Insight article

Social media – the risk factor

I was amused to read an article in The Tmes today (3 December)  relating to a slating Facebook posting by the daughter of ousted General Motors Chief Executive Fritz Henderson, giving the company’s management a piece of her mind about the enforced exit of her father from the organisation.

As the article points out, many companies now reach out to their employees and customers through the social networking sites of Twitter, My Space, Facebook and so on.  Quite rightly, they recognise that these media are where people congregate to discuss and debate the issues of the day – personal and otherwise – not to mention feedback about their products and services.  The rapid, viral nature of the spread of news and commentary can be extremely beneficial for them as their brand is magnified and reinforced across cyberspace.

Yet as with all things, there is a yin and a yang.  The other side of the coin is that negative comments, while authentic, can of course be damaging.  General Motors may have whipped off the offending posting as quick as you like, but not before the damage was done and the news spread like wildfire.  Brave is the company who stands its ground and lets negativity flow forth in a natural way, but quite sensible too unless it wants a revolt.

The truth is that with the advent of social media, so ebbs away the control mechanisms of the ‘old-fashioned’ media.  It’s a whole new world out there in the world of Corporate.  Communications executives should be highlighting rather different personal qualities these days on their CV’s … bravery, tenacity and courage, for when the CEO knocks on the door asking what has happened to the brand reputation overnight.

Nailia Tasseel