Two simple things you can do about social media risk right now

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(Opinion) -- Previously, I presented the argument that if you create the right culture then you don’t have to worry so much about this risk. But even if you are lucky enough to have the right culture, it does not guarantee that risk is diminished. The executives in the greatest companies spend a lot of time thinking about what can go wrong. It’s something that you should be doing, too.
Content-related risk is properly enterprise-level risk
Risk in social media - like all content and communication risk - properly sits at the level of enterprise risk management. This is because:
  • it is an ongoing process
  • it is effected by people at every level of your organisation
  • it is applied in strategy-setting
  • it gives you a holistic view of risk
  • it is designed to identify the potential events that can affect your business
  • it is something your board will understand and be able to work with (if you have one)
  • it is a means to an end.
That end is, ideally, publishing activity that does not cause things to go wrong. Or, looked at from another angle, publishing activity that is well managed even in the unlikely event of something going wrong.
Make no mistake, this ‘thinking about how things go wrong’ piece doesn’t equate to thinking about how things can go wrong in order to veto activity. It is something that you need to do to make sure that you can still engage in an activity, but do so on a firm foundation.
What risk is, and why it’s important to deal with it
Risk exists because of a state of unknowing. Risks turn into crises most often because they are poorly handled. Poor handling includes failing to have the right systems and mechanisms in place to deal appropriately with situations. In those situations, we find that companies react instead of responding. It’s a big difference.
Social media risk, unprepared for and poorly handled, can have far-reaching consequences. The Australian clothing company Black Milk experienced this first-hand in 2014 when some poorly chosen assets, combined with poorly chosen comments, created consumer backlash. If you search for “black milk social media problem” you’ll find a whole page of articles dedicated to that debacle.
So, what can your law firm do to put itself on the right foot?
1: Create a triage scale
The first thing to do is to decide on a rating scale, otherwise you won’t know how to classify your risks and start to deal with them. It doesn’t need to be a big deal. My recommendation is to include definite categories, and then define the scale. Some generic categories that work are:
  • People (resources)
  • People (clients)
  • People (stakeholders)
  • Income (immediate financials)
  • Revenue (long-term financials)
  • Channels and technology (don’t take them for granted).
These categories are in the lean risk canvas that my company developed, and which is free for you to access. Please visit our website, or drop a comment on this article if you would like to know how to get it.
2: Face the unknown
Then, you need to face the unknown. Pull your entire team together for an hour or two if you can. Together, brainstorm out every possible, plausible, implausible, likely and unlikely problem that could surface from your social media activity. It is important at this stage that everything is on the table. Even the most ridiculous-sounding ideas!
Once everyone’s imaginations are tapped out, you can let them all go back to work. All you have to do now is put them into a matrix, and assign a level of risk. To complete the circle, it’s a good idea to circulate this risk register and see if your team agrees with your estimations of risk.
What next?
Beyond this initial activity, you can then define how to handle risks, how to respond to situations if and when they arise, and do whatever else you need to do.
Much of these types of issues that firms face with publishing activity are simply a result of a big black hole of not-knowing. But as you can see, getting this stuff sorted out is easy and takes very little time. Once you know what the risks are, and you know how to handle them, it’s no longer such a big deal.  The time you spend at the beginning of the process can repay itself in spades in the unlikely event something actually does go wrong.

By Leticia Mooney, director of legal content strategy company Brutal Pixie.

Other articles by this author:

How to make social media work for you

Social media: A strategic, 3-step guide for lawyers