Mitigating Social Media Risk

Guest blogger today is Tracy Schario Johnson

At a recent business meeting, I was asked the following: “Why do people I don’t know want to follow me on Twitter, and should I allow them to do so without first approving?”

While few will be like Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and garner 4.6 million followers, if you activate privacy controls, you limit your accessibility.

This reasonable inquiry, however, underscored the potential dark side to social media – forsaking privacy and risking potential harm to the reputation of you and/or your organization.

As with the adoption of any new communications channel, you should thoroughly assess the pros and cons and protect your online activities. Allowing unknown fans and followers may boost your numbers, but you need to evaluate the ROI of allowing just anyone into your social network.

If you understand the risks, you can mitigate potential harm. Thus, I encouraged this individual to open himself up to allowing strangers to follow him. And I have advocated that every company should consider adopting social networking into its communications strategy.

Also, here are some tips on managing your digital activity that bear repeating.

  1. Use privacy controls to limit access to your profile and activities as appropriate. It may seem unproductive to limit access if you are trying to build a following or fan base. However, you also want to ensure that your community is populated with members of your target audience.
  2. Use Twitter’s location finder feature and post away status updates judiciously. It may make sense to let followers know when you are on a business trip but not necessarily when you are on vacation. In fact, http://pleaserobme.com/ was launched three weeks ago to raise awareness about the dangers of announcing your location (or your absence) on Twitter or other social networking applications like Foursquare.
  3. Create unique passwords for each site. As content owner or administrator of your organization’s social networking channels you are responsible for these basic security measures.
  4. While you want to engage in a two-way conversation with your community, take a moment to validate the usefulness of unsolicited information such as unknown links.
  5. Keep your browser updated. New enhancements will help maintain security measures.
  6. Follow your organization’s data management protocols and consult best practices in managing information security from the Federal Trade Commission and other industry organizations.