It’s a Scary (Social Media) World Out There! Part 4: What Social Media Knows About You (For Businesses)

Just as consumers have to be wary about their social media ventures, businesses also have to take precautions.  Employees must be informed about the company policy (what? you don’t have a company policy? well, that’s step one!) and companies have to be strict in this area.  It’s easy for employees to make mistakes without realizing it, so here are our tips for making sure you have social media rules beforehand so you can prevent some security slips.

1.  Make sure employees are always informed – Many times, the source of social media mistakes is poorly informed (or not informed at all) employees.  Write out an actual set of rules concerning social media, and make it a part of employee orientation.  Also give out friendly reminders during the year, and encourage employees to ask questions about what they can post – better safe, than sorry!

2.  Don’t let your employees get too excited – It’s great that your company has a new, secret product that will change the world, but don’t let your employees be the ones to make the announcement.  In order to keep company activities a secret (especially from competitors), make sure there is a rule concerning social media quotes about products that have yet to be revealed.  It also may be better that this company information isn’t revealed to all employees – only to those who are directly related to the project should be informed.

3.  Never mix personal with professional – It’s so easy for people to post pictures or write comments that can ruin their reputation and their company’s reputation instantly.  Posts that can negatively affect the company or an employee’s future employer should be left for private use.

4.  Beware of hackers – Social media has made hacking even easier, as many users don’t utilize privacy controls, and display the hacker’s dream (their name, location, phone number, birthday.)  Business sensitive information can be tapped into if the security to those accounts/computers is loose.  Use an encrypted file storage for all important files, and encourage your users to change passwords and to be wary of sites that seem suspicious or too good to be true.

However, we aren’t saying social media is taboo at work – a study by Robert Half Technologies showed that 70 percent of employees who are allowed access social media at work are more productive those who don’t have access.  Businesses shouldn’t completely prohibit employees from accessing social media, but there should be a clear set of policies.

[Photo: Courtesy of Phillip Martin]

It’s a Scary (Social Media) World Out There! Part 3: What Social Media Knows About You (For Customers)

Social Media can  be a double edged sword, in terms of privacy.  On one end, there have been numerous accounts of crime that originates from what a victim posts on their Facebook Timeline or what they Tweet – it can be as innocent as telling everyone that you’re going on vacation for a week, which could result in home burglary.  But on the other end, your information could help businesses get the goods that you’re asking for, and they can better understand today’s trends.  But first of all, let’s back up and see what kind of information people put (intentionally or unintentionally) on their social media accounts, and how their data is used by others.

Have you ever realized that the ads in the corner on your Facebook page feature that new shirt you’ve been dying to get?  It’s not a coincidence – the sites you visit gather information about you.  What type of information?  Basically everything a stranger in turn would need to know to approach you.  The basics -what’s your name, occupation, where you live, phone, email- as well as which ads you click, what time and days are you on certain sites, what your search queries are.  Yep, that’s a lot of information that was given and can be found with little effort.

That’s why privacy has been such an issue with social media.  This is especially true with younger generations using social media, as cyber-bullying and online conversations have exploded onto the scene with the internet.  Parents no longer worry about stranger danger as much as they worry about their children talking to strangers online (which is so easy, since privacy controls aren’t being used.)  Our private lives are becoming much less private nowadays, and it’s partially our fault.

As a customer, you want to protect yourself as much as you can to avoid situations like home burglary.  Most Facebook users don’t make use of the privacy controls – if your posts aren’t private, don’t count on Uncle Tim as the only one who will see the picture of the new car you got.  Being careful about what you post and where you post, and your privacy settings, is an easy way for consumers to withhold information on their end.

What do you think?  Should social media security be tighter?


It’s a Scary (Social Media) World Out There! Part 2: Spam

This post will focus more on a specific aspect that makes the social media world kind of hazardous for users (if you’re new to this topic, I suggest that you take a glance at the first post on this topic for a general overview.)  We’ve probably all heard about spam, but what is it exactly, and what dangers does it pose?

Spam is the misuse or abuse in media outlets, most infamously email.  In email spam, hackers send unsolicited emails (junk) to many users, bringing danger to not just their computers, but in severe situations, their personal lives.  Spammers have moved on from emails to social media.  More spammers are taking advantage of the vast amount of information available through networking sites like Facebook, and businesses need to be aware of this when determining their social media marketing strategies.

Businesses can give access to multiple team members on their Facebook or Twitter pages, usually to help manage workflow.  However, creating these accounts now gives the beholder complete access.  Sometimes, these team members are unauthorized to post something (spam) in the name of the brand or company- and sometimes, team members who have permission to post make mistakes that end up damaging the company.

It’s really easy for a scammer to gather information.  The worldwide web is a huge information portal, and scammers can target information from different demographic segments easily.  Scammers have access to sensitive information, because unlike traditional modes of communication, once something is posted online, it can be spread to multiple places on the web, where anyone can find it.  Spammers can find what they’re looking for quickly, and it’s really easy for them to have users click a link once, and bring them to dangerous embedded pages.

Everyone should be wary of posting information online (many people don’t realize that anyone can access whatever is put on the web), but businesses especially need better filters to prevent spam messages, since their brand’s reputation is at stake.

It’s a Scary (Social Media) World Out There!

If companies as big as Coca Cola and American Red Cross, who have large social media teams and efforts, can make critical social media mistakes, who says smaller companies and independent marketers can’t?  The truth is, social media is like a circus lion- if not tamed properly, it can lash out and cause great harm.  Social media has been a world of innovation and improvement, but the instant technological access it provides to millions of users has also presented some danger.  Businesses especially need to be wary of this, and they need to be careful that their social media efforts don’t fall into the “wrong hands.”

Coca Cola and American Red Cross both came across the same problem with their Facebook/Twitter accounts- someone with good intentions who had access to the social media utility posted something harmful indirectly about the company, which of course went viral, and it took a while to clean up the damage.  On their social media monitoring platforms, separate team members were able to monitor feedback, and were often given full access.  In the social media world, everyone is watching.  What’s thought to be a innocent post online can turn into something else- everyone has immediate access.  What’s put on the internet has left its permanent footprint, which can be found and commented on by almost anyone.  Another big problem that social media has brought up that wasn’t as much as a worry with traditional communication methods is its instant-ness.  With just the click of a button, something can be immediately posted…and often it cannot be retracted.  Businesses need to be wary of all these potential dangers- once it has a single mishap, businesses will lose current and potential customers.  It only takes one mistake to screw up the relationship with the public, so businesses and marketers need to be careful with social media marketing in order to avoid mishaps.