A Social Media Marketer’s Cheat Sheet for Mitigating Risk

p.friedman.featuredBy Peter Friedman, CEO,LiveWorld

As any social media person operating in a corporate or regulated environment can tell you, navigating legal liability while giving your customers a voice online can be a hair-raising proposition. That said, our customers, in some the most regulated industries in the world, have thriving social platforms and still sleep well at night.

Here is a top ten list of the most important things you can do to mitigate risk while embracing the dynamic interplay of conversations in social.

  1. Become best friends with your legal team. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of your legal team as “the man,” and yourself as the intrepid digital pioneer. Leveraging their expertise will ensure the health of your program and let you know when to push boundaries and when to play it safe. Involve them early and often. Not only will they not get in the way, they will help you move forward.
  2. Know that it’s impossible to over-prepare. When considering activity in social, do your best to anticipate how customers will react, using whatever data or experience you have to inform your guessing game. Then, create a process and policy that will allow you to be consistent and measured when difficulties arise. This is also important so that others in your organization can see that you’re well prepared for the uncharted waters of social.
  3. Take time to educate stakeholders throughout your organization. Communicating what you’re up to in social won’t just help take down barriers to getting things done within the organization, it will also educate you on who in your organization should be involved in risk-management.
  4. Have a crisis team and plan in place, before the crisis happens. When an issue comes up, it should already be clear exactly which parties need to be involved. And those parties should be sensitized to the need for a rapid response. Establish a social cultural model and customers who are brand advocates, before the crisis happens. One should never wait to create brand defenders in the middle of a crisis.
  5. “Never go to sleep angry.” They say this about marriage conflicts, but it applies well to social media flashpoints. Same day response is essential.
  6. Embrace the risk, but manage it. Addressing legal concerns isn’t about playing it so safe that you never take a risk. It means being thoughtful, considering the costs and the benefits, then moving forward with a thorough understanding of what could go wrong and what the consequences will be.
  7. Enable your team to be human. Although process and preparation are important, it’s essential that the people talking directly to your customers have enough human touch to be present in their interactions and apply common sense and sensitivity. People don’t like being managed by algorithms or even by humans who act like robots.
  8. Remember that even in the virtual world, geography matters. If you’re engaging in social on a global scale, recognize that the law and the culture informing it varies significantly from country to country. Work with your brand, country, and legal teams to identify these differences early on. You’ll save time if you’re building a campaign around existing regulation, rather than having to blow things up and put them back together. 
  9. Come up with a consistent, scalable plan for moderation. Anyone can handle a comment or two, but your goal is to have a lot of customers doing a lot of talking. How will you scale up when you have dozens or hundreds or thousands of comments a day? How will you handle evenings and weekends, sudden spikes, and problem content? Consistency in how you moderate is incredibly important in building trust. Stay proactive by posting community rules and guidelines that make it clear to customers upfront what principles underlie your moderation – in doing so, they will be much more cooperative and accepting when you need to police interactions.
  10. Think long-term, not short-term. Deepening the relationship with your customers through social has incredible benefits in terms of increasing loyalty, gathering insights, and driving revenue. But it also raises the stakes—once you’ve connected in that environment, it can be damaging to go back. The head of social and digital at one of our Fortune 500 clients said, “Social isn’t just for Christmas. It’s for life.” So make sure you’re building sustainability into your program.


About the Author:  Peter Friedman (friedman@liveworld.com) is the Chairman and CEO of LiveWorld, a social content marketing company that is a trusted partner to the world’s largest brands, including the number-one companies in retail, CPG, pharmaceutical, and financial/travel services. @PeterFriedman