Social media security best practices to keep your company and customer data safe

Social media security best practices to keep your company and customer data safe
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From social engineering to profile hijacking, social media accounts face many potential attack vectors. Social media security isn’t something enterprise companies can take lightly, especially in regulated industries like healthcare and finance. A brand’s online presence is deeply connected to its reputation—a breach can damage customers’ confidence and put company information at risk.

Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving, so companies need to evaluate and adjust. In this post, we’ll cover enterprise social media security best practices to help you develop a security-first approach for your organization’s accounts.

What is social media security?

Social media security refers to the policies, procedures and protocols used by businesses and employees to protect the organization and customers from cyberattacks across networks. These cyberattacks include but are not limited to:

  • Phishing
  • Social engineering
  • Hacking
  • Malware
  • Identity theft
  • Account impersonation
  • Catfishing
  • Password theft

With the right privacy and security guidelines, enterprise organizations can lower the risk of these attacks and maintain a positive reputation.

The foundation of strong social media security for any organization

Regardless of your industry, there are four pillars that will help you maintain strong social media security:

Protect customer data on social media

If a customer reaches out on social media to ask a customer service question about their account, there should be a response protocol to route them to a more direct channel, along with guidelines for handling this sensitive information.

Vet your vendors

Every company should do their due diligence. Properly vet vendors by asking specific questions before buying a product. Along with internal software vendors, proceed with caution when using third-party applications. Research the app and review its privacy and security policy before integrating it into your social media networks. Some applications may require access to sensitive information, so you want to make sure any info you share stays protected.

Have a dedicated security team

Infrastructure and network security teams help protect companies at all times. They can incorporate system administration best practices and vet any vendors for you. For example, Sprout Social employs a dedicated security team that’s on call 24/7/365.

Maintain regulatory compliance

Depending on your industry and location, you may have additional requirements for security and privacy compliance. Seek legal counsel to ensure your organization is compliant locally, statewide and at the national level.

Enterprise social media security best practices

Here are some enterprise social media security best practices you can follow to safeguard your business and brand:

Stay vigilant and monitor unusual activity

Personal account attacks can ripple out to a brand, especially when team member accounts have access to company profiles. This makes it essential to remain vigilant, watching for phishing and other social engineering attacks in the form of emails, messages, friend requests and more. Be aware of accounts impersonating an individual or brand, especially those that are well known.

Avoid public Wi-Fi

Cybercriminals can use public Wi-Fi to intercept data because they are usually less secure. Employees should default to using a trusted network with a strong password or use a corporate VPN if public Wi-Fi is the only available option. IP whitelisting is another great practice because it can limit access to users logging in from approved IP addresses, blocking unauthorized credentials.

Use a password manager

Enterprise companies often have several social media accounts across various platforms, so using a password manager makes it easier to store and manage access to passwords. This will keep all your important data in one, secure place.

Many companies also use social media management platforms with single sign-on (SSO), like Sprout, to help manage their various accounts and increase security. These platforms make granting and removing team member access simple and have multiple authentication measures to restrict account access to only those who need it.

Create an informed social media policy

A strong social media policy defends against security risks and legal issues, empowers your staff and protects your brand. It clarifies who can speak for your company on social media, outlines a plan for dealing with conflict and includes personal account guidelines.

For more on how to create one, check out our guide.

Crisis management plan

What does your organization do if a hacker gains access to social media accounts and posts content against your brand values? Or even worse, what if they leak consumer data?

Outline a social media crisis management plan within your social media policy so teams are prepared.

How to manage social media cybersecurity across your org

Social media governance is an ongoing process that requires risk assessment of your organization, teams and your software vendors. There are a number of ongoing security measures you can follow to protect your organization:

Combat cyberattacks in onboarding and trainings

Unfortunately, many cyber attackers target the people connected to accounts rather than the accounts themselves. Since cybercriminals target people, the more team members connected to accounts, the higher the risk of infiltration. Enterprise companies should remain proactive by providing training, especially for larger social and customer care teams.

In IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, phishing and stolen or compromised credentials were the two most common initial attack vectors. The global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million USD, a 15% increase over the past three years.

That’s why 51% of organizations are planning to increase security investments as a result of a breach, including employee training, incident response (IR) planning and testing, and threat detection and response tools.

To keep team members up-to-date, introduce your social media policy during onboarding and conduct regular training to revisit cybersecurity developments. Many organizations, including Sprout, hold recurring phishing and social engineering training to help team members exercise their scam-recognition skills.

Access permissions

Enterprise products should have the ability to restrict access to profiles, actions, features and data. Applying access permissions to users can ensure compliance and limit risk. Limiting access to social media accounts will help keep them secure, externally and internally. Along with limiting access, it’s important to verify and audit these permissions regularly to ensure only authorized employees have access. Access permissions are also relevant if an employee leaves the organization or transitions to another role or department.

Follow your organization’s password standards

Strong passwords are the first line of defense against security breaches. Every organization should have a policy outlining what constitutes a strong password. For example, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), requires federal agencies to use passwords that are at least 8 characters long. NIST also offers a variety of resources like the Cybersecurity Framework, which provides guidelines for all sectors and sizes. This framework is a starting place and organizations can customize depending on their needs.

Your social media policy should also include relevant information about password standards and procedures. For example, we recommend OnePassword or LastPass to store and manage access to passwords. This will keep all important data in one, secure place.

As a good rule of thumb, highly secure passcodes have at least 12-18 characters and include a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and special characters. These passwords should be updated regularly (e.g. quarterly).

Enable 2FA and/or MFA across channels

Two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires more than just a password to grant access to an account.

The second factor is typically an approved device such as a mobile phone, or something more personal, like a fingerprint. If someone tries to sign in from an unrecognized device, they might be required to enter a one-time code from an approved mobile device and authenticator application.

X (formerly known as Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Google My Business all offer 2FA/MFA options. Leverage them to reduce social media security risks. We recommend using a third-party authenticator application such as Google Authenticator, Authy and other similar products to implement the Time-based One-time Password Algorithm (TOTP) or HMAC-based One-time Password Algorithm (HOTP) for passcode generation.

Take advantage of single sign-on applications

Single sign-on (SSO) allows you to connect various applications through your organization’s identity management platform, so users can access their tools with the same login credentials.

Giving employees one set of login credentials to access multiple applications means less password management, easier sign-ins and fewer chances of falling for phishing attacks.

Without 2FA/MFA, however, it means an attacker can gain access to multiple accounts in one fell swoop. Keep this in mind when crafting your security approach. Speak with your IT or security team to take advantage of this functionality where possible.

APIs and Integrations

Application Programming Interface (APIs) helps social media practitioners use integrations. Many social media management platforms like Sprout use APIs and have security protocols in place, but when connecting any platforms to your social accounts, organizations should use secure third-party APIs to protect the accounts from cyber threats. This is especially relevant if your social accounts integrate with a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, because you need to understand how customer data is stored and secured.

Guarding the gateways to social accounts and data

Safeguard your brand by staying aware of the changing cybersecurity landscape and continually educating yourself and your team to stay ahead. Remain vigilant, and you can keep your accounts safe today and into the future.

Managing all of your accounts and permissions in one place is a strong step toward greater social media security. Start a free, 30-day trial today and see how Sprout Social empowers more than 34,000 brands to deliver smarter, faster business impact with comprehensive social media management solutions, including publishing and engagement, customer care, influencer marketing, advocacy and AI-powered business intelligence.

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