Social Media Risk Management

How the world has changed. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, the social media risks associated with any business were vastly different. Gone are the days of one-way marketing communications and welcome to the world of dialogue.

Businesses and organizations can be intimidated by “Risk Management” and the implications of feedback on their brand in a social environment. In this blog, we will talk about how to address those fears and the best way to manage them moving forward.

I first want to start off with a thought from one of Canada’s heroes, Chris Hadfield. A few years ago, Col. Hadfield had partnered with Symphony Nova Scotia for a one of a kind performance in Halifax. I had the opportunity to attend this beautiful collaboration and was left with a different perspective, which I think relates here. During the performance, Hadfield was asked by an audience member about the fear associated with leaving the space station; there was known risk, significant risk at that, flying from the International Space Station back home. He said something along the lines of…

Risk doesn’t equal fear. There are lots of things in life that are risky, but it doesn’t mean you need to be fearful. Our team was equipped with the skills and expertise to land safely, so we recognized the risk and handled it how we were trained. Most things in life are full of risk, but don’t let fear stop you from doing what you need to do.”

There’s risk in a lot of what we do these days – going for a drive, swimming in the ocean, growing a business – but isn’t it true that we can apply Hadfield’s mantra to everything? If we can trust our skills and expertise, rely on the expert, plan and prepare, then we don’t need to be fearful of what’s to come.

For social media, it’s all about planning. Businesses and organizations need to put the initial leg work to ensure that everyone involved is prepared for any outcome. Gone are the days of setting up a social media feed without a plan of action or Risk Management Plan. Brands need to consider, “What is our goal here, what are we trying to achieve, how do we create an environment with two-way communication (this is a big one), and how do we manage the risk associated with this?”

Brands that expect to go on social media to spew their corporate messages without any sort of feedback are stuck in the dark ages. This is not the way people want to engage with brands. It’s also not the way for brands to engage with people. It’s not Facebook in 2009.

A Risk Management Plan is vital to ensuring social media success. A process to analyze sentiment and how to address this is vital to winning in today’s era of social media. Are you engaging? Are you innovative? Are you open to feedback?

Social media conversations are the ones that used to happen behind closed doors. It’s not that people didn’t have these thoughts; it’s often that these thoughts and conversations were happening amongst friends in the privacy of their own home. But have you ever thought about how social media has become so ingrained with our every day lives that now, we are engaging with our friends, in the privacy of our homes, we just now have a vessel to share more of those thoughts?

People are feeling more empowered than ever before. Those who didn’t have a voice now have one. When we think about this, it’s also important to reflect on all the positive that have come from this movement of people speaking up on social. #MeToo was a big one. This has changed the way we think in a drastic way.

So back to understanding risk and developing a Risk Management plan. Brands and organizations need to understand social media 2019 is very different than it was five years ago, heck even six months ago. Things are changing, channels are evolving, and people are expecting more out of business now than they ever have before.

In order to develop a robust risk management plan, organizations need to identify their risks, their blind spots and the potential issues associated with their business. This needs to be a VERY transparent, honest and open conversation. Risk Management is about readiness, response, reassurance and recovery. If a company can ensure that the four R’s are covered, any risk can be managed in a more productive way. From there, areas of concern will be identified, and action plans put into place.

This is also not a document that is created and gets stored somewhere on the company’s hard drive and never reviewed ever again. The document is something that should be revisited on a quarterly basis and evolved based on the current social ecosystem, what’s happening in the news, what’s happening with the company and if there have been any changes from the business plan.

Risk Management plans should include:

  • Table of contents for quick reference
  • Company goals and objectives
  • How to manage inquiries
  • Sentiment analysis and the process for address each concern
  • A triage system
  • Key messages
  • An escalation plan
  • Crisis Contacts
  • Urgent support contacts
  • Definitions page
  • Prepared responses


When we think about Risk Management, we need to think about the risk versus the reward. If we don’t plan for risk and stay in the world of doing things the way they’ve always been done them, something will happen, and fear will overtake the risk. This often ends badly. If we think in context of Chris Hadfield, had he let the fear of coming home to earth control him and not use his plan of action to help his team land safely, they’d be stuck in space and never see their families again or they would have faced a crisis of landing with high emotions which could have been fatal. The same goes with Risk Management on social, knee jerks end badly, errors happen without plans and the most prepared brands win.

In the words of Chris Hadfield… 

“Competence means keeping your head in a crisis, sticking with a task even when it seems hopeless, and improvising good solutions to tough problems when every second counts. It encompasses ingenuity, determination and being prepared for anything.”