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Category: Social Media

The Board, Social Media and Liabilities

Today, what happens in social media or more aptly, cyber space, can directly impact a board and how a company is governed. Here are just five ways your company may be impacted. Are you ready?

1. Directors Liability: A crisis, such as when JetBlue passengers were stranded for hours on the tarmac or the major oil disaster in the G u l f o f M e x i c o, often will lead to widespread public discussion online. Increasingly citizens are using social media tools to organize protests and gather information which can be used in future litigation against responsible parties. Board members need to react to crises quickly and efficiently. Monitoring social media channels can help better assess risk and potential outcomes, and permit tailored responses to real concerns.

2. Union Organizing: Unions are making very good use of social media tools. A board not paying attention to social media chatter may be blindsided by a rallying attempt at their company. One for which they could have been prepared.

3. Whistleblower Crises: It may be that employees in a company have concerns that they feel are not being addressed. Monitoring social media channels may elucidate such issues and allow management to respond before a whistleblower feels the need to go public online. Awareness of chatter on social media sites will allow companies to better understand employee issues and take appropriate and timely action before crises hit.

4. Legislative Impact: Activist groups opposed to a company’s operations (i.e. oil & gas sector) are using social media tools to mobilize communities and to build potentially damaging cases against a company. These protests can result in legislative changes that block a proposed project. Be aware of opposition demands and  citizen concerns by monitoring social media channels – this will allow you to undertake public education programmes or perhaps to alter certain practices before projects get halted.

5. Stock Price Volatility / Insider Trading Claims etc.: An individual – intentionally or not – could post information online that leads to a sell-off or drives a sudden hike in buy activity, resulting in an investigation. Before such an incident can damage your firm and /or the reputation of board members monitor what is being stated and discussed about your firm on social media sites.

The challenge to successful business is often just being aware of what people think of you – are employees content, are communities supportive and are social and environmental issues seen as being addressed? Awareness allows us to respond before crisis hits – don’t get left in the dark, embrace social media, use these channels to get your message out and listen to what is being posted.

Senior Citizens and Social Media

It’s easy to assume social medias are the domain of the young and frenetic. To assume the “silver surfer” or the silver haired 55+ dem0graphic is rather technologically disconnected. That assumption would be wrong. Marketers would do well to take a second look at this market and it is growing. In Atlantic Canada and northeastern USA, the average age of a Facebook user is 53. In England we see a similar trend, though it is somewhat lower at 46.

How do figure that the Silver Surfer is more active than we might have assumed? As the Internet grew in popularity, it was first most popularly adopted by people in their 40′s, back in the mid-1990′s. Computers were triple or more the cost of what they are today and those that could afford them for the household, and the cost of Internet connectivity (dial-up no less!) were in the higher middle income brackets, professional and well educated. Now, 15 years on, they are into their 50′s and 60′s and they are active.

Reason for Engagement
The pie chart below indicates the reason Silver Surfers engage in social media. Friends and family come first; no surprise there. This is followed by hobbies (golf, knitting, sailing etc.) but shopping and banking comes in last. Silver Surfers are still untrusting of online financial transactions. We also found that this demographic is among the most vocal in local newsmedia websites for commentary.









Channels Used
Here we have a graph of the channels used by various age groups. As we can see, Silver Surfers prefer to Forums and photo sharing. They may watch video but are unlikely to create and share videos through channels like YouTube or Vimeo. For social networks in Western nations they prefer Facebook for its ease of use (all things considered) and because it is more likely that’s where family and friends are. This research was conducted prior to Google+ launch.


Silver Surfers or Senior Citizens (classed by us as 55+ in this instance) are active in social media. They love to comment on news sites and as expected have strong opinions. For the most part, they prefer simple tools that fit in largely with services they are already familiar with. They quickly develop habits of use with preferred tools and are unlikely to change their preferences once established. New tools that take some exploration or anywhere near complex will not be easily adopted. They are “late adopters” of any technology and service online.

This is an active social media demographic. Marketers have an opportunity to engage in these channels and push products and services. We do note they are not likely to plonk down a credit card number into an online purchasing system unless they truly establish a trust connection.

We collected and aggregated data from 2,500 profiles in Atlantic Canada and New England states and 1,200 profiles from England for a sample size. All data collected was publicly available. We did not access individual and/or private information. Over 1.5 million text files were analyzed using our Artificial Intelligence Engine and crawler, mediasphere360. Human verification of data was applied. The data was collected from June 2010 to December 21st, 2010.

Age Groups and Social Media Habits

As we spend a lot of time monitoring social media and the tools used, we are constantly looking at the data for broader insights into the how’s and why’s of social media as a whole. One aspect that’s always intrigued me is how various demographics use different tools. Here’s some of the key insights we’ve learned lately.

Ages 12-25: Tend to use more mobile social media tools, such as SMS/txt and mobile oriented social media tools. This pattern we’ve seen in the USA, Canada and Western Europe (especially Europe, but no surprise there.) This bracket also spends more time on MySpace, followed by NetLog and Bebo in Europe. This segment loves video and anything text better be short and sweet.

Ages 25-45: This group crosses over in a mix between Web-based and mobile usage. The most popular social media tool for this group is email, although we note a trend towards more use of Social Networking tools for communication. This group prefers Facebook followed by NetLog. We note that NetLog is 2nd to Facebook in Europe. Mobile usage of social tools seems to be around Twitter, Blackberry messenger or iPhone apps. We find so many similarities in usage patterns across these groups that we decided to lump the 25-45 group together, when they are ordinarily split into two segments. This group also likes less text in blogs and on websites and enjoys video. Their content creation however, remains heavily text-oriented and very little use of video.

Ages 46-55: This group generally sticks to the Web (about 90% of the time) rarely using SMS/txt messaging. They’ll use a blog but rarely a microblog. This group is likely to print and read a document on paper rather than a monitor. They are more distrustful of social media and the content therein. Their approach to content creation is textual and rarely visual through video and images.

55 and over: From 56 to 65 we see fairly regular use of Social Media and this seems to be driven as the result of familial communications. New tools are not easily adopted and this age range is more politically conservative and traditional in their media consumption habits (radio, TV, print news.) Use of social tools seems to be on services like Facebook where they can work within a set framework.

Once we get over 65, use of social tools drops significantly as would be expected. Clearly there are generational preferences to the tools available. One issue we did notice is that the under 25 bracket have little to no loyalty to a specific service, whereas the 25-45 bracket are far more loyal to a social tool/service.