One of the biggest risks associated with an organizations venture into the social realm is the #fail. Whether on Twitter, Facebook or any other medium. Companies without proper structure and planning in place open themselves up to all sorts of dangers.
It is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of these PR disasters. From my observations of companies, I would identify a few possible issues.
For small businesses, mistakes often come as an owner/manager who also runs social media gets too personally involved, many small businesses may even feel comfortable saying some of these things to a customer in person (I disagree with that approach), but when you put something online, it becomes a much bigger issue. Case in point- Boner’s BBQ (note- this is pretty much as bad as it gets).
Another issue I see frequently with small businesses, is (I’m going to make some generalizations here) when the Baby Boomer owners, ask their 16 year old digital-native grandchild to help them get their business on Facebook. This can work out all fine and well, but there is a lot of risk involved, and it is always critical to know and trust the people running your online media. Companies need to remember, that just because someone has their own online presence, doesn’t mean they should be managing an organizations.
In larger organizations, a similar situation exists, where Social Media has become something the IT department handles, because it is done on a computer. Luckily this is changing. It is also important that professional communicators handle your online communications (this really is a no-brainer).
Another problem that plagues larger businesses, is the scheduled post. People catch onto this pretty fast, and if not, events will make sure it blows up in your face eventually. If any further example is needed, just look to The Great Twitter Crash of 2012; reports have indicated that when service was restored, accounts with tweets scheduled during the outage dumped them all at once. That makes your organization look very authentic (or not).
The answer to all of these issues (and I am sure there are many more causes I’ve missed) is to employ, hire, contract, bribe with cookies, etc- people you know and trust to communicate for your organization online. In addition to this, a social media plan needs to be in place, preferably woven into a larger communications plan. This plan should allow for the flexibility necessary online, while still accounting for humanities more pathetic tendencies to say stupid things online.