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Beware the Dark Side of Social Media

social mediaBeware the Dark Side of Social Media

I have written many articles about using social media as a marketing tool. I think it is an awesome way to connect with customers and people you otherwise would have access to in day to day life. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have the power to shoot your marketing message around the world within a day or two.

But in the excitement of engaging social media marketing tactics to increase online visibility for our businesses, we have forgotten that like all things there is a dark side to social media. Instead of skyrocketing your business to prosperity, you could end up shooting yourself in the foot if you are not careful.

Social Media and Online Privacy

Online privacy is becoming more and more of an issue these days as businesses wake up to the reality that their customers are online. They are also figuring out that they can get a lot of information about a person simply by doing a quick search using Google or Bing. An excerpt from an article on the Huffington Post spells this out fairly clearly:

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Andy Beal, the owner of Trackur, told the Pittsburg Post-Gazette that many companies–among them, credit lenders and debt collectors–are now using social media monitoring services to “match online profiles with real world identities.”

The online Lending Club, for instance, scans loan applicants’ social networking profiles in addition to performing the usual credit and income checks. What this means, the Post-Gazette reports, is that creditors are realizing how social media profiles can provide unique insights that a traditional credit history cannot. (Continue Reading Lenders Mine Facebook, Twitter for Info on Borrowers)

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There have been numerous reports of people losing their jobs because of statements made on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. In addition to that, college students are finding that future employers don’t really like seeing pictures of them drunk and mooning the camera.

As a business owner, it is important that you remain fully aware of the fact that what you put online can be seen by everyone including your prospects. If you don’t want it seen on the 6 o’clock news then you probably should put it on a Facebook status update.

Social Media and Reputation Management

I’ve written about reputation management before but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of always keeping an eye on what people are saying about you and your brand. While social media can help you spread your sales message far and wide, your enemies can also use it to damage your reputation beyond repair. But oftentimes it isn’t your competitors who are kicking your brand to the curb, it’s your customers.

In 2010, Southwest Airline took a direct hit to their already troubled reputation when they threw actor and director Kevin Smith off their plane for supposedly being too fat to fly. Unlike the average person, Smith has over 1 million people following him on Twitter and he wasted no time in telling everyone “he knew” about how the airline treated him.

The lesson to take away here is that the internet provides customers with a forum to voice their grievances and they know it. You should always be offering good customer service but it is equally important to correct mistakes quickly. And for heaven sakes, use services that allow you to monitor your reputation online so that you are not sideswiped by a poor review.

Hackers, Spammers, and Crazy People

As much as we would love to say it isn’t so, there are people in the world who would throw you under the bus in a heartbeat if it meant they could get ahead in life. There are also a lot of mentally disturbed individuals in the world who are just functional enough to avoid the padded white room. Both of these types of people have access to the internet.

Hackers and spammers are perhaps the easiest to avoid or deal with. It is the manipulators and the unhinged that you have to be careful of. Unfortunately, these people can appear normal when you first meet them. It isn’t until you let your guard down or insult them in some way that their true personality comes to the fore.

The New Year is barely two months old and already the New York Post has an article about a young woman who hit her cousin with a car because a gentleman she liked accepted the cousin’s friend request but not hers. But you don’t have to look very hard to find other examples of this type of behavior.

To keep yourself safe, you must be aware of those you are allowing in your network. Before collaborating with other business owners or working with customers, do a search online and see what comes up. This doesn’t mean you should automatically distrust anyone who doesn’t have a profile or automatically trust everyone who does. It means that you must stay on your toes and pay attention to what is happening around you online.

For the most part, social media marketing is safe and can help you build the profitable business that you want. However, you must also be aware that there are disadvantages to putting yourself online. For more tips on making effective use of social media, please visit my archives.

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