Addressing Social Media and Reputation Risk in the Boardroom
March 27, 2017
This podcast is based on EisnerAmper’s annual survey results, Concerns About Risks Confronting Boards, which examines key issues arising in today’s boardrooms. In this segment, EisnerAmper partner and New York office Technology Practice leader Steven Kreit discusses the board’s custodial role with respect to an organization’s online reputation and how it can proactively help establish and capture social media success metrics.
DP: So Steve, tell us, what are we hearing with respect to board members and their custodial role regarding the organization’s online reputation?
SK: So, a couple of things Dave, I think what’s interesting is that what you’re hearing from board members as far as reputation goes, is that’s one of their main concerns in the boardroom and with every company on which they serve.
SK: Reputation is very important and there’s a lot of different pieces that go into it. The thing about social media is, what I’m finding is, that the boards are somewhat disconnected from it. When you look at the survey results, only about 8% of boards feel they’re well versed in social media risk.
SK: Yet social media is what digital was, you know, maybe five, ten years ago.
SK: It’s a ubiquitous term. Everybody, every company has some sort of social media presence, so it’s very unnerving, a) how quickly social media can hurt a reputation, how boards find reputation risk and controlling that reputation risk so important yet boards have very little knowledge or contact around the social media aspects of a company.
DP: Sure. Now looking prospectively, do you think reputational risk will remain a top concern going forward for boards?
SK: It has to…
SK: … it absolutely has to, and really what I think is that boards need to, again, just like digital was, you know, the term digital was ten years ago, boards have to really start to get their arms around social media, what it means, how they… how the companies use it, how the companies could be protected from issues around it, and all those things will just continue to grow and, you know those risks will get bigger in the future.
DP: Sure. Now you mentioned earlier about a disconnect. What are some of these disconnects between board members and leadership when it comes to developing an effective, comprehensive social media program?
SK: I just don’t think boards understand necessarily the risk around social media. They do when something bad happens, so when a CEO decides to tweet something in the middle of the night answering some of the chat rooms or something like that when people are trashing their company. They’re very quick to react and very quick to post things on social media, on Twitter, they might have their own blogs, things like that, and boards don’t understand the risk and what’s involved with that. They don’t understand how social media really lives throughout every part of the organization. It’s not just a marketing function. Social media rests in product development. Social media rests in communication and shareholder relationships. Every different part of the business – selling and distribution and manufacturing – in addition to just marketing, has to have some sort of social media aspect to it and I don’t think that boards really understand that yet. We put something in our report last year just how quickly social media and something from social media can spread. It was from a report – Social Media Crisis Response Times: How Long Do You Have Before The You Know What Hits The Fan. So, you know, just talking – and this is from 2012, so my guess it’s actually only gotten quicker – but Twitter, in minutes, up to hours you have to respond…
SK: … Facebook up to twelve hours, blogs up to twenty four hours and then main stream media one to two days. But it’s amazing to me, and I think people are starting to see this more and more with, you know, with this past election cycle and everything that goes out on Twitter, just how quickly you have to react.
SK: And if boards don’t have a plan in place or if boards haven’t pushed management to have a plan in place, you know, they’re going to be scrambling to react instead of being proactive.
DP: And I think too the danger there is that the internet is forever, so once it’s out there, it’s out there.
SK: That’s right. That’s right. I mean they used to talk about the news cycle and used to talk about, you know, I’ll watch the nightly news and it’s interesting. But I would say of the thirty minutes of news I watch every night on nightly news, twenty eight minutes of that I’ve already heard.
SK: I’ve gotten… you know, my phone got pushed out from the New York Times or I was on Twitter for a little bit and I saw somebody post something or I read a blog on Linkedin or, you know, by the time I get home and watch the nightly news at 6:30, it’s already old news.
DP: Right. Right, right, the news cycle has gone from days and hours to minutes and seconds.
SK: Exactly. Exactly. And the key point of that is that boards have to make sure and push management to make sure they’re prepared for that.
SK: That’s really the whole issue around social media. I mean the marketing aspect is great, but the thing that boards have to be concerned about is less about the marketing side and more about the protection side.
DP: Yup. 100%. So Steve, what are some of the metrics that boards and leadership can use to examine how to be proactive and help determine the success of their social media programs and campaigns?
SK: Sure Dave. These are some metrics – some of the things that a company could follow. This again is more on the marketing side, as I said before as opposed to the protection side. But at the same time it is a good… these are good metrics for board members to understand so they can see how their… the companies on which they serve, how they’re looked at and thought of in the marketplace. So there’s reach. Now reach is really just how many people have looked at a particular post. There’s engagement. Engagement is more a measurement of interaction, so how many times has maybe your brand been mentioned and what’s the interaction between your brand and others on Twitter or other social media platforms.
SK: Influence or online influencers. You know, those are basically subject matter experts and to the extent that they’re using your company or your brand, how is that going through all those influencers. There’s social mention. Social mention is when someone specifically says something about you and following that. Share a voice is interesting. So when I first heard this term I had no idea what it was about, but then when you read what it really means, it makes a lot of sense. What’s the reach of the company, or what’s the share of the company? So if there’s, you know, a million posts on Twitter about automobiles, how many posts related to Ford, or GM?
SK: And that’s just… it’s almost market share but it’s the market share of the social media mentions…
DP: Right, right.
SK: … it’s really what share of voice is.
SK: And then brand reputation is just, you know, it’s reputation – so what are people saying about your brand? And these are all pretty common metrics that most people in social media know about and have heard about. The marketing folks at all these companies could pull that very easily or follow that, and then there’s a lot of ways and a lot of tools that board members can use themselves just to see what some of these… how some of these metrics are flowing on their companies.
DP: Yeah, maybe if you could expand on some of the tools that are out there to capture these metrics.
SK: Sure, sure. So there’s a few. I mean there’s the easy ones, you know, Google Alerts, which is, which is my favorite. I have all my clients on Google Alerts and it’s simple. Google, you know you enter it into Google, your company name or an individual name and they’ll send emails to your inbox to tell you a mention that might have been, you know, how you might have been mentioned in a news article or something along those lines. There’s Talkwalker alerts and Social Mention which are both very similar to Google Alerts where as you’ll set something up and they’ll push something to your inbox. Each one is a little bit different. So Talkwalker alerts will generally send you more alerts so you’ll get a lot more alerts than maybe Google will send, but some of those alerts may be like, just, just blogs, or, or really less news and more other items. So, while it’s good you see everything you’re also wading through a lot more data to get to what the important ones are, and each of them come a little bit faster and a little bit slower. So Google, Talkwalker and Social Mention are all kind of the same. There’s something called KnowEm, as in do you know ‘em? - almost a search engine for social media sites, so you go there and you enter in the name of the company or the name of the individual or whatever… or the brand, or whatever you’re trying to find, and they’ll tell you where that’s hitting on all the different social media sites. I think there’s like five hundred or so…
SK: … social media sites that they search, so it’s almost like a Google Search engine for…
DP: Google, yeah, right, right. Yup Yup.
SK: Yeah, exactly, exactly, exactly. Hootsuite is a biggy. Now Hootsuite is good in a variety of ways. On one hand it’s a social media dashboard, so you could manage your social media outreach on that so you can schedule, schedule posts to Twitter or Linkedin or other social media sites and really kind of manage you going out to market, so that’s maybe more from a marketing standpoint, but at the same time on that same dashboard they give you a lot of analytics – obviously the version that you pay for you get more analytics.
DP: Sure, sure.
SK: But, it gives you some of the analytics that I mentioned before for your particular company. And then there’s something like Fiveblocks which is – Fiveblocks is really more of a platform. That’s really a full digital brand reputation management system. That’s something you’re going to pay for where as most of the others – I think all the others I mentioned are free or partially free. Five Blocks is more expensive, but you know, sometimes you get what you pay for.
DP: Sure, sure, sure. Now let’s bring it back to you and what you do. You’re, you know, the bulk of your practice is the technology space. How does this impact what you do for clients, what kind of questions they’re asking you, how you lend them guidance? You know, kind of bring it back to what you do.
SK: Sure, sure. So a lot of my practice is public companies. I work in the tech and life sciences space, and I would say probably a third to half of my clients are public companies, so I’m interacting with boards all the time and I really see first-hand how boards don’t understand, or – I don’t want to say 100%, but – I would say a very high percentage of board and board members don’t understand really what social media is and what it means and how quickly – again getting back to the reputation side and the protection side which is really…
SK: … what the board’s role is – they don’t, they don’t necessarily understand how quickly social media can damage a reputation and how big a risk it is. We talk to our clients, I talk to my clients all the time and try to really open their eyes to some of the things that could happen, you know, giving great examples of things that might have happened in the past to companies and really just trying to get them to think more about this.
DP: Right, right.
SK: I find that a lot of the earlier stage younger tech companies that I work with are all over this.
DP: Yeah, yeah.
SK: So, you know, they just kind of grew up in social media, you know…
SK: … you see the twenty year olds out there…
SK: … who are in the WeWorks of the world or some of the other places that my clients are at, they get it ‘cause they see it all the time. They were smart enough not to have their picture taken with the red solo cup…
DP: Right, right.
SK: Before they applied for a job or before they applied to college.
SK: And they understand how it really has to protect their reputation or how much damage it could do to someone’s reputation very quickly, so they’re really on top of it. It’s, you know, the older generation, and…
SK: … you know, I’m fifty, so I’m part of that older generation…
DP: Yup, yup.
SK: … who wasn’t necessarily raised in it that just has to understand how quickly something can happen to you and you know I gave some of the times before how quickly things spread and I continually tell my clients, tell their board members…
SK: … tell the people in management, you really have to have this under control.
SK: And it’s across the whole company. Don’t just house it in marketing.
SK: Make sure every piece of your business has a plan in place to react to something that might go out on social media.
DP: Yup, yup.
SK: It’s all about protection.
DP: Sure. And maybe giving them some of the tools so they can help themselves, and…
DP: … protect their reputation.
SK: Exactly, point out the tools and tell them some of the things they should be looking at and I’ve even brought my laptop and showed a board member how to set up a Google Alert.
SK: But whatever it is I can do to help my clients, and continue to open their eyes to this. I think in five, ten years, just like the term digital is everywhere, the term social media will, you know, even people of my generation will realize that…
SK: … and they’ll be on to the next thing that they have to protect themselves against.
DP: Yup. Ok. Well Steve, thanks for this great insight.
SK: Thank you Dave.
DP: And thank you for listening to the EisnerAmper Risks Confronting Boards podcast. Visit EisnerAmper.com to read our blog series and get other key findings from our 2016 Concerns About Risks Confronting Boards survey.