Monday, August 10, 2009

Social Media's Criminal Element

There is a somewhat unexpected (yet frequently) voiced concern from the executive suite when it comes to the evaluation of incorporating social media as part of the marketing mix. It is not related to messaging. It has little to do with budget. And it isn’t a determination of performance benchmarks.

Rather, many in senior management express a more personal fear: “If I put myself out there in social networks will the increased visibility result in more targeting by spammers, con-artists and identity thieves?”

This is certainly a valid concern. The fringes of the Internet are populated with these nefarious characters who are quite adept at trolling social networks for prey.

Plus, popular online communities like Facebook and Twitter are now constantly on the defensive against newly emerged phishing scams and viruses. (Image courtesy of

Our counsel to clients is the business ROI of social media participation and digital communications outweighs the personal risk. However, like most things in life, it is wise to exercise an appropriate level of caution.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

1. Do not post anything you wouldn’t want published on page one of the USA Today. That means no personal information, including social security number, home address, birthdays, etc. It even took me a long time before I became comfortable referencing the name of my kids.

2. Be careful about who you connect with or friend in an online environment. If you’re not sure who the person is or how they know you, then simply pass on accepting a friend request.

3. Google yourself…weekly. In fact, use all of the major search engines (i.e. Bing, Yahoo, etc.) to monitor your digital footprint.

4. Have a plan if you become the target (or worse, victim) of a cyber crime. Talk to your company’s legal counsel before engaging in social media as part of a corporate initiative. Don’t be shy to protect your interests and rights.


Steve Dodd said...

Marc, so very, very true! People need to be aware of what is happening out there. At the same time, the Social Media technologies need to get serious about protecting users just like the email products and ISP's have. Otherwise, they'll eventually not have any (users, that is).

Anonymous said...

Good suggestions!!

Question: If a site states that all information is confidential, etc. and will never be given out to other entities-- how much of that can I believe (short run and long run) and is there statistics made up to point out the more secure sites, as well as the best low cost security software?? Thanks---

Marc Hausman said...

I'm not familiar with anyone who tracks the overall reliability and integrity of Web sites. As for security software, leading vendors like McAfee and Symantec offer a portfolio of offerings at different price points.

And finally, regardless of a site's stated confidentiality policy, I would hesitate to share any information you wouldn't want to be made public.

The old adage "better safe than sorry" sure does apply here.

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