Social Networking: How to Benefit Without Losing Your Identity Online

Esther Halt |

Businesses of all types are taking advantage of the enormous potential of social networking sites for business development, customer communications and public relations.  The largest networking site, Facebook, has over 1.6 billion users which present a business with a significant opportunity to expand its reach to target markets beyond what the traditional marketing strategies can accomplish.  Setting up a Facebook page doesn’t guarantee sales or referrals will suddenly increase, however, if you’re in business today, it has become almost essential to have a social networking presence.

The downside to social networking is that it exposes the business to the risk of identity theft if certain precautions aren’t taken.  Online identity theft perpetrated by hackers and fraudsters has increased significantly in the last several years causing serious damage to the reputation of companies and public figures. A hack of any sensitive or personal information that hides in an online profile could also lead to serious financial consequences.

There are several benefits a company can realize through a safe and effective social networking strategy, however, it must go beyond the typical measure of an individual social networker to ensure its protection against the possibility of identity theft.

Why Your Business Needs a Social Network Presence

Networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter enable your customers to become true “fans” of your business and they can become promoters by sharing their “like” of your business with tens of thousands of other individuals.  It is a gathering place of like-minded people that share likes, preferences, and experiences with each other.  With the right strategy, a social networking site can raise your company’s profile and become a viral marketing resource simply as a result of your business having a presence there.

Businesses can communicate with their customers, make special offers that can be shared, and spread the news of new products or developments. With the prevalence of businesses on social networking sites, the absence of a page or account could indicate a lack of business savvy or marketing awareness and signal to potential customers that your business is not “current” with the times.

Build a Defense against Cyber Criminals

While the internet presents tremendous business opportunities, it has also become a hotspot for cyber criminals who work 24/7 at creating havoc on unsuspecting users by hacking their way into profiles and other repositories of personal information.  They also closely follow updates that can be used to uncover sensitive information. Businesses that use video posting sites such as YouTube may unwittingly reveal insight into some details about the company, its owners and their personal lives.

Social networking should be approached with the same caution as securing your computer system with firewalls, encryption and virus control. It requires the same procedural approach for establishing how it is to be used, by whom and with specific business objectives.  Account administration should be limited to authorized personnel who can be held accountable. 

When initiating your page site or networking account, it is important to target your own customers as opposed to sending out blanket invites.  Each social network account should have a separate password which should be changed periodically. If the business uses several social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, it is vital that protections be put in place that can ward off phishers, spammers and hackers using the same technology employed for internet security.

Using social networking as a marketing and customer service strategy is a business essential these days so it requires the same deliberate planning and implementation as with any company strategy.  Equal weight must be given to protecting the business and its personnel against cyber assaults on their identity.

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