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How internal audit can harness the power of social media intelligence

As organizations work to evaluate their risk appetite in online channels, top stakeholders want to move beyond reactive monitoring.

In brief
  • Social intelligence is a strategy-driven, risk-based approach to set up safeguards in social media to protect your brand, customers and stakeholders.
  • Rather than marketing teams, internal audit can utilize the same tools to evaluate risk exposure and act as business advisors to implement protections.
  • Internal audit has a unique position to not only gauge risk but also offer insight on improving business performance, customer perception and market share.

As social media grows more important in the daily lives of consumers, corporations are relying on increasingly sophisticated forms of social listening to understand how their brands are being discussed in the market. Internal audit is uniquely positioned to influence these strategies, working to strengthen business performance.

Roughly speaking, organizations are using three approaches. The first, and least complex, is social media monitoring, whose main focus is crisis management and customer service. It is considered passive: a company uses an automated scanning tool that triggers notifications for internal audit based on established identifiers and thresholds — for instance, when a brand is mentioned negatively 10,000 times in a given time period. This form of monitoring is usually performed only on social media channels that the brand owns, controls, has a presence with or knows about up front.

Social media listening is a few steps more evolved and is the most prevalent form among brands today. In this approach, data analytics proactively examines what is being said online and in social media conversations in order to gain insights and develop research about the brand, products, services and the overall experience. While the insights are more advanced, internal audit can utilize this information to expand beyond brand performance and be more strategic as it pertains to holistic risk sensing. In doing so, internal audit can catapult its partnership with business operations into what is called social media intelligence.

The next evolution

The third and most sophisticated approach to social listening is social intelligence. Through social intelligence, human intelligence and computer scalability are combined to analyze unsolicited consumer conversations, comments and opinions across the social media landscape. Diverse and multinational/multilingual teams of analysts who are deeply familiar with socio-cultural norms around specific geographies build out robust queries to identify all conversations around topics of interest or risk drivers in each location.

The algorithms created through social intelligence can recognize statistical patterns in the conversations with up to 97% accuracy. The data is then displayed in a customizable dashboard and leveraged to provide deep analytics. While this approach is both comprehensive and encompassing, it requires a certain level of governance and communications channels to maximize the value provided.

Social intelligence also offers insights into loyalty and customer satisfaction, the customer experience, product service and innovation, operating model efficiency, sales and lead generation, advertising optimization, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, social justice, third-party risk, regulatory compliance, governance risk, information leakage, cybersecurity, competition, talent attraction, and employee retention. These metrics are key indicators in audits, advisory projects, quality assurance reviews, gap analyses and benchmarking. 

The role of internal audit

Marketing teams often leverage social intelligence for product planning, content creation, strategic direction, market trends and consumer response to campaigns. While using social intelligence in this way is helpful from a marketing perspective, the real value of social intelligence is unlocked when it’s integrated with internal audit insights. Internal audit can drive value by outlining specific risks over time. Knowing these risks can help inform marketing activities, like determining the best strategy for product release.


Linking social intelligence with internal audit accelerates value across the business. By taking an internal audit lens to social intelligence, companies are able to answer the following questions:

  • Brand reputation — is there viral content associated with the organization that is impacting brand reputation?
  • Product quality/supply chain — is the product being delivered to the end user with the quality expected by the organization and demanded by the market?
  • Buzz detection — are conversations occurring around the brand that could impact share price, have regulatory implications or be associated with other risks such as strikes?
  • Crisis management — is the organization prepared to respond to a crisis appropriately and adequately, with the right resources?


Using internal audit to drive insights

As corporations move to evolve and keep up with innovation, they are increasingly seeking novel ways to qualify and quantify risks, including leveraging social listening to expand the risk universe. There are several ways in which the internal audit function can leverage social intelligence. For example, an audit could begin with a social intelligence report to provide a baseline of relevant issues of concern, including brand reputation, effectiveness of social strategies, and geography-driven trends and risks. Having this baseline helps identify areas where the business needs work and provides inputs for the audit scope.

By following a four-step approach of information gathering, documentation review, analysis and finding and reporting, internal audit can use social intelligence to provide input of the questions that matter most to the business, including:

  • Are imposter organizational accounts being scanned and monitored for?
  • What are the defined strategies for leveraging social listening for customer care, including identifying consumer posts and the response plan?
  • Is the auditee’s departmental or functional strategy in line with the organization’s overall strategy?
  • Is the social media policy robust enough to prevent organizational harm?
  • Is the organization compliant with trademark and copyright laws?
  • Are social media accounts’ password and access management guidelines defined and aligned to broader information technology policies? 
  • Does the organization’s use of social media comply with legal and regulatory norms that govern the industry in which the organization operates?
  • Are data privacy laws enforced and followed?


As technology and processes develop and change at a rapid pace, internal audit must too deploy novel audit approaches to maintain relevancy. By being on the forefront of a comprehensive social intelligence model, internal audit can enact effective change using upside risks, while mitigating downside and outside risks.

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25 Feb 2021 Lisa Hartkopf + 1