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.