Social media presence is a must for growth but secure your accounts to avoid a PR disaster

It’s extremely difficult for any business in the twenty-first century to grow substantially without a social media presence. Effectively maintaining accounts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn isn’t just a way for your business to stand out—it’s now an obligation to keep up with the times. Almost everyone has smartphones, which is why social media marketing is such an effective way to expand visibility. Word of mouth is no longer enough. While maintaining various social media profiles may seem like more hassle than it’s worth, consider social media presence necessary for your modern business—a gateway of communication between companies and customers that must be kept secure to be effective.

Benefits of Social Media Presence

Aside from giving your business access to a wider audience of potential customers, being active on social media is a great way to build your company’s brand. Brand awareness is easily the most important benefit of a company’s social media presence. At a time when 78 percent of small businesses use social media to attract new customers, the impact of local advertising on social media is so prevalent that it’s putting some newspapers out of business. Many potential customers view a business’s social media pages as windows into the brand’s authenticity. Posting regular updates about your company’s accomplishments and creating sharable content keeps your business active and relevant digitally.

Social media platforms give your business a way to streamline customer service and feedback. When customers “like” or “follow” your social media accounts, they have an easy way to contact you directly and post public feedback about services or products they’ve received from your company. Connecting with customers through social media is also an effective way to identify the requirements of your client base. If someone expresses an interest for a particular service on your Facebook page, you’ll know immediately and can evaluate how to best meet the needs of your current and future customers.

Risks Your Social Media Accounts Face

There are many ways unwelcome parties can access your social media accounts, and knowing about these potential dangers is the first step to keeping your business safe. Hackers commonly go after accounts using brute force attacks, a simple method of persistently guessing your login information either manually or by using programs that generate thousands of login attempts. Opening questionable email attachments or fraudulent links seemingly related to your social media sites is another way employees are tricked into handing the company’s social media access to hackers.

The sites themselves can also be put at risk by more complex cross-site scripting and web traffic interception, so it’s important for any employee with access to your business’s social media accounts to be knowledgeable and vigilant about their safety. Depending on the site’s administration policies, a business social media page is often directly tied to an administrator’s personal profile, so any weakness in one’s personal account can lead to a breach in the business profile. If one of your accounts has been attacked, it’s wise to check your overall security as hackers may also have retrieved data stored elsewhere.

How to Safeguard Your Social Media

One of the simplest ways to protect your social media accounts is to use safe password practices in all aspects of your business—not just on social media. Using the same password for social media accounts as you use for other business data accounts puts all the accounts at risk. Update passwords regularly for the best possible security. The St. Louis IT security firm Anderson Technologies suggests utilizing a password management program such as LastPass to synchronize the security of accounts in a central location.

All employees should complete thorough training of safe online practices, but this is especially important for employees with access to social media accounts. Limiting the amount of people who have access to social media significantly reduces the risk. Minimize your vulnerability by drafting content on internal platforms and then passing the data to one or two senior employees with access to the account to post. Using a program like Hootsuite to manage all accounts in one place is another way to simplify your social media practices and reduce the risk of an outside threat.

Recovering from a Social Media Hack

Discovering your account has been hacked is alarming and may make you want to check out from all social media activity for a period of time. However, the most effective action you can take after a social media hack is immediate public response. Address any errant posts made without your approval or any customers who may have been affected. Fixing collateral damage caused by a hack should be your first priority.

After the mess has been cleaned up, it’s time to evaluate your business’s cybersecurity practices and bolster them where needed so future attacks can be prevented. You may find it necessary to seek outside IT services to assess the weaknesses in your security methods. Social media presence is vital to your company’s status in the modern world, and IT consultants serve as an extremely helpful resource in keeping those public channels safe.