforms. That extends to owned media pages, social media advertising campaigns, and alt-tech platforms.

A lack of planning combined with the unpredictability of online behavior can expose brands to considerable risk. Our research has found that brands not only tend to underestimate how much harmful content resides on their owned social media pages and paid ads, but enterprise leaders and internal auditors often lack sufficient awareness of the risks and therefore fail to take an active role in regulating and monitoring social media activity.

Monitoring developments and managing risks on the social media playing field is a daunting task. For multinational brands, there’s an added emphasis on understanding different cultures and languages and working with your social media team to insert the appropriate controls and compliance awareness into those tasked with monitoring and moderating content.

The speed and expanse of social media amplifies and escalates negativity to a new order of magnitude. Unwitting consumers can easily generate and share potentially harmful content with a worldwide audience in minutes. Worse, online instigators who intentionally spark negative content take advantage of ill-prepared enterprises that ignore social media and allow such content to spread without awareness or participation.

Traditional risk management policies and procedures are simply not designed for minute-by-minute monitoring of social media chatter to identify brand, strategy, compliance, legal, and market risks. We’ve seen how financial institutions have had to shut down social media forums due to unanticipated negative feedback; how stock value has been affected; how business strategies have been upended; how brands have been damaged due to the volume and velocity of negative attacks on social media.

A new social media audit that accounts for broad risks helps identify and explore many of the potential negative consequences posed by social media by outlining a holistic approach to identifying, assessing, and managing those risks.

Audit social media differently. Evaluate and protect every day.

The new social media audit is designed to promote a new, more comprehensive understanding of the potential pitfalls of social media. It’s a critical component of creating a risk-aware culture that is attuned to both the significant benefits and the distinctive dangers of social media. It contributes to the compliance and performance management capabilities for your brand that can maximize the upside of your social media usage.

Even with a formal plan in place, many brands are simply not capable of monitoring social media networks around the clock in real-time to identify potentially harmful content that may escalate quickly from digital chatter to regulatory, business, and brand risks.

Effectively monitoring and moderating the vast amounts of data now on social media platforms is dependent on an early-warning risk intelligence solution to rapidly assess digital chatter, respond appropriately, and remove any harmful content.

Of course, the new social media audit is about more than just helping brands avoid potential harm. It’s also about turning the apparent randomness and chaos of millions of posts and tweets into information that can be used to guide the efforts of social media activity so your brand can thrive in the fuzzy future of 2021.

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