How to Conduct an Effective Social Media Audit

October 31, 2014

[tongro images/corbis]
[tongro images/corbis]

This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on the ComPRhension blog on Oct. 2.

When most of us think about conducting a social media audit, our minds generally go to areas such as: making sure that our messages and branding are consistent across social platforms, identifying our target publics, measuring the level of engagement on various platforms, discovering what competitors are doing in the social space, and identifying what content is and is not working, along with other qualitative and quantitative measures.

The good news is that all of these are important when it comes to monitoring and maintaining an organization’s social media presence. The bad news is that it is just scratching the surface.

For those of you who have performed a social media audit in the past, have you found that your hard work doesn’t seem to get your senior leadership excited? With all of the talk about social media these days, why does it seem as though a social media audit — a program to help protect the brand and grow engagement — isn’t getting a lot of attention? The answer is simple enough, but the solution is quite a bit more involved.

The fact is that senior leadership is interested in social media — as is your board of directors. They are still trying to understand the value that it brings, while balancing the associated risks. The challenge is that the work that most PR professionals have in what has traditionally been called a “social media audit” doesn’t go far enough to have any significant impact on the risks that are concerning your senior leadership. While message and brand consistency is important, it doesn’t go deep enough to mitigate financial or reputational risk — and that is what they are (or should be) discussing.

So what are the big areas of risk that need to be audited? Though the social space continues to move at a rapid rate, the areas that have the most concern today include:
• Brand and reputational risk

• Regulatory compliance

• Strategic risk

• Third-party risk

• Governance risk

Brand and reputational risk

An effective audit isn’t always looking at what was done, but is more about how and why it’s being done. It’s more about policies, procedures and plans to make sure that both opportunities and risks are consistently recognized and acted on appropriately.

Regulatory compliance

This applies especially if you work for a publicly traded company — and if it’s a public company in the financial services arena, then compliance is even more of a focus. With so many regulators jumping on board when it comes to social media, both at a state and federal level, the need to ensure that your organization is in compliance is even more important.

Strategic risk

Are your social media activities tied to your overall business strategy and objectives? If not, then why? If your organization is spending time “being social” but the program is not helping achieve your business objectives, then the organization is exposed to the risk of “opportunity cost” in that time and resources are being devoted to something that is not helping the business achieve its stated objectives.

Third-party risk

If you are outsourcing your social media activities, then what policies, procedures and controls are in place to protect your organization from social media risks? (Does anyone remember the rogue Chrysler tweet?) In this case, the audit should include the training and controls that the agency has in place, as well as ensure that it has the proper security, legal and compliance policies and procedures in place to protect your organization’s brand.

Governance risk

The lack of governance can cause the social media activities to be uncoordinated and can cause an overall lack of consistency, especially for global organizations. This can result in lackluster performance and missed opportunities. Today, there is also the potential for non-social organizations to feel the backlash from customers and others for not having a social presence.

Addressing governance issues is a perfect opportunity for to you bring everyone together and ensure that the entire team is working toward the same end state, using the same metrics and implementing the same tools.

Yes, what I am proposing is much more detailed and in-depth than what you might have seen or read online when considering a social media audit. However, it is what your leadership and board want to see. It addresses the issues that they are concerned about. While it does not have to be you — why not?

Peter R. Scott, APR, is vice president, development, North American Veterinary Community

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