23 Social Media Risks (And How To Mitigate Them)

social media risks

As the number of social media users continues to grow, and more brands use the channel as part of their marketing mix, so do social media risks.

Let’s face it: the “bad guys” aren’t dumb – they go where they’re likely to have more success.

The benefits of social media are widely known.

But social media risks, less so.

In this guide, we’ll highlight the most common social media risks, dangers, pitfalls, and traps that you could fall into, along with how to mitigate them.


Security Risks

1. Unmonitored social media accounts

Social media accounts that are left unattended or no longer used are a target for hackers. Once they gain control, they can post fraudulent content, misinformation about your brand, and virus-infected links or malware.

Mitigation: Monitor all your social media accounts regularly to ensure they have not been compromised. Loomly Interactions helps you manage comments, mentions & messages on your social media accounts.

2. Imposter accounts

Imposter accounts are those accounts that look like they’re genuine, but under closer inspection, turn out to be fake accounts.

LinkedIn’s latest transparency report (July – December 2019) shows they took action on 11.2 million fake accounts. Most (93%) were blocked by automated defenses, but more than 85,000 fake accounts were only addressed once members reported them.

social media risks linkedin fake accounts

Likewise, Facebook estimates that fake accounts represented approximately 5% (1.5B) of their worldwide monthly active users (MAU) during Q2 2020. They blocked 99.6% before users reported them.

social media risks facebook fake accounts

Mitigation: Get your social media accounts verified with the trusty blue tick so people recognize your brand’s genuine account. Also, if you’re using influencer marketing, check potential influencer accounts are bonafide before starting any campaigns.

3. Privacy settings

Many users, including brands, accept their social media account’s “default settings” when creating a new profile or page for their business.

But in a 2017 survey by Statista, users said they were not very confident that the privacy settings selected on their social media accounts worked as expected:

social media risks privacy settings confidence

Mitigation: Make sure you have IT and User Policy Guidelines that outline what settings should be used when creating new social media accounts.

4. Vulnerable third-party apps

Even if you’ve secured your social media accounts, there may be back doors in third-party apps that hackers can expose.

For example, hackers recently accessed FC Barcelona’s Twitter account through a third-party analytics app:

Mitigation: Make sure you use certified and trusted third-party apps that are official partners of the social media platforms, such as Loomly.

5. Human error

We’re all human and prone to mistakes. Nowadays, we’re more careful with dodgy emails, but not so smart with social media. It only takes one innocent click or download to expose a company to hackers, fraudsters, and scammers. (See below for types of attacks).

Also, people on your team could inadvertently post confidential or sensitive information.

Mitigation: Run training sessions to educate your staff on the dangers to look out for and what to do if they think they have made a mistake.

6. Phishing attacks and scams

A phishing scam (also known as vishing, smishing, or pharming) aims to get users to disclose login credentials for their work account, bank account, credit card, or other private information.

The latest figures from Kaspersky revealed that Facebook was subject to 4.5 million phishing attempts between April and September 2020.

Mitigation: Conduct basic security awareness training for your team. Show them how to recognize phishing messages and caution them not to open and download files from unknown sources. Loomly Interactions also allows you to assign any comment, message or @mention received on your social media account to your team, as way to consult with them before taking action.

7. Malware attacks and hacks

Malware attacks and hacks are one of the biggest security threats to brands on social media.

Every day, the AV-TEST Institute registers over 350,000 new malicious programs (malware) and potentially unwanted applications (PUA):

social media risks malware attacks

Attacks can be focused and targeted, where ‘cyber gangs’ go after organizations with advanced malware campaigns. For instance, one cyber gang built trust with oil and gas professionals on LinkedIn before sending them an Excel file containing malware that stole login credentials and other private information.

Hackers can also gain access to individual accounts and post harmful messages. For example, the Twitter account of NBA Giannis Antetokounmpo from the Milwaukee Bucks was hacked and used to post racial slurs and other profanities:

Mitigation: Conduct basic security awareness training for your team. Show them how to recognize malware attacks. Don’t open and download files from unknown sources. Use endpoint security software to protect your data.

8. Unsecured mobile phones

Many users have social media apps on their mobile phones. If it gets stolen, then thieves have access to social media accounts where they can post damaging content, plus send phishing and malware scams to your connections.

Mitigation: Protect mobile phones with a password, fingerprint, or face recognition lock to reduce the risks.

Consider using social media policy guidelines (in conjunction with IT) on how to:

  • Create a secure password and how often to change it.
  • Keep software and devices updated.
  • Identify and avoid spam, phishing attacks, and other security threats.
  • Report social media security concerns.
  • Avoid social media platforms’ default privacy and security settings.
  • Avoid social media activities that ask for personal information.
  • Share on-brand and approved content.
  • Adhere to copyright and confidentiality rules.
  • Engage appropriately on behalf of the brand.

Legal Risks

9. Legal and HR issues

It’s surprisingly easy for brands to publish unauthorized content that breaches the law. Potential issues include privacy laws, content ownership, and intellectual property (IP) infringement. Plus, there are potential HR issues such as harassment, discrimination, and defamation.

Mitigation: Make sure your legal and HR teams approve content in your social media workflow before it’s published. Loomly was designed to streamline collaboration, allowing you to preview and approve posts before they go live…

10. Data privacy and protection

Collecting, processing, handling, and storing data is a hot topic, especially as the rules and regulations for each country are different. Global brands need to comply with local data protection regulations when they post social media content and also share assets across borders.

Mitigation: Make sure your brand complies with location-specific data privacy and protection laws. Consult with local legal experts where necessary.

11. Compliance

With more than 10,000 rules and regulations governing electronic communications in the US alone, brands have to comply (and provide proof of compliance) with industry regulations, especially in the finance and healthcare sectors.

Mitigation: Follow and adhere to industry regulations. Get legal and compliance teams to review and approve content before it’s published. This is another area where Loomly can come in handy, thanks to a signature team approval workflow.

Financial Risks and Costs

12. Financial

Any mistake on social media can have a negative impact on finances, including:

  • Fines from industry regulators
  • Penalties from data protection enforcement agencies
  • Decreases in share price
Mitigation: Enforce social media governance to prevent mishaps and financial penalties.

13. Costs

Although it’s free to create social media accounts, there are associated costs, including:

  • Social media advertising costs.
  • Social media management tools.
  • Social media employees, including a social media manager.
  • Social media agencies, if you choose to outsource activities.
  • Freelance writers, designers to develop content.
  • Legal experts to work through governance issues.
Mitigation: Establish and manage a social media marketing budget to avoid costs spiraling out of control.

Operational Risks

14. Processes

Without the right operational processes in place, there’s a risk that the wrong people get access to social media accounts, or the wrong content gets published at the wrong time.

Mitigation: Define and approve the right access, permissions, approvals, and collaboration processes before you start publishing social media content. This is precisely what Custom Roles was designed for in Loomly.

15. Bandwidth

Firms need the right amount of resources to develop, manage, and supervise social media programs. As well as creating and publishing content, social media workflow approvals require professionals from all departments in the company, such as:

  • Sales: to check the correctness of any sales messages.
  • Product: to check the accuracy of product information.
  • HR: to ensure the updates are in line with company policy.
  • Finance: to ensure there are no budget issues.
  • Legal: to ensure there are no liability issues.
  • Third-Parties: any clients, agencies, or contractors you may be working with.
Mitigation: Make sure you have the bandwidth in resources across your company to properly manage social media marketing. Streamlining your collaboration process is a great first step if you are spreading your team thin: check out Loomly to accomplish that.

16. Productivity

There is a risk that employees will spend too much time on social media, which reduces their productivity and impacts an organization’s business operations.

Mitigation: Monitor how much time employees spend on social media, and if necessary, raise the issue with HR.

Brand Reputation Risks

17. Reputation

As social media content is published on platforms outside of an organization, there’s an immediate risk that a brand’s reputation can be damaged. Whether it’s a human error, an oversight, or a security hack, it can have a negative impact on the brand and lead to a loss in confidence of customers and investors.

Mitigation: Put strict training and guidelines in place so that everyone knows the security risks of social media. Also, social media workflows need to be as robust as possible to prevent any mishaps.

Content Strategy Risks

18. ROI

Executives expect a return on investment from social media marketing.

Mitigation: Define your social media goals and metrics, so they align with business goals. For example:

  • Business goal: increase customers
  • Marketing goal: increase leads and conversions
  • Social media goal: increase followers and engagement

Measure your social media performance and adjust the strategy accordingly to meet your goals. Loomly Advanced Analytics empowers you to measure your success in a clean dashboard.


19. Inconsistency

Brands often fall into the trap of publishing content on social media without any research or plan of action. Posts get published in an ad-hoc manner, which results in over-publishing or under-publishing, plus the tone, voice, and style of content are inconsistent.

Mitigation: Use a social media calendar, also referred to as an editorial calendar, to help you plan and publish high-quality social media content consistently. It’ll help you:

  • Plan your content ahead of time.
  • Create a regular publishing schedule.
  • Tell a consistent and compelling brand story over time.
Loomly Tip: You can build a social media calendar using a free online template or a professional, dedicated tool, such as Loomly.

20. Negative feedback

Social media platforms allow you to interact directly with your audience in real-time. But it also gives those same people a public forum to voice dissatisfaction, which can be damaging to your brand.

Mitigation: Use social listening tools to monitor the social media platforms you operate on so that you can quickly identify negative feedback and address it before it gains unwanted traction.

21. User-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) can be dangerous if you make it too complex. Inviting users to share content with a campaign hashtag is usually fine. But brands who use auto-generated content can hit problems.

For example, the National Lottery found people sabotaged their World Athletics Championships hashtag campaign by using disparaging profile names:

Mitigation: Make sure you stay in control of any UGC campaigns to avoid any embarrassment. Loomly Interactions is a great place to start.

22. Organic-only content

If you rely entirely on organic social media posts, you may not achieve your goals and objectives.

Mitigation: Use a combination of organic and paid content to reach your target audience and achieve your social media goals. Loomly allows you to create organic posts as well as Facebook & Instagram Ads to boost your social presence, consistently.

23. Getting left behind

Social media is a dynamic medium that’s always changing. New platforms emerge, algorithms change, and audiences swap allegiances.

Mitigation: Make sure you stay abreast of industry trends, and monitor the news and behavior on social media platforms, so you can stay ahead of the curve. The Loomly Blog & Brand Success Digest are great places to keep up with best practices.

Social Media Risks in a Nutshell

Social media is a great marketing channel, but brands also have to be aware of the associated risks.

Taking the necessary steps to plan and protect your brand against security, legal, financial, and operational risks of social media is the best way to future-proof your business.

Loomly is the Brand Success Platform that helps your team collaborate, publish, measure — and manage social media risks: start your 15-day free trial now.