By Caroline Black
Anyone who runs a business these days probably uses at least one social media account as a sales or customer service channel. Even if you don’t have a social media presence established yet, there are a few things worth learning about to improve the experience and make it secure for both your business and your customers.
How your business manages its social media presence can be a major factor in continued company growth. Despite being largely free advertising, there are plenty of pitfalls your business will need to avoid to achieve peak effectiveness. With that in mind, let’s dive right into it.
Security Software and You
It should come as no surprise that one of the biggest threats to your social media accounts (and thus your company’s image) is malware. Typically designed by hackers to steal high profile accounts or valuable customer information, malware is a serious problem. There are a number of ways to combat viruses, keyloggers, etc.
The first is a good anti-virus program. If your social media account is handled by a single person, a free for personal use anti-virus program such as Panda or AVG is sufficient. Larger businesses, on the other hand, should opt for the paid professional versions of those programs as they offer additional services and securities (and you aren’t really supposed to use personal use products for your business anyway). Scans should be performed regularly, at least once a week.
Malware can also be injected directly, even if no one in your business has fallen victim to bad hyperlinks or email attachments. A poorly secured internet connection, particularly those over public and unprotected WiFi networks can prove highly vulnerable. Anyone with access to your social media accounts should use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service in order to secure their connection with industry standard encryption.
A VPN is also helpful if your social media representative doesn’t work at a regular office and instead travels or works remotely. Having access to servers in different countries will allow them to continue connecting to social media services, such as Facebook and Twitter, even if they end up in a country with heavier internet restrictions. Check out this review of three VPNs on the market today to determine if any would be a good fit for your company.
Outside of security software, your business will also need to secure accounts the old fashion way: with strong passwords. As simple as it may sound, many businesses make the mistake of using easy to guess passwords out of convenience and often don’t change those passwords often or ever.
Because of how fast social media transmits information, a compromised password can quickly lead to disaster. Creating a strong password for your business accounts can help reduce the likelihood of this being a problem. Strong passwords typically consist of a minimum of eight characters, with a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. Passphrases are especially good as they can be easy to remember but very difficult to guess (the #1 criteria of a good password).
The longer a password is, the harder it is to hack with software. Avoid using single words from the dictionary, as those can be forcibly guessed by cracking programs. Although inconvenient, changing the password regularly, and when employees quit, can help reduce the chance of an incident.
Social media is popular for a variety of reasons, but one is especially important to consumers. Facebook pages offer a unique opportunity for customers to publicly converse with a company representative and have their questions or concerns addressed. This is an important place to create value for your business and enforce customer loyalty.
Whenever possible, your company’s social media representative should answer questions posed by the public. That includes silly questions (so long as they aren’t inappropriate). Staying engaged with consumer questions helps build a sense of trust with your brand and creates a tighter bond with your customer base.
A positive company image also makes your business’s pages a lower priority target for angry users. Those that foster a negative environment should be dealt with swiftly as they can hurt the experience for your readers and damage the company’s reputation. Consider addressing angry customer’s concerns privately when feasible.
Also avoid using non-humans on any form of social media. Bots that copy and paste automatic responses can leave customers feeling ignored and unappreciated; they can also be exceptionally frustrating for users not familiar with mechanical representatives. Though it may be slower, human interaction is always the preferable option.
Beware of Scams
Even with good security on your company’s machines, there are still ways for malicious users to hurt your business. Social media is rife with phishing scams designed to steal their victims’ information. Usually these links seem to lead to a legitimate website asking for information, such as a username and password. Any such links should be formally investigated as they put not only your company at risk, but your customers as well.
If your company page has a publicly listed email, watch out; it can be an easy aggregate for emails containing all sorts of bad files. Some may be filtered out by a good email provider, and others will be caught by your anti-virus program, but every now and then something new gets through and can cause problems. Be sure your company email is handled by professionals.
Scammers may also be looking to damage your company image by drawing your company page into a controversial discussion. When it comes to business, discussing controversial topics is a huge gamble. Avoid sensitive topics, and don’t get fooled into posting something that your company may regret.
That goes for customer information as well. Never share anything about your customers on social media without their direct consent.
Customers See What You Show Them
Businesses on social media often have multiple people posting for the company. Don’t forget that users on the consumer end can’t tell who is posting and will assume that anything said is directly representing the company’s views. An employee having a bad day should avoid using the company’s social media accounts.
In the event that negative attention is drawn to your company’s feed, sometimes limiting your business’s posting is effective. An unfueled fire quickly dies down, and the same is true for attention your company doesn’t want.
Ultimately if you want to keep your company’s social media accounts successful for the business, keep the image consistent. It’s perfectly fine to have a certain degree of “character” in your business, just be sure to be reliable about conveying that idea. Be sure to choose a good photo to represent the business’s pages, as people are highly visual by nature.
Does your business currently have a Facebook or Twitter page? How do you ensure customers leave with a good experience? Tell us in the comments.
Caroline Black is a content creator at Secure Thoughts.