Guest Blog - Gary Ennis of NSDesign
This week’s post comes from guest blogger Gary Ennis, Founder and Managing Director of NSDesign - a digital consultancy specialising in social media training for both the public and private sector.

Social Media – not just #selfies and funny cat videos.

If your business isn’t already active on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter these days then chances are you’ve already fallen behind your cooler, more “with it” competitors who are making the most of social media not just for marketing, but for recruitment, selling, internal communications and a whole lot more.

The numbers speak for themselves – with over 2 billion active users on Facebook, over half a billion on Instagram, and 350 million on Twitter, the benefits to businesses can be huge, and we’ve not even counted the likes of Pinterest, LinkedIn or Snapchat yet.

That said, the rapid rise of social also presents a growing number of risks – which if not considered before you just jump in and start posting selfies and cat videos, could result in disastrous consequences.

Here are three common social media risks to be aware of:

  1. Be careful what you make public

Are you in the habit of sharing pictures from the office? What about those fun ‘behind the scenes’ live video broadcasts to help humanise the business? Done well it’s a great tactic, but done wrongly, and you’ve just accidentally shared all the private things on the whiteboard behind you, like giving away your sales projections, or the private mobile numbers of your senior managers. Check out our little social media experiment from a couple of years ago to prove the potential damage this might do to your business.

  1. Staff opinions going too far

Your staff can be your biggest asset, but they can also be your biggest liability. With most of them active on more than one social media platform, what they say and do can come back and bite both them, and you! It’s easy for an opinion or belief to get out of hand and too many employees have found themselves on the other end of a defamation case, or a knock on the door from the police.  It’s not just their reputation at stake, but their employer’s too – especially if you haven’t enforced a social media policy and trained your staff on the key aspects of it. The implications of a misjudged Facebook post could well prove costly to your bottom line.

  1. Trusting the public just a little too much

While social media can be a brilliant tool to engage with your customers and have some fun with them – trusting the general public to behave properly is a risk not worth taking. You’ll no doubt have heard of “Boaty McBoatface” – the name given by the public to the state-of-the-art polar research ship when the Government agency behind the project asked for a public vote on the official title. This might have left people looking a little foolish (especially after the backlash when they did an about-turn and chose not to use the name), but it was nothing compared to the reputational damage suffered by the likes of Walkers Crisps.

or more recently the National Lottery and their social media campaigns allowing people to upload their pictures and names to automatically appear on personalised messages from Gary Linekar and Team GB athletes respectively. For the public, it’s a funny joke, for your business, it’s anything but and can be difficult to recover from.

It’s easy for social media to turn bad for businesses, the three above examples prove that, but there’s many more scenarios to consider. We’ve not yet talked about the risk of infringing Employment Law rights when using social media to help with your recruitment process, the dangers of allowing public review on your Facebook page, or the breach of copyright notices you’ll inevitably get when you allow staff to update your blog or Instagram account.

Understanding the dangers of social media, and how it could impact your business is just as important as understanding the positive benefits, not just for you, but for the entire workforce, no matter how big or small the company.

Find out more at www.NSDesign.co.uk or follow Gary on twitter: @nsdesign  or instagram: @nsdesignltd.