Business Boost | 24 February 2017 - by KCOM

Could social media be undermining your business?

Get ahead and know the pitfalls

As many have learned from bitter experience, social media can be a double-edged sword.

Yes, it can be an extremely valuable tool for getting your business’s message out into the wider world, reaching new customers and getting your brand better known. But it is also strewn with pitfalls. Off-message tweets, ill-thought out Facebook posts and unhelpful comments from staff can quickly undo all that good work you’ve put into building a positive online reputation.

According to Acas, the conciliation service, managing employees’ social media posts can be a tricky area for some employers. The key, it says, is to have a well-defined social media policy that makes it clear to employees exactly what’s expected of them. Among the main areas that should be communicated to employees are clear definitions of what constitutes gross misconduct, the meaning of defamation and when they will be seen as representing the company. As more and more small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) take to social media to spread their message it is perhaps inevitable that some will face problems from disgruntled employees posting negative comments.

According to information solutions specialist Experian, 26 per cent of SMBs now spent at least an hour on social media marketing each day. A surprising 58 per cent spend at least 10 minutes doing the same. And with 56 per cent of SMBs now saying their customers expect them to be online, it's now widely accepted as the norm for a business to have a social platform, whether that be Facebook, Twitter or any other web presence.

But if the perils of protecting your public reputation from bad social media is now a well-rehearsed issue, a lesser-known danger now affecting UK companies is that of social media fraud. Criminals are now using sophisticated social media phishing techniques on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to harvest details about senior managers which can then be used to trick other employees into handing over cash.

Raj Samani, Chief Technology Officer for Intel Security Europe, says social media can be a “treasure trove” of information for those looking to target SMBs. Criminals look to befriend as many senior employees as possible through establishing themselves as a credible contact and using this access to research their targets.

For example, once a criminal has enough information about how a company works – perhaps learning when a senior manager, chief finance officer, or chief executive officer is away on holiday – they can then send convincing emails to junior staff authorising payments or giving access to other company assets.

More than two-thirds of respondents to an Intel Security survey admitted they had never considered someone on professional social media sites such as LinkedIn may not be who they claim to be, a worrying statistic that suggests many business are still some way from being cyber secure.