How to protect your company's social media

#1157946: Twitter bird logo, social networking and microblogging service, graphic element on white AP Graphics

(MoneyWatch) Your company's social media presence is fragile -- you're posting to Twitter or Facebook because you want to engage with customers, but an honest slip-up by an employee can result in an embarrassing or damaging post. And if you get hacked? Things can get exponentially worse very quickly.

That's what Burger King discovered last month when the company's Twitter account was hacked and flooded with 53 offensive posts.

Unless you're Ashton Kutcher, getting out of the Twitter business probably isn't an option for you; staying engaged is an essential part of the modern business world. So what to do?

Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, which makes software for companies to manage their social media platforms, has some timely advice on how to protect your social media presence in the Harvard Business Review. Here's what he advises:

Take your passwords seriously. As I've written many times, simple, easily cracked passwords still rule the land. If your Twitter password is "password" or "123456," you're begging to get cracked. Follow my adviceabout how to create a strong password.

Centralize your social media channels. How many public "faces" does your company have? Many large businesses don't have centralized control over their social media, and consequently discover that they have as many as dozens of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram accounts. Whether you want that many different voices speaking for the company is one thing. Either way, centralize control and publishing of these accounts in a single tool that you can secure and protect.

Control who posts. Establish a strategy around who has the keys to your thousands or millions of followers. Is it okay for entry-level employees to tweet? Probably not.

Set up some social media education. Social media is no longer a toy or a hobby -- it's the way your brand is promoted to your followers. Be sure that whomever communicates through these channels has some basic training on how best to do so.

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