GUEST ESSAY: Six risks tied to social media marketing that all businesses should heed

By Mike James

While the internet and social media have been very positive for businesses, there remains an inherent risk when it comes to how brands manage their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.

Related: Defusing weaponized documents

While social media on every platform has benefits, there remains risks that must be addressed so as to keep your companies’ image and data safe.

No matter how large or small your business may be, the ability of social media to help you reach new customers and interact with consumers is unparalleled; however, there are danger areas. Here are five potential pitfalls of social media marketing.

Risk no. 1: Cybercrime

Businesses should always be very aware of the threat of cybercriminals, and social media also poses very real cyber-security risks.

Hackers use social media to learn more about you, and they can be very skilled when it comes to working out your passwords thanks to your posts about your pets, family, or even birthday plans.

When your social media accounts are shared between your personal account and your business pages, then even your own profile pages may be a way for hackers to gain access to company data.

In order to minimize the risks, you need to establish a strong online security culture across every level of your company. Teach your employees about the need for stronger passwords, and how to make use of both password generators and password management systems.

Risk no. 2: Trolls

There are some people online who enjoy attacking strangers on social media, and businesses are not exempt from this unpleasant attention. Whether it’s online bullying on Facebook, attacks to your brand on Twitter, or even leaving unfounded negative reviews online, those trolls cost UK businesses as much as £30k a year.


It’s impossible to keep yourself off the radar of the online trolls, though you can manage how you deal with them. When it comes to responding to negative reviews, it’s important to respond promptly and politely with the accurate facts. For example, of someone who is not a customer leaves a bad review, then responding with this information is fine.

The principal is the same for any other negative posts, to respond quickly, and politely with the accurate facts. This will however require monitoring of all your pages, for further reading see 10 Social Media Monitoring Tools for 2019.

Risk No. 3: Faux Pas

It can be easy to accidentally say the wrong thing on social media and ignite a frenzied response which could damage your brand, risky humour for example can backfire spectacularly. If you want to avoid this you should:

•Avoid controversy

•Have a consistent tone of voice

•Have a social media manager who checks each post and interaction for approva

•Check your facts

The damage that can be caused to a company by an ill-timed tweet or Facebook post can be irreversible. Similarly, simple mistakes can also do a lot of damage, so always get your facts right to avoid embarrassment. As proven when The Department of Education misspelt W. E. B. Du Bois’ name, for example, you can be sure that even the biggest companies are capable of misjudging the impact of their social media use, and your company is no different.

Risk no. 4: Lack of platform control

While there are many advantages of social media, unfortunately we are all vulnerable to platform changes that none of us have no control over. For example, some relatively minor changes to the Instagram feed algorithm can have a dramatic impact on your online visibility.

Also, when Twitter announced that videos posted on their platform would autoplay, they did so because that was clearly a preference for many. However, consumers on tight data plans found themselves growing frustrated with your company if you cost them unnecessary data.

So you should always bear in mind with social media that you are using a platform that may change tomorrow, so it is wise to have other means of customer communication and promotion just in case this happens.

Risk no 5: Fake News

Social media moves fast, and it can take a very short amount of time for a viral video or entertaining news article to spread across the globe. Businesses that make posts about breaking news need to ensure that they are posting real stories and news. If you share an article on your Facebook page with a comment, and that story later turns out to be untrue, then your reputation could suffer.

Fake news is a consistent issue on social media, so before you start sharing the latest piece of outrage, make sure that you have done your research. Never share news articles based on a headline alone. Read the story and make sure that you have checked for alternative sources.

Risk no 6: Time wasting

While social media is a useful tool, it has been designed very carefully to encourage mindless scrolling and commenting. It’s imperative that you use social media to build your consumer audience, but you need to manage your time so that you are effectively using it.

Having a robust social media strategy can be very time consuming, so if you are spending more of your time posting on Instagram or Twitter than you are making sales, then you will have a problem.  That’s why even smaller businesses outsource their social media management or hire social media managers in-house. This delegation can help to free up your time, while also giving you professionalism across all of your social media platforms.

While millions of companies have successfully established their social media presence, the advantages should not come at the expense of ignoring the potential risks. Make sure that you understand these risks and have strategies and guidelines in place to ensure that you do not expose yourself to the online threats that are an inherent part of the social media landscape.

About the writer: LW contributor Mike James is a Brighton, UK.-based cybersecurity professional, his 15 years IT experience, includes penetration testing and ethical hacking projects.


Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone