Managing Social Media Risk

Social media can empower recreation practitioners, professionals and volunteers to promote programs and services, and showcase the impact of parks and recreation in communities. 

The recreation and parks field needs to establish and maintain a greater presence online, but inexperienced social media managers need to be aware of the issues that can arise because of social media. Knowing these risks can help you mitigate their damage, or prevent them from happening in the first place.

When it comes to social media, your first concern should be your reputation. It’s important to be fun, friendly and engaging on social media, but know that what you say or share might be received by your followers in ways you never intended. What you say on social media as a representative of your organization, recreation board, community, etc. will be taken as an official statement. So whatever you share or say on social media, make sure it is consistent with your brand, message and voice. 

How do you keep from saying the wrong thing? The first step is to pick someone to manage your social media accounts who you trust to speak for the organization. This person should be familiar with your brand, know what kind of voice you want to have on social media and set the right tone with their posts. If the social media manager is new to the position, have them script messages before posting and vet them through a manager or experienced team member. It never hurts to have a second pair of eyes read your message before you share it.

While saying the wrong thing can hurt your reputation online and in the real world; saying nothing at all can be just as damaging. Don’t ignore people who engage with your content. Instead, be as responsive as possible. Try and reply to your messages within 24 hours. Most people who ask questions on social media expect a response within one hour or less. Network security is another thing that should be top of mind when considering the risks of online communication. Though it is less common than with email, hackers and scam artists may attempt to send virus-infected messages or phishing links to your social media accounts. The easiest way to protect yourself from hackers is to choose a strong, unique password for each social media account and enable two-factor verification for your login.

Be wary when receiving unsolicited direct messages from your followers containing links or media. In these situations, it helps to know how to tell if a message is from a real person, or from a bot or spam account. Typically, these accounts will ask you to click on a link or visit a page outside of the social network. You can adjust your message settings to stop receiving unsolicited or direct messages. On Facebook, adjust your messaging options under “Settings”; On Twitter, the option to limit direct messages can be found under “Settings and privacy.” If you choose not to adjust your privacy settings, you also have the option of blocking the user.

Many non-profits and community groups lose access to their social media accounts after an employee leaves their organization. To keep this from happening, always require more than one person to have access to your accounts. Access can mean different things for different networks. For instance, your Facebook or Instagram for Business page can have more than one Administrator or Manager. When necessary, logins and passwords should be shared between trusted users. For example, Twitter doesn’t allow for multiple team members to have their own access to the same account, so you’ll have to share logins for a single, branded account. If you have the budget, another option available is to use a social media monitoring dashboard like Hootsuite or Sprout Social that allow for multiple team members to edit and update social media accounts.

These are just a few of the issues inherent to social media and online communication. The best thing you can do to manage and prevent the risks involved with social media is to have a Social Media Policy, outlining how your organization and employees should conduct themselves and what to do in situations where risk is present.

Christian Bates-Hardy
SPRA Consultant, Communications

This article was previously published in the Summer 2018 issue of DIRECTION magazine. Read it for free online, and find more articles on managing risk in the recreation sector.