Controlling the Uncontrollable – Managing Social Media Risks, Part 3 of 3

Stop tilting at windmills, and enjoy the view!

Stop tilting at windmills, and enjoy the view!

Social media risks.  Your management wants to control them all and push them into a corner.  Just like Baby in Dirty Dancing, you can’t put them in a corner.  Why?  Because you can’t control them.  Control in this space is illusory.  A few weeks ago I did Part 1 and Part 2 in this series and today I will finish this up.  Let’s review where we have been and get to where we are going.

Let’s start with the social media serenity prayer:

In social media, grant me the courage to manage the things I can, the wisdom to marvel at the things I can not, and the serenity to know the difference.

Now to our review.

Part 1 – Speed and Scale are what is changing the game

I truly believe that the risks that you think you are trying to control in social are risks that have already been there.  The great part about that is you already have ways of managing it.  The problem with social is speed and scale.  Social reduces friction, so speed goes exponentially up.  Social also enables more dense networks of people, so the scale of information dissemination is unlike anything we have had before.  Have these things in mind when you work on managing this space.

Part 2 – Stuff and Staff – more than just a vowel differentiates them

Engaging with customers through social gives you access to so much rich authentic content.  The problem is it’s not your stuff.  It’s their’s.  Don’t forget the rights of others.  Respect them.  Part 2 also talked about staff.  Many people feel that employees are your greatest risk in social.  Some days I believe that, too.  Speed and scale exacerbate the problem.  With compelling training programs, I think this risk is much more manageable.  It is almost so manageable that you may feel you can control it.  You still can’t.  You are still just managing.  And be okay with that.

So, how do you manage?

One of the greatest quotes about social media deployment and strategy goes something like “you shouldn’t have a social media strategy, you should just have a strategy.”  Social media risk management should just be risk management.  In part 1 I talked about how speed and scale change the game.  That is what you should be educating your partners on.  Partnering with people who have possibly said no to you many times before seems like a scary proposition, but partnering is what you need to do.

You need to work with them to get them to understand the promise of this space, the unique challenges brought on by the increased speed and scale of the space and connect them with other professionals in this space.

Some may get caught up in what this management model looks like.  If you really need a slide to explain to your management this aspect of this, Jeremiah Owyang put together a great post just for you.  It lays out 5 organizational models for social.  While his models were more directed towards social media deployment as a whole, I think they might have validity to your risk management.

At the end of the day, his honeycomb model is where you will need to be with social risk management.  Everyone who touches risk in your organization needs to understand this.  We are long past the point where you can have social media professionals who are off on their own island.  They are being integrated into every part of your organization.  They should be.  The same is true for risk management.

The only question is the size of your organization.  If you are small, the entirety of the risk management function may be in one person, probably an attorney.  You may not have the organizational size to be able to bring on the additional management work for this.  There are folks out there, like myself, who can augment your existing operations and who understand not only how to speak risk management to those professionals, but understand the speed and scale of social.  Those who understand and have experience with this space.

Quite frankly, going back to Jeremiah’s models, I think the farthest most organizations may get to is the hub and spoke, or dandelion, model.  You will have one person centralized who is responsible for this entire space.  They will have dedicated staff, or more likely matrixed staff, that work regularly with various groups.  Those people will shoulder the risk management role for those groups, with the central person being ultimately responsible.  I don’t think this is the most efficient way to do it.  I also don’t think it really embodies what social can be for an organization.  I just think that management, as a whole, hasn’t embraced this idea that social is just another way to get business done.

Where are we now?

Social is a great tool for users.  It has been a great tool for businesses as well.  Social platforms were created for users, by users and is of the users.  Businesses are there at the sufferance of the users.  That is why this space is so liquid in nature and why this whole control piece is so unattainable.  Managing the risk in the space begins with this realization that you are just another player on this stage.

Remember that you can’t control it, understand the space and embrace the user centric nature of it.  I think if you start from that foundation you will be able to effectively manage this space.  As you manage, also work with your folks to understand that they should “do the right thing.”  That will help avoid some of the more glaring problems and when problems crop up they will be relatively minor.

If you have any questions, or need some help in your own organization, shoot me an email.  I would love to chat more about your challenges.  I can be reached at

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