From Where We Sit

Managing business conversations at the speed of thought

Mhycke Gallego Mhycke Gallego

In a 2016 report by WeAreSocial says 47.1 million Filipinos are active internet users and millennials represent 41 percent of these “wired” segment. And, some say that the last election was fought “in the streets of cyber.”

Internet users are typically impatient and spirited in voicing out their opinion on almost anything; even telling stories which may be truthful but often spiteful and distorted. Stories became so personalized that family members and lifelong friends separated ways (How many did you ‘unfriend’ from Facebook?).The use of the internet is so open and so pervasive that somewhere in the World Wide Web, someone maybe talking about you and he may not be saying the most flattering things. Or worse, he may be plotting against you.

Recent social media unrest includes hacking accounts, defacing walls, posting disturbing images, exposing an employees’ rude behavior or blogging against the company. In a poll conducted among global chief communication officers a few years ago, 42 of the 127 officers reported that their companies have experienced social media-based reputation threats. A third of them said they were not prepared or had no formal plan to address these threats despite a rise in the use of social media and blogging as a communication tool.

Social media is revolutionizing business. The increased activity of “prosumers” or participants who produce and consume at the same time, and the sharing and collaboration that happen among them is promoting an interactive conversation. This interactive conversation (or the Socialnomics cycle) is one where business listens to people, business learns from people, business adapts to people, business communicates an offer, people consume that offer, and then people evolve. And the cycle starts over again, most often at the speed of thought.

In this social media revolution, what rules govern?

1. On being social. As in the real world, minding one’s manners is good advice when operating in the (virtual) world of social media. In interacting with prosumers, observe humility and honesty in your virtual conversations. Due to high information turnover and continuously changing content and form, it may be difficult to achieve perfect site content. The concept of being “unprofessional” in developing content is encouraged. Leave netizens to decide which of the content they will pick for their own use.

2. About the media used. Engaging in social media can make or break an organization’s reputation, business strategy, or the salability of its product or service. A systematic, well-thought-out process is suggested prior to engaging the social media. Organizations are encouraged to carefully choose which media—LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, IG, or own site—they will engage in, decide which appropriate application to put in place or develop, and adopt an ‘access for all’ policy. Companies’ social media activities should also be aligned with business plans and integrated into their communication plans.

How can we manage conversation risk? Is your company an active voice in this global conversation? If so, you need to manage your conversation risk—a subset of the more pervasive reputation risk:

1. Identify business processes affected by social media risks. Social media risks pervade throughout a company’s strategies, governance, execution, and organizational and legal processes. These may include lack of strategy and policy on social media—a set of metrics that do not measure the right things—and having a non-pro-active organization structure. These may result in a loss of competitive advantage, disclosure of corporate assets and sensitive information to unauthorized parties, or inappropriate or unapproved use of the company’s intellectual property.

2. Develop a controls assurance framework. In addressing the risks posed by social media, organizations are encouraged to develop a controls assurance framework to ensure, among others, that risk management (including social media) processes are in place and routinely evaluated and that employees, contractors and customers are trained and are aware of their responsibilities regarding the social media, that the use of social media is actively monitored, and that its effect on technology are regularly evaluated.

The value of social media in revolutionizing businesses is increasingly recognized. However, this global conversation poses a risk to organizations; which is why it is important for companies to review their processes that are affected by social media risks and that they have to design a robust set of controls that reduces or mitigates those risks. Because, as mentioned earlier, somewhere in the World Wide Web, someone is talking about you and may not be saying the most flattering things.


Mhycke Gallego is a Partner, Advisory Services, and Head of Knowledge Management of P&A Grant Thornton

As published in The Manila Times, dated 26 July 2016