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Mar 5, 2010

Social Media and Privacy

Excellent question posted yesterday by Alex Giftos that I would like to address:

Hopefully I’m asking a question that many want to know but just aren’t asking.

I have a Facebook account (which most people are using for fun and not business), and I also have a Twitter account.

One of the things that I hear from people I ask to join is that they are concerned about privacy issues. They don’t want their name and all their personal information available to anyone who wants to search for it (you can find your Facebook account on a Google search).

Since joining Twitter at the request of @TheMonavieTeam before our St. Louis Winter Leadership, I have gotten many people following my Twitter account. Many of these people I do not know or have never heard of. When I check their profiles, I see that they are either involved in a competitive MLM or think that they have a training system that is the World’s greatest. (of course, they are wrong. There can’t be two #1 training systems out there….said in jest….said in jest). Sometimes they market a completely unrelated product, and I realize that I’m being added to a list.

How do you protect yourself and your privacy from people who want to take advantage of social media to either steal an identity or just spam you to sell their wares?

First of all, kudos Alex, on the awesome question. I think there are many wondering the same thing. I’ve certainly answered the question at trainings before.

If you are new to Twitter you may see a number of individuals start to follow you that you don’t know. Don’t be alarmed. Individuals and organizations often find other individuals and organizations by doing a search using key words. If you happen to mention one of these key words they will most likely start following you and never do anything more than that, which makes them relatively harmless.

For example, and this may sound more risqué than it is, back in my beginning Twitter days I happened to mention something about the acai berry lotion by Victoria’s Secret on my personal account. Soon enough, Victoria’s Secret was following me along with a few other questionable organizations/individuals. Again though, it was harmless and I never had anyone contact me or solicit any product. Another example is our social media manager mentioned bacon in one of his personal Twitter updates and Denny’s popped up in his followers soon after. Random right?

If you wish to take a few precautions or have been spammed beyond what you think is common here are a few things you can do:

  1. Block that individual or organization from following you or visiting your page– this is under the Actions drop down menu on Twitter and links are posted on your Facebook page as well. The person you are blocking will not be notified.  They can still visit your Twitter or Facebook page by going directly to your URL but your Tweets will not show up in their Twitter feed, and your Facebook status updates will not show in their news feed. You can also report anyone who you feel is spamming or being a cyber bully or for any other reason you feel warrants reporting. Links are provided with every comment. Both Twitter and Facebook discourage spamming and give you many options to report this activity.
  2. Create lists – both in Twitter and Facebook, you can create lists of people and then designate when you update your status or add photos or video with whom you want to share the new content.
  3. Privacy settings – there are privacy settings for nearly every social media platform and while it would be quite lengthy to walk you through each platform here, know that they are easy to find and navigate if you do a simple search. You can privatize your Tweets, making them available only to those you designate; much the same way you can privatize a blog.

Finally, not everyone wants to be as out there as say, a chief blogger for a global company. I realize my personal Facebook page and other social media sites are available to anyone who can Google my first and last name. This is a decision I made before I went live with MonaVie’s social media platforms. I knew I would be found and was open to contact and to date, I haven’t had any negative experiences.

However, if you don’t want your world open to the world, including photos and content about your kids, family, or anything you would consider off limit to the general population, I suggest you set up a second profile/account (ie under a nickname) that you share with only those close to you.

As for spammers and competitors, it’s a managed risk. As MonaVie gains popularity and our communities grow, spammers and competitors will also gravitate towards these communities. Consider it a natural by-product of success. Also, this is another reason we have the Policies and Procedures and adhere strictly to the FTC guidelines. Those with competing interests are watching and will report bad behavior while others (and I’ve found this is definitely a minority group) just wish to antagonize. In the words of my father, “It is what it is…”

While the advantages of social media are awesome, you must realize that nearly everything you put on the Internet can be viewed. Even that credit card information is not safe from the most savvy of hackers. So, be cautious, be professional, be aware and be informed.

If you have suggestions that you wish to share, please do. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Share it!


Shante

MonaVie Chief Blogger

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