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CFO Rising Conference: Biggest Social Media Risk is ‘Opting Out’

October 08, 2012, 07:38 AM
Filed Under: Finance News
Related: Social Media

Many CFOs and their organizations are ignoring new social-media technologies and networks because they’re “not comfortable with them,” said Cal Slemp, managing director of Protiviti, a consultancy and internal audit firm, speaking on a panel about the risks and rewards of social media at this week’s CFO Rising Conference in Las Vegas.

Other finance chiefs, he said, are letting social-media initiatives “go into skunk works” (projects run by a loosely structured group of people with little funding and less oversight).

CFOs have a plethora of concerns that cause them to resist making a wholehearted, structured commitment to social-media initiatives and investments. There’s the oft-cited difficulty of determining the value of Facebook “likes”(underlined by Facebook’s much-publicized problems with monetizing mobile ads) and the equally problematic worth of a tweet, or a post on Pinterest. At the same time, the work of crafting robust policies and guidelines for the safe use of social media can be daunting. (“Yes, by all means involve legal,” advised Slemp.)

But the panel strongly felt that businesses that hold back are missing an enormous opportunity given the number of potential customers involved in active social networking. According to Edison Research, a market research and polling firm, in 2011 that included 46 million Americans over the age of 12 who checked their social-media sites and services “several times a day,” and the 33% of social-media users who followed a brand on a social network this year (more than double the 16% that did so last year).

However, when organizations dip their toes into the social-media pool “without establishing business requirements or identifying their target markets,” said Slemp, their efforts don’t get the proper funding and don’t achieve good integration with the business’s IT infrastructure. Consequently, the well-known risks of social media — including reputational damage and the inadvertent exposure of critical and private business information — can quickly overwhelm its benefits and any hoped-for return on investment.

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