Nonprofits, Social Media and Risk

To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question.

I attended a conference on social media and risk management a few months ago through the Puget Sound IIA. Prior to the conference, I was a ‘twit’ on ‘tweeting’. I did not have a Twitter account, and was minimally active on Facebook and LinkedIn. I was in good company though because out of the 30-40 participants at the conference, maybe only 5 of them had Twitter accounts. What is it with auditors and risk? In thinking about the reality of increased connectivity through the world wide web, it seems like we, as auditors, mainly think about privacy concerns, data security, and network security. Our bent as auditors is to major on the downside and minor on the upside. Can we be ‘safe’ in a social media environment? Can social media be a tool that is used to help an organization meet its objectives? What are the risks? Are there opportunities?

The conference was a ‘conversion’ experience for me and I became fully convinced of the power of social media to connect, influence and educate.


An organization’s involvement in social media is no longer optional. The reality is whether by choice or not, an organization/company is involved in social media. Someone, somewhere, has had an experience with your organization, and they are talking about it. The question is – Are you listening to what they are saying and does it benefit the organization to respond?

I have a search column on my computer that monitors any mention of World Vision on Twitter. For the seven day period following the Haiti earthquake, at least every minute, someone was ‘tweeting’ or saying in their tweet – ‘give to World Vision for Haiti’. The impact of many voices saying the same thing has a huge influence and for those doing online searches search engine optimization will produce a higher rank for websites that have many online mentions. Google recently announced (October 21, 2009 – Google Blog) that they have reached a deal with Twitter to include tweets in search results.


What is social media?

An umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and ‘building’ of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories, and understandings.  

(Source:Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media)


Interesting facts and statistics:

  • Median age – Twitter is 31, MySpace is 26, Facebook is 33
  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth most populated place in the world. This means it easily beats the likes of Brazil, Russia and Japan in terms of size.
  • 80% of companies use, (or are planning to use), LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees during the course of this year.
  • Reporters get ½ of their stories off of blogs
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine
  • Infractions and leaks of information are often found on Twitter
  • Twitter is a great customer service tool for companies like Comcast and is a great way to monitor what is being said about your brand and to respond quickly


Top 25 Social Networks in the U.S. (January 2009)


What should an organization do?

  • Listen (What are they saying? Where are they saying it? Who are they?)
  • Learn and analyze
  • Organize and strategize
  • Engage (Create conversation and community)
  • Measure
  • Adapt


Free social media monitoring tools:


Social Media Risks:

(Source: Cassandra Luppens, CISA)

  • Social networking sites are the most vulnerable category of web sites
  • Financial/Operational Risk
    • Regulatory
    • Data security
      • Shift to cloud computing
      • Shift towards real time and/or tagged information (e.g. XBRL)
      • Fraud
    • IT Risk
      • Network intrusion
      • Network downtime/hi-jacking
    • Reputation Risk
      • 74% of employed Americans believe it is easy to damage a brand’s reputation via sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
      • 58% of executives agree that reputational risk and social networking should be a board room issue, but only 15% say it actually is
      • Only 22% of companies have policies on how employees can use social networking tools
        • A report by Manpower employer services found that only one-fifth of companies surveyed had a formal policy for employee use of external social-networking sites
        • 53% of employees think their social networking pages are none of their employers business

(Deloitte LLP 2009 Ethics and Workplace Survey Results)


Internal Audits Role in Evaluation:

(Source: Cassandra Luppens, CISA)

  • Assess likelihood
    • Evaluate your company’s structure around social media
      • Existence of a social media plan/policy
      • Plan for addressing social media concerns
      • Social media footprint
        • What are people saying about the organization?
        • Where are they saying it?
        • Assess impact (of the bad thing happening) on financial, legal/regulatory, reputation and speed of onset



  • Social media monitoring can be more effective and cost effective than focus groups
  • Deeper engagement with stakeholders
  • Get insights not available any other way
  • Your stakeholders are online already


The bottom line is this – Are we going to be proactive or reactive when it comes to social media? Are you going to wait until the bad thing happens before acting on social media or will you consider the risks now and capitalize on the opportunity to establish a voice for your organization that is positive, creates value and enhances your brand?



2 Responses to “Nonprofits, Social Media and Risk”

  1. 1 Carol
    February 22, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    I am not sure how organizations will control the information that is seeping out into the social media pipe line. What once flowed from my mouth to you ear is now indelibly etched in transparent stone. I wonder how many organizations will step up and dedicate the resources to monitor and guide this open forum?

  2. November 25, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me
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