Analyzing the Risks of Social Media

While numerous observers have outlined the benefits of social media to businesses and the public, there are many risks and downsides to its use.  The purpose of this paper is to examine risks not examined in course material, suggest remedial action to mitigate such risks and offer ways for social media experts to separate their personal and professional personas.

The cons and what to do

Firstly, as George Day has summarized in The Benefits and Risks of Social Media Marketing , negative news can spread very quickly.  For example, when Netflix said it was going to change its pricing structure several years ago, customers quickly expressed their displeasure, commenting negatively across many social media platforms and resulting in a huge loss of customers and market value (Benioff 2012 in Day).   This problem might have been avoided or lessened had Netflix better assessed their consumers and the market, their messages been better crafted, and crisis communications better handled.

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Secondly, as a significant number of employees may be creating content or interacting with customers, these employees must be “trustworthy”: poorly crafted responses can cause viral outrage and the loss of customers.  (Culan et al. 2010 in Day).  Companies would do well to designate employees to handle this task rather than allowing anyone to respond to input.  They should also be well trained and enjoy social media.

Thirdly, according to Ashlee Humphreys, not everyone is as digitally literate (seniors) while others may not have the same access (social inequality) or respond differently to social media depending on their gender.  As a result, these groups may respond differently to social media or not all.

This is a societal problem, necessitating that governments, companies and individuals work to together to ensure that seniors are educated in social media and that those with less income have access to computers or mobile phones and be trained in their use. Concerning gender, companies need to be mindful of this factor in their messaging and outreach.

A third drawback is that many users affiliate themselves with websites and feeds which share the same opinion or views (know as “homophily”).  In my case, I might subscribe to CNN rather than Fox to get news on President Trump due to my own biases.  So users such as myself should make efforts to ensure that they get a balance of views in their inputs.

Taking the high road

In closing, in determining how to separate personal and professional personas, the expert user must decide whether that is what they want to do.  Does appearing more human actually appeal to users (Robert Montenegro, How to Manage Personal and Professional Personas, Big Think)? If affirmative, you need to know your audience and determine the delineation point between the two.

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If you want to keep your personas separate, avoid posting anything on your personal site which would haunt you on your professional site, including compromising photos at you cousin’s wedding.  And consider avoiding putting personal contact information on your professional site.

Do social media enable political movements or hinder their formation?

This is an important question given the increased and evolving uses of social media in political developments around the world. These include the fomenting and reporting on unrest during the Arab Spring, continuing demands by bloggers for human rights in China and the ongoing demonization of minorities in Myanmar by the Buddhist majority.

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Egypt 2011 (UIUC Library Guides)

We might also ask whether social media are inherently democratizing or whether they serve the interests of state organizations, dictatorships and intelligence agencies?  Or do they boost politicians in liberal democracies who feed off conspiracy and nativism?

A simple answer or sitting on the fence

Image result for photo of trumpPresidential Assent  (The Blaze)


These questions have sparked considerable debate and almost everyone has an opinion.  Image result for photo of debateThe truth is probably that there is credible evidence on both sides of the debate on the effect of social media on political movements and the answer will only be determined by assessing different cases and examining the circumstances. We might conclude that while social media can enable alternative ways of doing things, they may also reinforce pre-existing norms, values and institutions.

Why should we care?

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These issues are of immediate interest to many of us.

Firstly, as citizens of Canada, what impact might social media have on the 2019 general election?  Should we be devising  and enforcing various regulations related to the use of bots, for example, as they might be used to automatically post inflammatory or nonsensical posts, disrupting political discourse while promoting populist views?

As global citizens, examination of these issues provides a very helpful window through which to interpret developments and reach conclusions.  How much was Donald Trump able to influence the outcome of the last federal election by constantly framing the debate, then reinforcing opinions by his constant references to “crooked Hillary” and “fake news” in the social media?

As travellers to out-of-the-way destinations, referral to social media posts would help to determine whether to visit or depart from a country undergoing social/political unrest.  This is potentially a very useful application as Global Affairs Canada Travel Advisories are often so alarmist that travellers would be reluctant to leave home at all!

Kidnapping, extortion, home invasion, robbery, sexual assault and other forms of aggravated assault are carried out by criminals acting individually or as a group. Assault, armed robbery and carjacking are serious problems … A large percentage of the population … is armed…  Guns and other weapons, such as machetes and knives, are frequently used. If you are threatened by robbers, do not resist; injuries and deaths have occurred when victims have resisted. (2017)

Finally, those of us who work as volunteers in developing countries, assisting non-profit organizations seeking funding, a balanced assessment of differing perspectives on the security and political realities would help us (and, ultimately, potential donors) determine whether conditions in a specified country are conductive to delivering aid at all.

Image result for development assistance photoCanada’s New Feminist Development Assistance Policy in Action (Macleans)







A call to action!

What do you think?  Should we be concerned about the role of social media in influencing international developments?  Are they forces for good or bad?  Do social media cause division or amplify it?  Depending on your answer to these questions, give some thought as to what each of us can do to help remedy some of the misuses of social media. Get in touch!


Celine Cooper: Ensuring social media and politics aren’t a toxic mix — Montreal Gazette

As Quebec parties head out on the campaign trail, they should should consider adopting a code of conduct for digital campaigning.

via Celine Cooper: Ensuring social media and politics aren’t a toxic mix — Montreal Gazette

This is a brief but useful article highlighting the possible role of Twitter and bots in the upcoming Quebec election.  The role of social media in political life will probably be the subject of one of my course assignments.

Why I am blogging

Welcome!  This blog has been created as part of the requirements for an on-line social media course in which I am enrolled at Algonquin College in Ottawa.  It will be enhanced as much as possible during the course and I will also post various blogs.  Some of it will relate to international development grants and fundraising, an area in which I have some experience.  I will also be using it when travelling to Morocco in October 2018.

Please visit from time to time and provide your suggestions and comments.

Oh, and Canton Perdu is the tiny hamlet in the French Pyrenées where I lived in the summer of 1970 learning French.