Auditing social media

On 7 August 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk issued a brief statement on his personal Twitter page: “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.”

Nine words, two sentences, yet this was one of the most controversial and damaging social media communications in business history. The resulting backlash has been media fodder ever since, forcing Musk to step down as Tesla’s chairman for a minimum of three years by order of the Securities and Exchange Commission. It also reinforced the power, speed and reach social media commands in the 21st century.

Enter internal audit - a function providing assurance that social media oversight and governance is being conducted and, in turn, proving invaluable in ensuring this mode of communication is utilised to its greatest advantage across organisations.

When it comes to risk, the objective is for internal audit and the organisation to fully understand how the marketing and communications departments are providing social media protection, while uncovering ways to raise social media presence.

If they do not already form a part of a company’s social media audit, internal audit should be asking these key questions:

  • Which staff members have access to social media?
  • How are IDs and passwords managed?
  • How are posts controlled and what steps are taken during the review process?
  • Is any brand infringement occurring?
  • What sites provide competitors with the most success?
  • How does the company monitor and remove posts that can cause reputational harm?

Just as social media has garnered justified attention for the numerous innovative ways it can connect business and the public, so too has it seen its fair share of negativity. Living in an era in which the sharing of information has not only reached new heights, but become the new norm, it’s no coincidence that those with ulterior motives have pounced on social media in equally innovative ways. How sure is your organisation that its social media presence is sound – driving customer awareness and engagement, but not damaging organisational reputation?

Board, audit committee and senior management look to internal audit to provide an assurance in relation to social media governance. Is a social media audit in your plan for 2019/20? If not, why not? Perhaps now is the time to rethink?

A longer feature on how internal audit can offer assurance on an organisation’s social media risks will appear in Audit & Risk July/August issue.

This article was published in May 2019.