Last week I argued that social media is creating bad customers. The post was designed to open people’s minds to the reality that social media channels create high degrees of risk for brands based on a number of factors. It detailed how social media enables poor customer behavior as easily as it enables good customer behavior.
For those that delved a bit deeper, you realized I was using bad customers as an example of risk within social channels. Bad customers will always exist and always try to game the system. Good companies will manage them effectively while poor companies will struggle. Such is life.
Social Risk and Uncertainty
Not many people are familiar with the concept of uncertainty in business, particularly its relationship to risk. If you’ve ever studied military history, you would recognize that uncertainty creates and/or amplifies risk. I will give you a simple example.
You can plan the hell out of an outdoor event, managing all the obvious risks such as theme, food quality and quantity, timing, supplier readiness and delivery, entertainment and A/V, invitations and registration along with the hundred other details that are managed by a good team and good plan. But you can never be certain of the weather, not even a week before. It will always retain a level of uncertainty adding that element of risk to the event. Do you get the big tent? Is parking going to turn to mud? How will rain impact attendance?
In this simple example, the weather uncertainty creates risk; risk that jeopardizes the event’s success and how you may choose to plan it. If it rains heavily attendance could be low. If it’s beautiful and sunny, attendance will be high.
So how is risk identified?
There are two forms of risk within social channels every marketer needs to be aware of and plan for.
- Calculated Risk: Calculated risk is risk we can see, touch and smell. It can be identified, analyzed and planned for. We can see it coming but standard engagement policies are good enough to manage it. This is the stuff that our project planning typically takes into account and a good organization usually deal with this type of risk easily.
- Risk Due to Uncertainty: Due to the public’s growing presence in the social space, risk created and/or amplified by uncertainty has become more prevalent. Uncertainty in social media is constantly present and can come from anywhere, at anytime and from any source. It is highly unpredictable and therefore capable of creating risk. Being difficult to spot or predict, it requires vigilance and a solid early warning system (excellent escalation process and good technology framework) to manage it.
Methods for Managing Risk in Social Channels
These three key tactics will aid you in identifying and reducing social media uncertainty and thus improving your ability to mitigate business risk.
A. Curate Knowledge from Other Parts of the Enterprise
I cannot stress enough how much insight and value can be gained from sharing knowledge across the enterprise. Sales, customer service, tech support, finance, HR, operations, product development, etc. all have knowledge of the customer and the market that will help you reduce uncertainty and manage risk. But you can’t rely on others to do it for you however; you must be willing to take a leadership role and curate this knowledge otherwise it simply will not get done.
B. Identify Trends and Patterns
The danger today is directly related to Big Data – or the likelihood we’re getting tangled up in it. We are so focused on what has transpired, we miss what’s coming. We need to stop looking at data for data sake. This is an intuition play, it’s about looking for emerging trends and patterns that produce uncertainty and amplify risk. Social data in particular can deliver some big insights if we look for greater patterns rather than focusing solely on sentiment around our brand.
C. Build a Defensible Position in the Social World
I advise all of my clients to take this three-pronged approach to social. Combined, they create an adaptable structure to identify and manage risk before it becomes a big issue.
- Internal readiness: develop and build a work force comfortable with social and how to manage it effectively for your company. This requires an internal support network and enabled, outwardly connected employees.
- Customer Communities: separate customers from the Great Unwashed Masses (GUM), engage, recognize and enable them. Customers will become one of your greatest early warning systems for impending risk as well as valuable allies in managing it.
- Public Presence: Keep your social presence simple and focused on easily actionable measures that channel customers quickly to other parts of the enterprise – sales, service, support, HR, PR, etc. The public presence is about expedited service, not just saying thanks.
The Best Approach is the Strategic Approach
In the end, everything boils down to how well you have developed your strategy and how adaptable your organization is at managing risk. What is certain is that without a strategy in place you have eliminated your ability to reduce uncertainty and manage risk. The inevitable result will be a social program mired in issues that delivers little value to anyone.
Is your strategy designed to identify uncertainty? Do you have a risk management component to your social strategy?