PR Training

How To Conduct An Effective Social Media Audit

The fact is senior leadership is very interested in social media – as is your board of directors. They are still trying to understand the value it brings, while balancing the associated risks. The challenge is that the work most public relations professionals have in what has traditionally been called a “social media audit” doesn’t go far enough to have any significant impact on the risks that are concerning your senior leadership. While message and brand consistency is important, it just doesn’t go deep enough to mitigate financial or reputational risk – and that is what they are (or should be) discussing.

Editor’s Note: Peter R. Scott, APR is vice president, development, North American Veterinary Community is presenting How to Conduct an Effective Social Media Auditat the PRSA 2014 International Conference on Monday, Oct. 13, from 1011:15 a.m. The following is a guest post previewing their session.

2014 PRSA International PR Conference banner

It might be a little different than you think.

When most of us think about conducting a social media audit, our minds generally go to areas such as making sure our messages and branding are consistent across various social platforms, identifying our target publics, measuring the level of engagement on various platforms, discovering what competitors are doing in the social space, identifying what content is and what is not working along with various other qualitative and quantitative measures.   The good news is that all of these are important when it comes to monitoring and maintaining an organization’s social media presence.  The bad news is that it is just scratching the surface.

For those of you who have performed a social media audit in the past, have you found that your hard work doesn’t seem to get your senior leadership all that excited?  With all the talk about social media these days, why does it seem as though a social media audit, a program to help protect the brand and grow engagement, isn’t getting a lot of attention?  The answer is simple enough, but the solution is quite a bit more involved.

During the 2014 PRSA International Conference, I’m going to speaking about Auditing Social Media, but I’m going to take a different approach than most of the advice you’ll find online.  The fact is senior leadership is very interested in social media – as is your board of directors.  They are still trying to understand the value it brings, while balancing the associated risks.  The challenge is that the work most public relations professionals have in what has traditionally been called a “social media audit” doesn’t go far enough to have any significant impact on the risks that are concerning your senior leadership.  While message and brand consistency is important, it just doesn’t go deep enough to mitigate financial or reputational risk – and that is what they are (or should be) discussing.

So what are the big areas of risk that need to be audited?  Though the social space continues to move at a very rapid rate, the six areas that have the most concern today are:

  • Brand and Reputational Risk
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Strategic Risk
  • Information Leakage
  • Third Party Risk
  • Governance Risk

Brand and Reputational Risk

While what has frequently been referred to as a “Social Media Audit” is a good starting point, the need to conduct an audit or “risk assessment” and ensure that the proper policies, procedures and plans are in place in the areas of crisis management, employee training, monitoring and overall social media management.  An effective audit isn’t always looking at what was done, but it’s more about how and why it’s being done. It’s more about policies, procedures and plans to make sure that both opportunities and risks are consistently recognized and acted upon appropriately.

Regulatory Compliance

This applies especially is you work for a publicly traded company – and if it’s a public company in the financial services arena, compliance is even more of a focus.   With so many regulators jumping on board when it comes to social media, both at a state and federal level, the need to ensure your organization is in compliance is even more important.   While it may have started with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Guidelines in 2009, others have jumped on board.  Some of the more vocal are the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFEIC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – just to mention a few.

Strategic Risk

Are your social media activities tied to your overall business strategy and business objectives?  If not, why?  If your organization is spending time “being social” but the program is not helping achieve your business objectives, the organization is exposed to the risk of “opportunity cost” in that time and resources are being devoted to something that is not helping the business achieve its stated objectives.

Information Leakage

Information leakage is the perfect storm when it comes to social media risk.  With access to information, the ability to share that information on social platforms and a broad audience to share it with, the potential loss of intellectual property, personal information, health records, etc. can have a significant impact on your organization’s brand, competitive advantage or share price.  In some cases, it could end up in having legal or regulatory consequences.

Third Party Risk

If you are outsourcing your social media activities, what policies, procedures and controls are in place to protect your organization from social media risks (anyone remember the rogue Chrysler tweet?)?  In this case, the audit should include the training and controls the agency has in place as well as ensuring the proper it has the proper security, legal and compliance policies and procedures in place to protect your organization’s brand.

Governance Risk

The lack of governance can cause the social media activities to be uncoordinated and can cause an overall lack of consistency, especially for global organizations.  This can result in lackluster performance and missed opportunities.   Today, there is also the potential for “anti-social organizations” to feel the backlash from customers and others for not having a social presence.

Addressing governance issues is a perfect opportunity for you bring everyone together and ensure that the entire team is working towards the same end state, using the same metrics, and implementing the same tools.  As the level is social maturity increases within your organization, conducting an audit in this area can lead to greater efficiency, securing the proper resources based on sharing the right metrics, the removal of “social silos” and greater organizational learning.

Yes, what I am proposing is much more detailed and in-depth than what you might have seen or read online when considering a social media audit.  However, it is what your leadership and board want to see.  It addresses the issues that they are concerned about.  While it does not have to be you – why not?

I hope you join me at the 2014 PRSA International Conference.  During my session, I’ll go into greater detail on these risk areas and provide you with resources that will help you conduct an effective social media audit.

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