Brand Safety: How to Protect Your Brand on Social Media

Safety is everyone’s business. Brand safety, that is.

A recent study revealed that 75% of brands were exposed to a brand safety incident over the past year. Nearly half of these companies received some sort of social media fallout because of these incidents.

In this new world of social advertising, brand safety issues are not an “if”, but a “when”.

Protecting your brand reputation in this changing landscape requires collaboration, foresight and planning. To help you, we’ve put together everything you need to know to create brand safety guidelines for a social media-centric world.

Keep reading to learn how you can limit brand safety risks on social media.

What is brand safety?

Brand safety is all about risk mitigation. In advertising, brand safety refers to the measures that protect a brand from mishaps that could threaten its reputation.

For the most part, these measures are aimed at preventing advertisements from appearing alongside inappropriate or offensive content. For example, a company can create brand safety measures that prevent its paid advertising efforts from appearing in content that promotes hate speech or violence.

If this happens, the average consumer might misunderstand the placement as an endorsement of the content itself. A recent study found that 49% of consumers say their perception of a brand is negatively affected when it appears next to offensive content.

Why is brand safety important?

It’s like the old saying goes: when you don’t plan, you plan to fail.

A proactive brand safety plan is the only way to mitigate social media risk. While most social networks have standards in place to prevent ads from appearing in harmful content, these standards are usually developed after a brand safety error highlights a threat.

For example: In March 2017, several advertisers had to pause or withdraw their YouTube ad spend after being called out for appearing alongside homophobic and racist content. The controversy, while unfortunate, has highlighted the need for improved programmatic social advertising safeguards.

Risk is a natural part of adopting a new social network, a new feature or a new tool. If you let this keep your brand from jumping on the latest advancements in social media marketing, you risk falling behind your competitors and losing favor with your target audience. This is a major risk in itself.

The only real way to protect your business online is to create brand safety guidelines that understand and address the social media landscape.

Brand safety and social networks

Advertising on social networks expected to grow by 25% in 2022reaching $137 billion in ad spend.

As paid social gaming grows, so does the potential risk. Communications and marketing professionals need to consider a host of potential brand safety threats, including:

Fortunately, social also doubles as a powerful risk detection and prevention tool. One of the many benefits of social listening is that you can use it to monitor the broader conversation around your brand, illuminating any potential sources of controversy before they spiral out of control.

Brand safety stats to pay attention to

Senior leaders are also increasingly invested in the new world of brand safety. A recent study by Weber Shandwick found this:

  • 75% of world leaders have recently experienced a reputation crisis that could have been avoided.
  • 39% of global leaders have experienced a crisis that impacted their company’s brand reputation in the past two to three years.
  • 87% of executives say customers are the most important stakeholder when it comes to the perception of a company’s reputation.

Social media is at the heart of consumers’ daily lives. It’s the first place they turn to for information, entertainment, or an outlet to express their thoughts and opinions.

If companies want to stay in the good graces of this priority player, they will need to rethink their brand safety guidelines from a social perspective.

How to Limit Brand Safety Risk on Social Media

The easiest way to limit brand safety risks on social media is to create comprehensive brand safety guidelines. But before you can do that, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the existing brand safety controls on popular networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and TikTok.

Brand Safety on Meta Platforms

Meta offers multiple brand safety checks that work on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. These features allow you to choose the level of control over where your ad appears. Placements can be restricted by content topic, format and even source.

Brand safety on Twitter

from Twitter Brand Safety Marketing Collection offers technical and general advice on how to protect your brand on the network. Their efforts to make Twitter a safe place for brands and communities include various content moderation features and ongoing partnerships with independent expert organizations.

Brand safety on YouTube

In 2021, YouTube has become the first digital platform to receive Media Rating Council content-level brand safety accreditation. Their continued accreditation is a testament to the many initiatives Google takes to ensure advertisers get the most out of their investments in the network.

YouTube Brand Safety Features recently underwent a redesign to make them consistent with those available through Google search and display ads.

Brand safety on TikTok

Earlier this year, TikTok launched its Brand Safety Center to provide marketers with up-to-date information and recommendations on brand fit within the network.

As its footprint in the social media landscape grows, the TikTok team has worked hard to create brand safety solutions within its advertising platform. To date, these features include the TikTok inventory filteras well as pre- and post-tendering security tools.

Incorporate brand safety guidelines into your social media strategy

Documented brand safety guidelines can enable others to participate in risk prevention strategies. Here’s how you can create and distribute your guidelines with maximum efficiency:

Define brand standards

What is “inappropriate content”?

The answer may seem simple, but the deeper you dig into it, the more nebulous it becomes. For example, it can be assumed that any content involving illegal drugs is inappropriate. In reality, this would end up filtering ads from sources that share news, educational content, or preventative resources on the subject.

To find out where your business stands when it comes to the many types of inappropriate content, you need to talk about it. Organize a roundtable to discuss these resources from the American Association of Advertising Agencies. Describe the level of risk you are comfortable with and create an exclusion list for paid advertising efforts.

Identify a go-to person for brand safety issues

Brand safety is everyone’s responsibility. Yet when it comes time to launch a crisis response strategy, you’ll want to limit it to one or two people in charge.

Decide which parties will be responsible for assessing incoming risks and response needs. Once this has been decided, socialize the role within your company. This way, when an employee notices a potential brand safety risk, they will know exactly who to call.

Define a response strategy

Even the most preventable crisis can seem random when it strikes. An actionable response strategy will allow your team to work quickly and efficiently to address stakeholder concerns.

Create a crisis management plan that outlines actions to take in the event of a brand safety incident. People will likely turn to your social pages for updates on how your business is responding, so be sure to include guidelines on sharing a public apology as well.

Set up a social listening topic

Use a social listening tool to create a brand health topic so you can monitor ongoing conversations around your brand.

Sprout’s Listening Tool has three features that can help you proactively address emerging brand health crises:

  • Peak Alerts to notify you of changes in conversation activity around your listening topics.
  • Sentiment analysis to understand trends in public perception around your brand.
  • word cloud to quickly observe which topics are fueling conversations around your brand.

Create onboarding training

The World Wide Web is a big place. It is nearly impossible for a single team to stay on top of all potential brand security threats that may arise. To protect your brand reputation, you need to equip everyone with the resources they need to stop a threat in its tracks.

Ask managers to include links to brand safety guidelines and protocols in all onboarding materials. Include quick introductions on the importance of these materials and what teams can do to help.

Brand safety first

Protecting a brand’s reputation isn’t the responsibility of just one team. Everyone in your business should be equipped to stop a potential brand safety accident in its tracks.

Complete this corporate communication plan template and share it with your team so they know what to watch for when it comes to brand safety. The more prepared you are today, the less you will have to worry about a crisis damaging your brand reputation tomorrow.

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