Each and every day companies begin their plan to open their business and reach out to the national and global consumer in order to build their brand. They research, hire a social media team that knows the business inside and out, and they deploy their social media marketing efforts that they’ve worked so diligently putting together. Marketing, customer service, everything needs to be in place for the ‘grand opening,’ so to speak, but it is the PR side of things that leads directly into the social media world – for better or for worse.
Being more social is still new territory to explore for companies like this, not to mention the fact that the way search engines, networks, platforms, etc., change every day, there is a constant need to stay up on the new information. This is a challenge for both business and PR team, especially since many of these advertising and marketing businesses added the title, ‘social media expert’, to their resumes and websites even though they do not necessarily have that expertise. And without that expertise, situations can go from chaotic to even dangerous on both a company, as well as national level.
Everyone knows about the Associated Press – the reliable, credible and always accurate company – being a victim to a hacker or hackers who literally have their own experience. Hacking into the AP Twitter account, as well as the Twitter accounts for TV programs “60 Minutes” and “48 Hours” caused quite a scare. In the AP incident, the actual national infrastructure took a hit when people immediately began selling off their stock, causing the Dow Jones to plummet in record time.
These are big guns, so how exactly could a much smaller social media account be protected? A business’s website, their blog, everything that wraps around increasing their ROI and becoming a success is at risk to a hacker, but there are things that can be done in order to keep safety a number one priority.
A social media team will recommend a business get an anti-virus protection program which, oddly enough, many people still don’t have. In addition, when it comes to all those perhaps annoying messages that appear on your computer screen telling you that it needs to update, you must do it; ignoring them or saying ‘remind me later’ is not a good way to ensure protection. Last, and this seems like such a silly thing to say, but passwords need to be major passwords. They need to be confusing, like an encryption code. Using you last name and the date, or Fido because he’s the family dog, makes it unbelievably simple for someone to get in. We’re not talking about spam, or receiving those letters telling you that you won the lotto – these are not the most annoying things you would have to deal with in a hacking fiasco. Financial information, campaigns, everything that is a part of your company that expresses credibility and reliability to the consumer can be damaged by a hacker so quickly, that your company and brand can be destroyed by a stranger who decided to mark you and circulate information that simply isn’t true.
There are already new laws being presented on state government and federal levels that will focus on privacy, especially since social media is growing so large that it will literally become the only way to market in the future. The legislation will involve everyone from company employees using the company email to send private messages to allowing employers to look at public postings.
Authenticity and trust are major issues in the world of social media. The PR team that a company hires must not only be experts at what they say they are experts at, but they also must be the type of team that promotes brand advocates. Companies must engage with their audience and develop online relationships, so having to worry about whether or not one of those customers happens to be someone who is looking at doing a bit of hacking on the side is a waste of time and resources.
Word of mouth advertising is so important, and that word of mouth is not only given at the local grocery store anymore; it is also all about spreading the news, praise and recommendations that a new brand on the market is the best of the best and everyone should try it. Working so hard over so many months and perhaps years to offer your company’s products and services in the best light becomes hideous if someone has the power to take you down in seconds all because the small steps weren’t taken to protect and secure your electronics.
Stay alert. Always remember that when you’re creating amazing ideas, they’re creating a way to destroy them. Make sure the social media/PR team you hire has the expertise to stop the bad guys in their tracks.