3 Social Media Myths–and Risks

When meeting with a prospective client we always begin with what we call a “profile interview.” One of the questions we ask is to try and determine their current level of involvement with social media. Too often the prospects eyes glaze over and there is a slight shake of the head; then, “we’re afraid of what that will do.” As we probe a little deeper, what we find is that they’ve heard horror stories of company secrets being disclosed, employees wasting hours of company time, or needing to hire a new tech person to “manage all that stuff.” Besides, “it isn’t business like. Who cares where I’m eating lunch?”

In this post I’ll dispel three of the myths about social media that are often mentioned. I’ll also point out three of the potential risks of implementing a social media program and how we help protect our clients from them. First, the myths.

1. “I don’t have enough time. I’ll be spending hours a day at the computer and I have a business to run.” An effective social media program need not take a lot of management time. The initial setup of pages on the two most critical locations for a business, Linked In and Facebook, may take most of an afternoon. If you are in a business where Twitter, Pinterest, or another site is important, that might add another couple of hours at most. After that, updates and comments can easily be managed in no more than two or three sessions a week of fifteen minutes or less. There are social media management programs that allow you to create a week’s worth of posts in one session and then schedule them for future “delivery” to the internet.

Any social network is going to require a modest amount of time each week to maximize its value. Posts and comments are an important aspect of today’s “viral marketing.” It is worth 30 to 60 minutes a week to establish your expertise using social media as one vehicle.

2. “I’ll lose my privacy.” First rule of social media: you do not have to list any contact info you are not comfortable disclosing. All of the business related social media sites offer an option to make certain that only people you have invited can access your information. A stranger browsing Bing or Google will not be able to find out your home address, email, private phone line, or any other data that you have not put into your public profile. Identity thieves are not trolling business sites to find social security numbers or birthdates because you’re not going to put them out there. Here’s another way to look at this fear: there is already a great deal of information about most of us on the internet. At least by creating an accurate and complete social media profile, you control some of it.

3. “I’m not a tech person.” Here’s a news flash…if you got to this site and are reading this article, you already know enough to use any of the business social networks that we would recommend. It may surprise you to know that the average age of users of Linked In is 41. To use the social sites we recommend you do not have to know any HTML or other programming language. All you will be doing is completing an online profile, certainly easier than the tax software that you completed your last 1040 using.

However, life on line is not without its risks. Here are three of the most common.

1. Spam. All social networks have built in safeguards to reduce the amount of spam that members receive. These work effectively most of the time, but certainly not always. Linked In users have sometimes been inundated with promotional emails or numerous requests for introductions from associates. The simple solution is to remove the pest from your contacts. They’ll never know you have done this, and the junk will stop. Facebook users will occasionally have a friend or associate inadvertently send out a request to their entire database when their intent was to be more focused.

These issues were certainly more prominent as recently as two years ago. The sites that have a business focus have largely accommodated their members requests to minimize the excess traffic. With a properly set up profile, and using social networking best practices yourself, the “spam” annoyance is just that and nothing more.

2. Business/Personal crossover. Many of us what to have a life outside of our profession. We’re not hiding anything, we just prefer to have a family/personal side to our lives that doesn’t necessarily overlap who we are professionally. An easy way to avoid this intersect is to make certain that the contacts on Linked In are only those you know via your profession. You will have a Facebook business page for professional networking. Go ahead and create a personal page as well for keeping in touch with friends old and new.

3. “I did some dumb things when I was younger and…” Hey, most of us did! But that is a small consolation when our past sins are spread across the Internet for all to see. Best practice is to never mention them on line, and hope that your friends from those days are equally judicious. Another best practice: always tell the truth on your business sites. Exaggerating your experience at a past employer, giving yourself a better title, faking educational credentials; these are errors that can be out there in cyberspace for years. Just because you later correct or even delete a profile doesn’t mean that the data is wiped out of all the repositories that is has been buried in. It is always good discipline to think before you type.

Social media has become an absolute necessity in business today. At Alchemy Consulting our goal is to help you navigate these waters safely and maximize this powerful tool for business growth.