Over 70 percent of U.S. residents have one or more accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and the average person spends about two hours a day checking in across platforms.
During my years running an Internet law practice, I learned two important things about social media: Privacy is hard fought and stupid stuff posted in the past can haunt you for decades.
So let’s discuss five things you should never do on social media if you want to protect your privacy, preserve your reputation, and avoid lawsuits!
#1: Keep Your Business and Bragging to Yourself
It’s nearly impossible to delete things from the Internet. Sure, you can remove a post, but that doesn’t account for archive platforms and screenshot programs.
So rule #1 is never overshare on social media. It’s not worth it. Life is a long, winding, arduous journey, riddled with secret traps and lava obstacles. The last thing you need is skeletons tripping you up. Follow grandma’s advice: Don’t put your business in the streets! If you do, it will live forever and has a knack for showing up at the most inconvenient and damaging times.
Same advice holds for the good stuff. Posting a continuous stream of curated pictures makes you a target for finance and identity scams. Plus, on an interpersonal level, maintaining a “perfect” social media stream can erode mental health. Not only will you feel pressure to live up to your curated self, but you’re also presenting an idealized life, which can prove off-putting to both followers and potential followers. After all, nobody has a perfect life.
Please take my advice, as a social media business consultant, and keep it light online. Every once in awhile, post a fun picture. By all means, share articles that prove cats rule the universe! Have fun with selfies!Weigh in on your favorite sports teams. Otherwise, stay away from the muck. If you’re in startup mode, stick to industry topics. You don’t need to be boring, just don’t be unnecessarily provocative and polarizing. The potential hassle and backlash are not worth the moment of viral attention it may or may not garner.
If you’re obsessive about privacy, don’t share on social media at all. Heck, don’t even have accounts because every iota of posted and liked information is shared with multitudes of advertisers.
Social Media Privacy Tips
- Never post a picture with a key or keypad in it. It’s possible to make physical copies of keys from images found online. And a keypad can be enlarged enough to decipher deterioration patterns, which leads to password cracking.
- Don’t post selfies with documents — like licenses, paperwork, paycheck stubs, and mail — in the background. They can be blown up, exposing personal data.
- Switch all social media settings to “friends only.” Set up a separate, public-facing account for your business and keep the content narrowly focused on your industry.
#2: Don’t Gossip
In my role as a social media business consultant, I’ve seen it too many times. Someone hops online and starts running off at the fingertips. Inevitably, they say something gossipy or incorrect, and blam, the whole unfortunate incident leads to an ugly online lawsuit. Sometimes it’s a defamation claim; other times, it’s about privacy or revealing contractually protected information.
Whatever the details, you don’t want or need a civil lawsuit hanging around your neck. Avoid it by not gossiping online.
#3: Keep Your Vacations Under Wraps Ahead of Time
Talk and post about your vacations AFTER returning, not before and not during. Doing so is like hanging a “come rob me” sign on your garage. Over the years, I’ve heard horror stories about people leaving for a week and coming home to an empty home.
Plus, if you’re too vocal about plans online, when it comes time to file for insurance, your carrier may contest payment amounts. They could say you acted unreasonably, which could affect how much you’re reimbursed.
Also, people who are very concerned about privacy should restrict the location data access on their phones. Doing so will block targeted geo-advertising, but it will also keep you off thousands of marketing lists.
#4: Don’t Get Greedy
You’ve heard it before: there’s no such thing as a free breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And apart from the lottery, free money is not a thing that happens in real life. So here’s a rule of thumb: If someone is giving something away for free, they’re getting something of greater value in return — most likely information about you.
Also, whatever you do, don’t give out your credit or debit card numbers, nor anything to do with your bank, PayPal, cryptocurrency, or any other financial account. If an email claims to come from a reputable source, double-check the address. Even if it matches, remain skeptical! When companies ask for legitimate information, they provide legitimate numbers to call, and they’ll never ask for card or bank info via email or messenger.
#5: Don’t Steal
Intellectual property sustains livelihoods, so don’t use pictures, articles, or video clips on social media unless you’ve paid for it or the item is free for public use.
Of course, “fair use” applies, and writers can republish excerpts to explore and critique. But you can’t use the whole piece, and the legitimacy of related commentary is considered if a claim arises.
The same goes for movie, TV, and music reaction videos. Fair use rules apply; you can use clips; but to avoid copyright infringement claims, the rule of thumb is to only use 20 seconds per minute.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, rights holders can send take-down requests to content creators suspected of appropriating intellectual property. If you’ve been hit with one and don’t know what to do, get in touch. I can help.
Consult With a Social Media Business Consultant
Entangled in an online intellectual property row? Online privacy skirmish? If you need a bit of professional advice from a social media business consultant, get in touch. I’ll assess the specifics of your situation and delineate options. If the situation calls for it and you decide to move forward with a legal action, I’ll guide you to the appropriate solution.
With me, you’ll get a straight answer right away because I’m not in the business of racking up billable hours. Instead, I use my experience and industry insight to help businesses and entrepreneurs make the right decision early on.