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Reputation wrecking: social media alarm sounds

Asher Moses (SMH) | April 5, 2011
What companies need to know about social media.

In an age in which one negative online review can destroy brands, social media has become one of the top risks keeping C-level executives up at night, a survey of 446 major Australian corporations and public sector organisations has found.

Company bigwigs typically fret over things such as liquidity and government regulation but the No.1 concern raised in the Risk Management Benchmarking Survey conducted by global consultancy firm Aon was "brand and image". Social media was specifically singled out as a key risk.

"Increased use of social networks was specifically sighted [sic] as providing potential risk to an organisation's brand, image and reputation," read Aon's report on the survey, which is now in its ninth year.

In the media wars . . . the Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, has had to explain the engine woes to the public.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told ABC's Four Corners that false rumours on social media caused Qantas' share price to tank. Photo: AP

According to a recent report in AdAge, more than 50 per cent of Fortune 50 companies have no social media icons on their home pages at all, while 60 per cent hide their Twitter streams.

Michael Braude, general manager of treasury, risk and insurance at Coca-Cola Amatil, said he saw social media as a "big issue".

"Someone could decide to use social media to make derogatory remarks about any number of elements associated with an organisation," Mr Braude said.

Busted ... These Californian KFC workers were fired for publishing these shots of them bathing in a KFC basin on MySpace.

Busted ... These Californian KFC workers were fired for publishing these shots of them bathing in a KFC basin on MySpace.

Peter Fraser, a partner with social media intelligence firm SR7, which recently struck up a partnership with Aon, said the survey confirmed that social media was an emerging risk that is taken seriously by chief executives and boards.

He pointed to recent comments by Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, who said erroneous social media posts claiming a Qantas plane had crashed led to a collapse in the airline's share price.

"Social media and networks are not all about marketing. Social media risk is now shaping key business decisions at the Australian C-level," Mr Fraser said.

Michael and Kristy, left, and an example of their antics, right.

Domino's Pizza staff were sacked after posting videos of themselves fouling up customers' food.


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