Social Media Privacy: More Than Meets The Eye

8 Tips to Keep Social Media Information Private

For people concerned about their privacy, social media is challenging. By its nature, social media encourages broader engagement and sharing that translates to looser control over our private information and interactions.

As social media platforms continue to proliferate, we increasingly use them to engage, communicate and maintain relationships with family, friends and colleagues, as well as to gather information and help for a wide variety of needs. Therefore, think through your social media engagement approach.

Increasing your control over your social media privacy requires education and awareness about the permissions you give, because social media leaves a permanent record of your interactions. Here are eight points to help you keep your social media profiles private.

  1. Manually adjust privacy settings for each social media platform separately. There’s a tradeoff between privacy and social media interaction. Allowing a social media platform to access your account can compromise your data, friends list, addresses and other information. Be careful about granting permissions to apps whether packaged as games or useful tools.
  2. Use strong passwords for social media accounts and change them regularly.  Employ a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid obvious passwords such as your family’s names, birthday dates and social security numbers. Don’t use dictionary words! Use a separate password for each account rather than a global one. These recommendations may create more complexity and make password tracking difficult so use some common sense. As I learned working for a major financial institution, if you make passwords too complex, people will keep them in unsecured locations, like a postit on their computer screen or desk.
  3. Set up separate email addresses for business and personal use. Create a separate Gmail or other account for your personal use to keep your personal communications distinct from your business exchanges, even if you’ve got a small business. Regardless of your organization’s guidelines, don’t use your business email for your personal social media interactions.
  4. Log off of social media platforms and lock your electronic devices when you’re not using them. While it seems like an extra step, it keeps prying eyes away from your information. Have a password on your portable devices so that a stranger can’t scan through your content if you walk away.
  5. Assume anything posted on a social media platform can go public regardless of your privacy settings. The reality is that you never know when privacy policy changes will occur, especially if one of the platforms you use is Facebook. Despite the best intentions of everyone involved, your information and content can become very public.
  6. Consider what your mother, partner, kids or current/future employer would think if they saw your content. My mother’s saying about sweets, a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips, holds true for social media – the Internet never forgets.
  7. Don’t just collect contacts on social media platforms. It’s a good idea to know the people behind the social media invitations you accept.
  8. Be careful when checking-in on location-based services and social media. Check-ins advertise where you are and where you’re not. If you’re using a social media network to connect with someone at a conference or other live situation, review your settings after the event.

While it’s important to be careful about your social media privacy, it’s impossible to keep all of your information under your control. Someone who’s motivated will find a way to get access to information you don’t want made public. This is especially true since it’s not just about what you post, but what others share as well.

Are there any additional secrets you have for protecting your privacy on social media platforms? If so, please share them below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Tip of my hat to my friend Peter Shankman who inspired this column with his blog post, One Bit of Stupidity.

Disclaimer: While I’ve had one of my social media accounts hacked, I’m not a privacy or security expert.

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/exalthim/2063910725/

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