Protecting Your Brand in Social Networking

Does your strategy need a risk management component?

brand-storyYves Darbouze knows about the risks associated with online social networking. Not only does his New York-based interactive agency pLot Multimedia use social media extensively, but it also develops digital content and online strategies for clients like Toyota, Sean John and Warner Brothers.

Along the way, Darbouze has learned a thing or two about the online social world. “It’s an anonymously seedy underworld that we call the Information Superhighway,” says Darbouze, creative director for pLot, which owns 12 social networks where six million users interact daily.

To make sure the postings, blogs, and feedback that his 22-man agency displays online stay on the “right side” of the online underworld, Darbouze developed what he calls a “moderation plan.” The system is straightforward, and also used by many of its clients: a user posts a comment and five to 10 moderators (often interns, but sometimes full-time employees dedicated to the task) review the content to make sure it’s not offensive, racy, or otherwise problematic.

The moderators see the posts right then and there, as soon as they go live,” says Darbouze. “The system acts as a buffer between us and the social networking application.”

The moderation plan finds employees constantly monitoring online social networking postings, and perhaps more importantly, the feedback and comments elicited by those postings. “Once you add that ‘comment’ button you’re soliciting craziness, and you have to protect your company from that,” Darbouze says.

The company’s risk management strategy, for example, encompasses regular searches for keywords, key thoughts and even graphics that might offend someone or isolate potential or current customers.

“If someone picks up on a racy graphic, it’s called to our attention very quickly so that we can mitigate the problem,” says Darbouze. Of particular interest, says Darbouze, are the comments posted by competitors. “We have rival Web developers who use ‘buzz agents,’ and other ways of knocking each other down,” he says.

But where Darbouze has taken the steps necessary to ward off many of the risks associated with social media, many other firms choose to ignore the issue until it’s too late.  “Some companies have no policies whatsoever to govern their employees’ use of the Internet,” says Eddie Schwartz, chief security officer at Herndon, Virginia-based network monitoring software developer NetWitness. “They let employees freely use Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, with no regard to what they’re posting online.”

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