As a digital marketing agency, protecting our clients’ brands and mitigating harmful content on social media is of the utmost importance. Our clients entrust us with managing their online presence and reputation, so we must take every precaution to avoid controversy or backlash that could damage how the public perceives them.
The Dangers of Harmful Content for Brands
Social media has opened up many opportunities for businesses to connect with customers and build their brands. However, it has also given a platform for anyone to say anything, and not all of it is positive or brand-safe.
Harmful, unethical, dangerous or illegal content spreads quickly online and can tarnish a brand through no fault of its own. It’s our job to minimize these risks and ensure our clients’ social accounts remain a welcoming, constructive space.
The Role of Social Listening in Mitigating Harm
One of the biggest challenges is monitoring all social platforms around the clock. Negative comments, inappropriate hashtags, misleading information – it’s impossible to catch everything immediately as it happens.
That’s why community management is so vital. We empower our clients’ social communities to self-moderate through clear guidelines, then respond quickly if issues arise. Positive reinforcement of good behavior helps shape the discussion.
Tools for Social Listening
Many tools exist to support large-scale social listening programs. Some popular options include:
- Social media management platforms like Sprout Social and Hootsuite incorporate monitoring capabilities along with publishing and analytics tools.
- Specialized social listening tools like Awario, Talkwalker, and Linkfluence offer robust functionality for tracking brand mentions, keywords, influential users, sentiment, and more.
- Social media analytics tools like those from Quintly, Sprout Social, and Rival IQ analyze audience demographics, engagement metrics, and competitive benchmarking.
- Consumer research panels like ProdegeMR, FocusVision, and Opinium involve surveying representative consumer samples to gain qualitative insights around social media usage and brand perceptions.
Proactive filtering also helps block problematic content before it’s posted. We carefully curate approved hashtags, mentions and keywords for each client based on their values and messaging. Automated moderation tools can then flag unapproved terms for human review. Over time, machine learning improves our filters’ accuracy.
Pre-moderation buys time to thoughtfully address edge cases while avoiding knee-jerk reactions.
Enforcing Clear Community Guidelines
When issues do pop up, transparency and accountability are key. We have protocols in place for escalating serious matters to clients immediately. For less severe offenses, a respectful explanation of the community standards often resolves things.
Deletion is a last resort. Our goal is educating people, not punishment, so they understand why some behaviors undermine the brand’s purpose and culture.
Strategies for Enforcing Guidelines
- Empower moderators – Provide moderators with clear decision-making frameworks to act decisively on violations
- Respond quickly – Remove harmful content and address policy violations as soon as they are reported or detected
- Offer warnings – For minor first-time offenses, issue warnings before proceeding to account suspensions
- Disable violator accounts – For repeated or serious violations, temporarily or permanently suspend violator accounts
- Involve legal counsel – Consult legal experts when evaluating content that may involve illegal activities or intellectual property infringement
Leveraging Brand Safety Technology
It’s also wise for businesses to avoid hot-button topics where possible. While advocacy has its place, wading into political or social controversies often does more harm than good.
Sticking to discussions centered on a company’s products, services and values helps maintain focus on the real goals – serving customers well and generating interest in the brand.
Powerful brand safety tools offer:
- Keyword blocking – Pre-emptively block posts with prohibited keywords from being visible in branded discussions
- Deep learning AI – Leverage artificial intelligence to identify policy violations based on textual content and metadata from posts
- Image/video analysis – Scan images and videos and flag adult or violent content using computer vision
- Whitelisting – Only allow posts from pre-approved profiles or domains to appear in branded areas
- Blacklisting – Automatically hide content from high-risk profiles like known trolls or repeat offenders
- Automated enforcement – Automatically remove violating content based on rules configured by the brand
When evaluating options, brands should choose brand safety partners that:
- Integrate with the brand’s primary social media platforms
- Offer flexible customization based on the brand’s guidelines
- Have capabilities to block emerging new forms of harmful content
- Provide intuitive dashboards and analytics for tracking enforcement activity
The right brand safety tools are invaluable for preserving brand reputation by eliminating unwanted user-generated content.
You can see more about this on Sprout Social
Crisis management preparedness is another important part of our process.
We work with clients to develop a response plan for if/when something damaging slips through. Having pre-approved messaging, spokespeople and a process for engaging journalists or stakeholders in a timely, transparent manner limits damage from an incident. It’s better to address issues sincerely and directly than ignore them and fuel speculation.
A consistent, human voice also goes a long way.
Automated social media can come across as inauthentic or tone-deaf. We assign real employees to manage major accounts, with guidelines for responding to customers personally and compassionately. Personalization builds trust that a real person is behind the brand and cares about stakeholders. It’s easier for communities to self-police if they feel heard by the company.
Ultimately, the best defense is a good offense.
Fostering positive conversations, useful content and a welcoming environment through community engagement reduces the need for moderation. When people feel valued by a brand, they’re less likely to say harmful things or try to hijack discussions.
Our role is elevating brands by helping shape online spaces customers want to spend time in – places where they feel respected, informed and part of the family. Mitigating the risks along the way protects that experience.
Key Takeaways: Mitigating Harm to Build Trust
Although social media exposes brands to risks like damaging posts and misinformation, thoughtful mitigation strategies centered on social listening, community management, and brand safety technology can help companies reclaim control over their digital presence.
Here are the key takeaways for brands looking to mitigate harm:
- Monitor social media discussions related to your brand for early detection of policy violations using robust listening tools. Look for hate speech, misinformation, dangerous content, impersonator accounts, etc.
- Establish clear guidelines detailing prohibited content and user expectations. Promote these rules across social channels.
- Empower moderators to quickly remove violating content and enforce policies consistently. Disable accounts of repeat offenders.
- Leverage advanced brand safety technology to automatically block inappropriate posts before they spread based on keywords, metadata, images, videos, and user patterns.
- Continually refine policies and evaluate brand safety tools as social media landscape evolves and new variations of harmful content emerge.
With vigilant listening, firm and fair enforcement, and proactive technical safeguards in place, brands can nurture the positive social media presence that builds communities anchored on trust and meaningful engagement.
In conclusion, social media management requires constant vigilance combined with compassion. Clear standards, proactive tools, crisis plans, and a human touch help guide conversations to keep brands safe and true to their purpose.
It’s a balancing act, but one that’s vital for any business with an online presence. We’re proud to utilize our expertise and strategies to shield our clients’ reputations while bringing people together in constructive discussion. The benefits of social far outweigh the challenges when it’s approached with care, wisdom and heart.