Why UK public sector can’t afford to ignore social media risk management

As we work with our clients across the UK public sector, helping them realise channel shift and transformation, we have become increasingly aware of the risks and opportunities that social media presents for them. Social media is now the inbound operational channel of choice for first contact between many customers and UK local authorities. Time and again our clients tell us that growing numbers of their customers are using social media as their contact channel of choice. For customers social media can be a wonderfully effective means of not only contacting an organisation but also holding it to account, and this can make it a double-edged sword.

That’s why at Abavus we strongly believe that public sector organisations need a clearly thought through social media management strategy. The public and open nature of social media exposes organisations to risk but, done well, it also offers great opportunities for channel shift, transformation and improved customer experience. A good social media risk management plan ensures that your organisation is neither exposed to unnecessary risks nor missing crucial opportunities. To this end, we’re delighted to be offering an enterprise-strength social media management product that fits in with our existing solutions platform, working in partnership with CrowdControlHQ – the UK’s leading social media risk management and compliance platform built for enterprise.

CrowdControlHQ is an innovative, UK-based technology company which is already helping many UK local authorities, police services and other public sector bodies equip themselves to harness the power of social media. Abavus is now selling, implementing and supporting the CrowdControlHQ platform as we strongly believe it offers public sector organisations the ability to effectively manage both the opportunities and risks associated with social media.

What does public sector social media risk management involve?

An effective social media risk management strategy needs to contain two elements. In our experience most organisations recognise the importance of the first of these but the second can easily be overlooked.

  • The crowd: social media management, engagement and performance – this is the exciting, interactive and dynamic communication-driven aspects of social media that make it such an appealing prospect for individual users and organisations alike. This aspect of your social media strategy involves planning how your various social media profiles will be managed, determining how best to use social media to engage with your customers, and measuring the performance of your social media communications strategy.
  • The control: security, reputation protection and compliance – this aspect of your social media strategy is about the need, especially as a public service organisation, to properly assess and manage the organisational risk associated with such dynamic, open, mass communication technology platforms. It’s easy to focus on the crowd aspect of social media at the expense of control, but the control aspect is vital as failures here can expose your organisation to all kinds of risks.

Five critical areas of social media risk

There are five key aspects of social media risk which public sector organisations need to consider.

  1. The 24/7 ‘always on’ nature of social media. Your clients will be using social media at all hours of the day and night. Are you able to say the same when thinking about how your organisation monitors and responds to social media? Quite reasonably the answer is probably no. This means that you need to put in place tools that allow you to monitor, identify and respond to any crucial episodes that occur outside of usual hours of business.
  2. Unregulated social media communication. How many people, legitimately representing your organisation right now, have social media profiles they use for professional purposes? How many accounts are there that are associated with your organisation in some way? Who has control of them and the associated login details?  Are you certain that all messaging through social media is compliant and appropriate? If you are not sure of the answer to any of these questions then your organisation is exposed to a risk that needs to be considered and managed.
  3. Is your social media activity coordinated and controlled? Could different people respond to the same content? Could a member of staff respond through social media without the correct or most up to date information? Do staff have a clear and shared understanding of how your organisation presents itself on social media? Without this understanding, you’re exposed to the risk of multiple contradictory or inaccurate communications, damaging for your brand image as well as for your customers’ experience.
  4. Who owns social media in your organisation? Are you able to confidently say that you are harnessing the full range of efficiencies and benefits that effective social media use can bring? Who ‘owns’ social media in your organisation?  Is social media use driven by marketing and communications, or perhaps by customer services or even IT? You are likely to have multiple stakeholders and users who each have a legitimate need to use social media on your organisation’s behalf, and who each have different agendas and priorities. How can you manage and configure this to ensure compliance and efficacy?
  5. Lack of an audit trail of social media communication. If an issue emerged through one of your social media channels would you be able to produce an audit and evidence trail of all the communication associated with it in order to protect your staff, your organisation and your customers? Social media by its very nature tends to be ephemeral so without proper investment in the right tools and planning of the correct process the answer will almost certainly be no.

CrowdControlHQ already works with numerous public sector organisations to help them identify and manage social media risks, and we’re delighted to be adding it to our portfolio of products. Let us know if you’d like us to arrange a demo for you or if you have any questions about how CrowdControlHQ might be able to help you.


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