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Marketing

Making Social Media Safer for Small Businesses

Mar 10, 2022

It’s time to address the unintended consequences of social media marketing. Developing harm mitigation guidelines can help you safely market to consumers, improve campaign performance, and win consumer trust.

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Meghan BazamanSenior Content Analyst
Making Social Media Safer for Small Businesses

What we'll cover

From destroyed attention spans to dangerous misinformation campaigns to mental health concerns and more, there are almost daily headlines about the harms of social media marketing and advertising, especially for children and young adults. Consumers believe something needs to be done to hold Big Tech accountable, along with marketers and advertisers. 

However, businesses still lack clear, practical, and actionable solutions to protect consumers from harm. 

In 2022, 75% of marketers plan to spend more on social efforts—more than any other marketing initiative we surveyed respondents about. But in order to responsibly meet sales goals while maintaining trust, marketers need smart guidelines that protect consumer mental health and prevent harm. (See our survey methodology at the end of this piece.)

So what really would move the needle? We’ll look at the good, bad and the ugly of how marketers are currently using social platforms, and then help you set up actionable social media harm mitigation guidelines for your marketing employees. 

Social media marketing: A powerful (and potentially dangerous) channel

As a large source of the content circulating on social platforms, it makes sense that marketers and advertisers are part of the harm discourse. Most marketers say they are using social media platforms for content creation (69%) and advertising (60%), according to GetApp’s recent Email and Social Media Marketing Survey. 

GA-Social-Media-Tactics 3.01

Some 91% of marketers are currently using Facebook and 79% are using Instagram for their initiatives, despite evidence that further marketing restrictions are imminent—new data privacy issues are arising in Europe and some state senators are attempting to crack down on harmful or violent content to protect young users (who make up the majority of many major social platforms). 

However, there’s not a significant number of respondents that say they are marketing on social media to individuals under the age of 18. The vast majority (68%) say their target audience are people 30 or over.

GA-age-ranges-marketed-to (4)

Nonetheless, marketers are largely in favor of added restrictions—three in five agree that regulations on social media should increase.  

There’s certainly nuance when it comes to social media marketing. Let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of using social media marketing from the perspective of marketers. 

The pros

A large share of marketers (56%) anticipate that nearly a third of their organization's total revenue will be derived from social media marketing initiatives in 2022. 

When we asked why companies use social media, there were a variety of benefits cited:

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Social media will continue to play a large part in the marketing world—especially when 59% of the world population uses it. Marketers say they rely on social platforms to achieve their company’s goals. In fact, 73% believe that social media marketing is critical to their company’s overall success and 64% feel it’s a greater value than it is a harm to consumers. 

However, many have mixed feelings about social media’s impact on consumers. For example, 66% say that social media marketing is more valuable to companies than it is to consumers. 

The cons

Social media marketing creates challenges for businesses because in addition to carefully crafting content, they must identify what is appropriate for younger audiences versus adults. 

Below are a few responses our surveyed marketers gave on the main drawbacks of social media marketing. Common themes include a lack of security and control, and the potential for privacy and trust issues from consumers (especially when targeting and personalization are involved). 


Lack of security 

“The security of social media marketing is not stable enough.”

“It is critical to have someone monitoring it all the time in order to respond in a timely manner.”

Lack of control  

“The process is difficult to control, often the marketing does not achieve the expected effect, and even causes a negative impact on the corporate brand.”

“Negative comments by others make some potential clients not want to engage with a particular brand.” 

Privacy and trust concerns

“[There’s a] fine line between customization and privacy issues.”

“The mistrust by many consumers that what they are seeing and reading on social media is false.”


Trust issues are particularly evident as marketers appear just as skeptical as consumers—71% agree consumers should be cautious about the information they receive from social media marketing. Less than half of marketers surveyed (31%) are neutral on the topic that consumers should trust the information shared by social media marketers.

Nearly half (48%) of all marketers agree that social media marketing can cause mental health issues among consumers. However, the vast majority (69%) self-report that their company’s social media marketing efforts have a positive impact on consumer mental health. 

These findings suggest that despite research that ties social media to declines in mental health, marketers may not be aware (or willing to admit) how their specific initiatives can have a harmful impact on consumers. 

GA-social-marketing-mental-health Update

Mitigate risk with social media marketing guidelines 

Marketers want to earn consumer trust and create successful campaigns, but it’s unclear if or what they should be doing differently to better protect consumers. 

That’s why there is a strong need for well-defined rules and guidelines for preventing harm caused by social media marketing. Unfortunately, 17% of marketers say they are completely unaware of social media marketing harm mitigation strategies or policies. 

What are social media harm mitigation policies?

Social media harm mitigation policies or guidelines refer to practices that aim to minimize the negative emotional, physical, or legal impacts of social media. For marketing purposes or campaigns, this can include education, training, monitoring or auditing social content (e.g., identifying inappropriate content or escalating it, ensuring inappropriate content is removed), etc.

Even among marketers knowledgeable about social harm mitigation, a surprising 28% say their company doesn’t currently have guidelines in place or that they are unaware of them. 

Companies with social media marketing harm mitigation polices 3.01

Harm-reducing guidelines and policies are essential because they help marketers ensure their content is safe and can even boost campaign performance. 

3 reasons to adopt social media harm mitigation policies at your company 

1. Ensure employees operate from the same social media playbook  

Companies and individuals will have differing views on what is or isn’t appropriate marketing content. By clearly stating rules and best practices for social media marketing (like how to monitor, identify, or remedy inappropriate content), employees can make better decisions that align with company goals and values. And rest assured that employees will react positively to such guidelines. Among marketers with social media harm mitigation policies, 88% say they are satisfied with them. It’s a win-win for businesses and employees.   

2. Improve your social performance

Creating new policies and workflows takes time and energy. But with the right guidelines, you can seriously improve the overall performance of a social media campaign. For example, 82% of marketers with harm mitigation policies at their companies say their marketing efforts have impacted their company positively overall.  Also, 83% describe the performance of their company’s social media marketing efforts (when it comes to meeting marketing goals) as good or excellent. That’s ten percentage points higher when compared to all marketers (73%). 

3. Protect your reputation 

Along with the inability to control what is said by consumers, the real-time and viral nature of social media can be intimidating. Social harm reducing policies can protect your company from unnecessary risk (like the unauthorized or inappropriate use of social media that could damage your brand’s image). Among marketers that have such policies in place, 73% are actively removing social media content that is inappropriate. More than half say they have thought about their company’s policies as frequently as within the last week or day. 

Ready to nail down your social media harm mitigation policies? Let’s look at how you can get started by reviewing what marketers are doing right now to protect consumers and their businesses.     

How to build your social media harm mitigation strategies 

Marketers have implemented a variety of social media harm mitigation strategies at their current companies:

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Your policies and guidelines should include:

A social media code of conduct or ethics

  • A well-defined code of conduct or ethics demonstrates your company is committed to preventing inappropriate social media marketing and taking correctional action if or when needed. 

  • Your code of ethics should include a list of behavior on social media that could harm consumers and the company, defined consequences for violating the code, and a plan of action for addressing problems or issues if they do arise. Also, be sure to include ways to report violations. 

Guidelines for copyright and confidentiality

  • Copyright and confidentiality rules protect proprietary information. Exposing sensitive information could lead to lost revenue, legal issues, or even theft.  

  • Be sure to include examples and explain the risks of revealing confidential or proprietary company information. Also, ensure employees are aware of the types of information (e.g., internal conversations, financial information, not yet released products, etc.) to protect on social media by having them explicitly stated in your guidelines. 

A dedicated individual or team with access to social media accounts

  • To protect your business from security risks and compromised accounts, it’s a good idea to restrict access to a small group or select individuals. Company social media accounts are susceptible to trolling, security breaches, and attacks. In fact, two in five marketers say their social media accounts were set up by employees no longer at their organization.

  • Make sure this group is trained on social media guidelines and policies. Additionally, regularly update passwords for company accounts, and make sure you have the ability to remove users' rights if necessary.  

Approvals for social posts and continuous auditing

  • Nearly a third of marketers say social media marketing has impacted their company negatively in the past. Because inappropriate posts on social media pages or accounts can damage your company’s reputation and potentially cause harm to consumers, it’s essential to actively monitor company accounts for suspicious activity. In fact, social media marketing monitoring or auditing is the top strategy marketers say they are planning to incorporate in the future. 

  • Consider investing in social media monitoring or management software to track your businesses’s social media mentions, hashtags, and other related content. There are even AI-based programs that can automatically delete harmful posts. These software programs can help you with a variety of social media management tasks and have features that give additional visibility into your content and consumer sentiment toward your brand. 

Get verified accounts and invest in training to avoid security threats 

  • Over a third of marketers (36%) agree that social media marketing is a security risk. That’s why it’s important to be proactive in securing and educating your staff about the potential dangers.  

  • Getting verified (proving accounts are owned and operated by a real organization or person) can help your customers find your brand’s accounts and know that they are authentic. Additionally, investing in training programs or software can aid in educating your employees on the social media marketing rules, expectations, risks, and consequences. 

Social media harm mitigation infographic

Want to know more about what companies are doing to mitigate social media harm?

Click here to download GetApp’s Social Media Harm Mitigation infographic that includes the full data.


More resources on social media marketing

Each company and marketing department will have unique needs for their social media harm mitigation policies. For more social media marketing strategy advice, check out these additional resources:

Methodology

GetApp’s 2022 Email and Social Media Marketing Survey was conducted in January 2022 among 299 U.S. respondents to learn more about small, midsize, and large business email and social media marketing tactics. Respondents were screened for full-time employees of all company sizes that have involvement with marketing-related activities. They must have been working within roles including advertising, brand management, customer experience or service, data and analytics, IT, marketing, product marketing and management, sales, or strategic planning and be current email and social media marketing users.

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About the author

Meghan Bazaman

Senior Content Analyst
Meghan Bazaman is a senior analyst at GetApp, covering all the latest trends, issues, and developments in marketing technology. With more than a decade of experience conducting qualitative and quantitative research, her work has been featured in publications such as Ad Age, MediaPost, and Martech Zone. In her spare time she enjoys looking for the best hiking trails around Austin and spoiling her cat Javier.
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