Social Threats of Greatest Risk Concern for Executives

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Vince Schiavone


According to Deloitte’s recently released global survey ‘Exploring Strategic Risk,’ reputation is now a paramount concern for the 300+ c-level executives who were surveyed. In fact, 40 percent of these executives cited reputational risk as their primary concern, compared to only 27 percent who cited competition.

The increased concern for reputation protection has been significant, up 14 percentage points since 2010. This shift in focus towards reputational risk and away from economic, competitive and model risks has occurred in large measure due to the explosive growth of social media, which facilitates immediate worldwide engagement, making it nearly impossible for companies to address and manage the influential attacks on their brand, reputation and ultimately revenue.

As the focus of risk shifts towards the social dimension, so has the need for transformative change with how enterprises detect and track these threats on a real-time basis.

‘Age’ Convergence

As the “social age,” “mobile age” and “consumer age” converge, enterprise risk is experiencing a evolutionary shift due to the array of complex emerging threats that are challenging corporations on various levels. No longer are enterprise risks isolated to predetermined business aspects that can bring instability to the business like credit risks, supply chain risks or compliance risks. Rather, with billions upon billions of daily social discussions from consumers, influencers, competitors, activists, journalists and regulators, an entirely new social dimension of risk has emerged, redefining the landscape and how it must be traversed.

In Deloitte’s survey, the focus on reputational risk has largely been driven by growing concerns with threats from the open social universe, showing 47 percent of the surveyed executives pointing to social media as the top technology disruptor threatening their business model. In fact the threat of social media outranks cyber attacks by 11 percent.

As Henry Ristuccia, Deloitte Global Leader, Governance, Risk and Compliance, explains, “The time it takes for damaging news to spread is quicker, it goes to a wider audience more easily, and the record of it is stored digitally for longer. Even in an environment where economic conditions remain tough and technology threatens business models, this is why companies place reputation at the top of their strategic risk agenda.” 

Addressing the Threat

To address this growing concern 52 percent of respondents have increased the frequency and budget for monitoring risks, with a focus on social threats and 43 percent have started to monitor and manage this aspect on a continual basis, realizing that social threats do not have business hours.

To accomplish this, many companies are starting to rely on advanced intelligence services to filter the billions of daily social discussions and classify the information to detect emerging threats ranging from employee sabotage and extortion attempts to brandjackings and boycotts…and an array of threats in between. What many companies are realizing is that protecting their business requires advanced technology focused on:

Real-Time Processing: With billions of daily discussions, getting a “universal” view requires streaming big data processing that analyzes the data streams of hundreds of millions of sources in real-time on a continuous basis. Traditional, self-service monitoring tools typically view a narrow slice of select sources or networks and often rely on store-query techniques which result in latency issues. This latent, limited view can easily miss immediate critical threats emerging from all corners of the open social universe.

Threat Discovery: Filtering and classifying the mass of social data is critical to identifying threats on an instantaneous basis. While traditional Boolean keywords can find exactly what one is looking for, they struggle to discover unknown and unforeseen issues. This is the primary advantage of multidimensional concept model networks which can be stacked to identify multiple key issue types and identify threat concepts through the ever-shifting lexicon of social users.

Central Operations: Centralizing the intelligence and detected threats for immediate review, analysis and notification is also key in rapid detection and response to social threats. Often, a multitude of traditional tools are used in an attempt to cover the data gaps they present. Since they are used independently this can pose a ‘silo’ issue which adds further complexity to the process. Centralizing the intelligence output into a true command center layout allows for greater streaming and speed for efficient detection and response.

As the social dimension of enterprise risk evolves into a front-and-center threat to businesses, the ability to handle the continuous speed and daunting breadth of the open social universe becomes critical to protecting reputations and revenue. As social media grows into a ‘weapon of mass disruption,’ executives are realizing that their brand reputations are on the front-line of a growing multi-front war. Combating this requires advanced technology and expertise delivering immediate detection for effective response.

About the Author: Vince Schiavone is an expert in digital privacy, information security and enterprise social risk. He is Co-Founder and CEO of ListenLogic, a pioneer of social intelligence and threat detection for many of the world's leading brands. He is also co-author of Avoiding #FAIL: Mitigating Risk, Managing Threats and Protecting the Corporation in the Age of Social Media (2013) and Social Business Intelligence: Reducing Risk, Building Brands and Driving Growth with Social Media (2013).

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