award-winning educator, mental health advocate, social entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, author/writer, program executive, and radio host
Social media with its immediate access, ease of use, and seemingly lack of controls presents plentiful challenges for individuals, organizations, companies, and societies. In a matter of moments, an individual or a company representative (e.g., executive, spokesperson, or employee) can create societal ripples and damage that can have immediate and long-lasting impacts. Therefore, social media access should be handled as an imminent and critical threat.
Too many times, there’s a rush to react to a situation or to offer an opinion. From a personal perspective (without any potential for corporate liabilities), this can be fine --- if the comments aren’t overly negative, racially insensitive, hate filled, or rumor mongering. Notwithstanding, there must be an understanding that a comment or reaction at a moment can have long-term impacts, unintended consequences, and be subject to severe backlash.
From a corporate perspective, the same risks apply. However, there must be greater sensitivity because even a benign or flip comment can be taken out of context, which can create a public relations nightmare. Therefore, anyone with significant brand value, a meaningful connection with an organization, or executive controls must be prepared to deploy actionable risk mitigation response strategies. These plans must be ready to immediately address an emergent threat caused by social media naïveté.
In corporate environments, executive contracts should include mandates that have restrictive covenants for social media usage. These controls should include a requirement that any communication from corporate social media platforms be reviewed internally prior to release. Moreover, there must also be restrictions placed on personal social media accounts, which would prohibit commentary about a company, its interests, or any other divisive statements that might impact a company’s image.
Some might consider these types of restrictions to be extreme; however, it’s not. Any statements (personal or otherwise) communicated by an organizational leader can have individual, organizational, corporate, and societal impacts. Therefore, there must be limitations invoked and personal liberties revoked due to the potential for brand, financial, or long-term reputational damage. Ultimately, organizational (especially executive) leaders and brand ambassadors have a fiduciary responsibility to protect stakeholder value and at least do no harm.
To social media leaders (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), it would behoove you to create an option for a delayed validation prior to a message being sent. This functionality would prevent an inopportune social media message from being sent by an executive, celebrity, or anyone whose actions could potentially damage a brand, demise value, or cause societal uproar. Furthermore, it would also be beneficial to have an option to assign a social media delegate in which all messages would be directed for review/approval prior to public release. This functionality would more than cover its development costs in terms of protecting individuals, corporate value, brand images, context management, and societal unity --- including for the companies that develop these tools.