Safe Social Media Practices

If you’re looking to help your business grow, social media is one of the best platforms to help make that dream a reality. You won’t find advertising much cheaper than online. Outside of going to a convention or knocking on doors, it’s also the most personal way to reach your audience.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t without its problems. Social media, like any tool, comes with an inherent set of problems that need to be dealt with if your company is to remain successful and free of security headaches.

Each arm of the social media beast has its own set of rules and problems, but some of them can be handled as a bundle. Let’s take a look at some things your business can do to get the best results while mitigating the risks.

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Security Software

Any type of social interaction is going to require a degree of finesse. But before your business can worry about that, you’ll need the right type of software to keep your technology from undermining everything else.

All devices that access your social media accounts should all have anti-virus software installed. That means not just PCs, but also smartphones, tablets and anything in-between. Your anti-virus software should be kept up to date, and regular scans should be performed (at least once a month, if not more often).

For very small businesses, free licenses offered by companies, such as Panda or Avast, are sufficient. For larger businesses or for additional features, consider purchasing professional licenses as they increase the level of security.

In addition to anti-virus software, you’ll want to protect the connections of your business devices by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. A VPN acts as an intermediary between you and the rest of the internet, channeling your connection through a remote server and encrypting your data.

VPNs also hide your IP address behind their own, contributing to a more anonymous and untraceable connection. Providers, such as ExpressVPN, offer their services for just a few dollars a month. Avoid using free VPNs, as their connections tend to be unreliable, less secure and may even have bandwidth limitations.

These kinds of software will keep malware and hackers from dropping in on your social media accounts. Malware can be used to steal accounts which will then become hosts for spreading additional malware and ruining your business’s reputation. However…

Password Control

Even with the right software, your business can still be vulnerable if proper procedures aren’t followed for company account passwords. This is an area where many businesses start to run into trouble, and it applies to all accounts, not just social media ones.

The first mistake is using a weak password. Short passwords without varied character types such as uppercase letters, numbers and symbols aren’t difficult to crack or brute force. Your business should secure all accounts with strong passwords consisting of at least eight characters and containing the aforementioned types.

The second mistake is using passwords that are related to your business. Words or numbers that are related to your business are on the first list of guesses criminals will go through to try to access your accounts. Avoid using any words in the dictionary or personal information.

A third, and sometimes catastrophic mistake, is sharing passwords with too many people. In the same way that making too many keys for your business can be problematic, the same is true for your online accounts. If for instance, someone with access to your accounts is fired or decides to quit, they can leave a nasty mark by posting things for your business.

Control and limit access to your accounts, and change the passwords regularly. New passwords should be implemented once a month or whenever someone leaves the company. It may seem like a hassle, but a good percentage of security problems are internal and may be related to disgruntled employees.

Netiquette Matters

In advertising, they say any attention is good. Getting people’s attention is the main goal of social media, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your company’s image or culture. Poor behavior on your social media accounts can alienate customers and may attract trolls or miscreants looking to kill some time at your expense.

Train yourself and your employees to be courteous and use humor appropriate for your company. For some groups, being funny can be a perk. If you’re representing a satirical blog or website, a few laughs are expected. If your social media account is for a law firm, not so much.

Never insult or argue with anyone who posts on your Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts. Running your account requires a certain level of maturity and any employees not up to the task should have their access restricted.

That behavior needs to extend outside of your company’s official pages and feeds. Employees who can be easily associated with the company need to understand that their behavior elsewhere can bring negative attention to your business.

The biggest danger here is losing business by creating the impression that your business is somehow inaccessible, elitist, arrogant or just downright nasty. Communicate clearly your company’s values to customers and answer questions as quickly as possible.

Moderation

A certain degree of non-business related posts are expected to show up on your social media accounts. While much of it is harmless, sometimes you may find people posting defamatory remarks. These types of posts should be deleted as quickly as possible, or at the very least addressed.

Without exception, dangerous or suspicious hyperlinks should be removed. If customers or employees get malware from reading your page, they won’t blame the criminals posting the links. They’ll blame your business for not taking care of its pages.

Phishing links and malware can also appear from employee private accounts that get hacked. Bad links won’t be coming exclusively from anonymous sources, so it’s important to check all posts to ensure their safety, no matter who posted them.

Attention to Detail

Using social media can be a huge boon for your business. The multi-billion dollar advertising pie has plenty of slices to go around, but if you want whipped cream on your slice, you’ll need to ensure you’re following safe protocols.

Getting swept up in the flow without following the details too closely can bring the whole thing crashing down. A data breach resulting from bad practices on services such as Twitter (remember all services are connected) can literally cripple your business. At best, your reputation will be the only thing damaged.

And ultimately that’s really what you’re trying to safeguard. Using security software, such as VPNs, and teaching your workers how to maintain passwords and avoid malware will keep their other efforts from being in vain. Nothing makes your business look more irresponsible than some hacker posting obscene pictures with your company’s Instagram or Facebook.

So be safe when accessing. Get the security software you need, and start learning the ABCs of social media netiquette. With hard work and some decent luck, your business can show customers that it is both relevant and trustworthy.

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