Social media privacy or publicity: The paradox

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Are you getting your social media right? See some thoughts in this post.

social media bookSocial media of course has multi-edged challenges and opportunities. We can build/enhance and understand relationships better, promote our businesses effectively (and cheaply) and gain credibility, recognition and acceptance, even as we scope out potential colleagues, partners or competitors for their flaws and weaknesses.

Of course, things are never as easy as you would like. You can purchase fake followers, of course, and the fake follower organizations will often elect to follow you — uninvited — to cover their tracks, especially if you manage to achieve some prominence or positive recognition.

Meanwhile, Facebook and I believe Twitter have been throttling views of company and business sites — even if there is genuine interest and truly viral traffic — because they want to sell you sponsored links and stories (so-called “native advertising” or advertorials.)

Finally, as Mark Cuban notes in this inc. com interview, there are privacy issues. Sometimes you want old stories to go away, or stuff never to get out — or transient immediate matters to be just that. But the record remains permanent, and as Cuban asserts (in selling his privacy-focused social media applications), they can be aggregated, mined, and used by marketers and investigators to track and follow you for the rest of your life.

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So you might want social media publicity, but discover you can’t achieve it without paying to play. Or you might want to have privacy, but here you need to figure out when/how to communicate and perhaps pay to pay (or use free apps with advertising or other services attached) to achieve your privacy objectives.

I wish I could give you some simple answers. Alas the Internet and social media has dark as well as bright sides, as I deal with the consequences of a phisher who obtained some of my sensitive banking data at a moment of vulnerability. I’m now going through the complex and cumbersome process of closing a U.S. corporate bank account and transferring everything to a new location.

However, I can provide some simple and inexpensive rules for social media and business behavior that should help keep you out of trouble:

Don’t post, text or share anything online or in text messages you think may have any chance of being used against you, even in your most private settings. Yes, this takes away some of your spontaneity among friends, but you have to think: Would I like to see this image reposted 10 years from now?  (Years ago, one of my company lawyers asked me never to email him anything sensitive — I should phone him instead. This makes sense. While theoretically phones can be tapped, it is much harder in terms of evidence to find and retrieve these calls — and I’ve won sensitive legal battles by keeping copies of my emails, and strategically sending them to people to elicit responses that would build my case.)

If you wish publicity and wide dissemination of your social media messages, be prepared to pay for advertising. Here, I would advocate you plan these paid messages with intensity and care — and test them informally if possible before spending the money (or use AB testing on your advertising until you find the types of messages which work best.) I realize this can be costly, but you certainly will take the crap shoot out of the game if you know what results you can get when you pay for the publicity.

Finally, I see no harm in consistently being yourself — assuming you are a good person — with social media.  Walling your self behind barriers and silencing applications may take away the genuine spirit, community and reputation-building capacity you can achieve through effective social media. Sure, if you are bad, your flaws will be exposed — but that seems good to me.

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