Why Organisations Fail: The Perils of Social Media

Social media- it’s the gift that seemingly keeps on giving. In the space of a few short years, people and organisations have gone from a dynamic that was relatively isolated and thrown head first into a new, interconnected digital ecosystem. It’s done wonders for the way we do business, regardless of your industry, but it’s also eaten some organisations up that weren’t quite doing it right. In today’s piece, exploring the wider topic of why organisations fail, I’m going to be discussing the ways in which social media can actually act to ruin your organisation.

There’s a raft of benefits using social media, accompanied by a whole heap of potential damage in store if you’re not careful or proactive in your approach to online your activity.

As you may know, I’m a pretty extroverted personality, and I’ve made a conscious decision to be the face of Best Practice on our youtube channel, and one of the leading voices right here on our blog. At the same time, I realise that this comes with a range of potential dangers to my organisation. Our ISO 27001 certification no doubt helps, but we’re living in a perilous technological age where any organisation - no matter how big or small - could be ruined in the blink of an eye online.

“Whether it comes from hackers, disgruntled customers, or is simply a backlash against something you post, negative social media content can destroy trust in your brand in a matter of minutes,” says the BBC’s Jessica Brown.

Pete Knott works as a digital consultant at a UK-based public relations agency, Lansons Communications. He explains that if an organisation doesn’t take the topic “seriously, it can and will directly impact your company financially and culturally.”

“Social media is the most immediate threat to your company’s reputation,” he says.

Brown’s piece also quotes Ilia Kolochenko, who works at Immuniweb, a Geneva-based internet security company who warns of grave consequences if organisations don’t take the risks associated with social media seriously.

“Hackers can cause huge damage if they can find a way to post fake news on social media,” he said.

“Imagine if they managed to hack into the BBC accounts and post a story about Iran dropping a nuclear bomb… the effects could be devastating - especially if other news networks picked up the story.”

If we take a step back from this, one of the gravest examples, what if someone were to gain access to your accounts, or those of your competitors and start to spread false information about your organisation. While it might come out after the fact that whatever they posted was false, the damage to your organisation’s reputation would already be irreversibly impacted.

Jessica Brown’s BBC article points to a perfect example of this, which hit the UK’s Metro Bank whose stock plummeted 11%. Why the sudden dip? Rumours began circling on social media that the company was underperforming and facing financial hardship. These rumours soon turned to loud shouts on social media, and public sentiment toward the Metro Bank fell, accompanied by a staggering drop in its share price.

And then there’s customer feedback- be it legitimate or not, which could go ‘viral’ in reaching a widespread audience if it is picked up and shared by other users. Claire Twohill, social media director at global public relations firm FleishmanHillard says that “customers have recognised that social media is a very fast way to get a response from customer services.”

“That’s why social media attacks are often a direct result of a problem with the supply chain, or a change to a popular product… Whatever the reason, you need to react fast,” she said.

Ilia Kolochenko also makes the point that some people online might take the opportunity to use your organisation’s name - and reputation - for little benefit on their part, but would have an extremely detrimental on your organisation.

“Creative crooks often exploit big companies’ names to run social media scams,” he said.

“For example, they might set up an ‘Amazon India Support’ account on Twitter and ask customers who contact them about missing parcels to pay a customs fee.”

PR Specialist Pete Knott says that while “social networks are a great place to rebuild reputation… try to think about how you can use your response to a crisis to demonstrate your company’s values and show its human side.”

Gaining access to accounts is easier than you might think

Cybersecurity partner at multinational accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, Richard Horne says that getting access into an employee’s social media account is relatively simple for a sophisticated hacker once they know someone’s personal interests and hobbies. “People expose a lot about themselves on social media,” he says.

“So attackers could look at someone’s profile, see they love skiing and email them a malware link to a cheap chalet deal in Switzerland… It’s a very common way of infecting companies’ systems,” he said.

These phishing attacks are common, and relatively simple to pick up on if you know what to look for. Is it a completely unknown sender? Did you check the domain or email host? Is the subject line smell a bit fishy? To new users of the internet, it’s difficult to pick up on these intricate observations, that’s why education is extremely important in this context.

This presents a heap of challenges in itself, as you need to be on top of your security protocols, and ensure everyone in the business is towing the line with you. “You can’t monitor your employees’ social media accounts - that’s getting into very ethically murky waters… instead, you have to educate them about passwords and what sort of thing they post,” Lopa Ghosh, associate partner at EY says.

Take these warnings in your stride as you move into the future. In a matter of seconds, your organisation's reputation can be irreversibly damaged. This can be down to a hacker with nefarious intentions, a competitor or disgruntled customer spreading false information, or simply by accident from a clumsy employee that simply didn't know any better. Whatever the reason, learn from the aforementioned mistakes, and you'll be better prepared to navigate the technological jungle out there.

As always, thanks for your time.

Kobi Simmat.

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