June 28, 2011 –
Social media is an omnipresent part of our business and social lives and gaining in popularity around the world. Twitter was cited as a method of communication for resistance members during Egypt’s recent change of power. Facebook is a remarkable method of locating long-lost friends, classmates or family members. I’ve personally met some wonderful “virtual friends” from around the world who fill a niche that I didn’t know was empty!
From a business perspective, social media provides a great marketing and branding tool, especially for a younger demographic. Sales or promotions can be advertised instantly on Twitter by simply ‘tweeting’ about it in 140 characters or less. Homepreneurs has a Twitter page as well of course: @homepreneurs aka www.twitter.com/homepreneurs. Homepreneurs is not on Facebook yet, but my side business – steppingstonestudios – has its own Facebook page.
I must confess though that I’ve soured somewhat on Twitter and Facebook. While I recognize and concede their value, potentially serious problems exist:
- Security: Though I’ve not experienced problems with Twitter, many instances of ‘identity theft’ are documented. A local sports show host mentioned that he never tweets using his name, yet many tweets exists from an individual posing as him.
Issues with Facebook: My account was ‘hacked’ twice by parties unknown on the west coast. No obvious damage was done but what did these parties learn? Further, I’ve concluded that bill collectors use Facebook to establish a ‘relationship train’ that allows for calls to family members in an effort to collect.
- Privacy: A key problem in today’s world is the issue of privacy and protection of personal information. News stories are often published about credit databases hacked and personal information released. Recently, Rep. Anthony Weiner was publicly humiliated when photos of his genitalia shown on Twitter were published. Facebook is certainly not immune either; its open nature lends itself to embarrassing comments and social gaffes. Locking Facebook down is no simple task when one has hundreds of ‘friends.’
- Permanence: Once published on the Internet – social sites included – always on the Internet. Some server somewhere has that erotic picture or conversation you sent as a joke. Check on yourself by using Google or Spokeo; you may be shocked at the results. Personnel managers want to know about a new employee and potential mates about your past activities. Remember that college frat initiation that was recorded and posted? On a server hard drive somewhere…
- Information Overload: Twitter is especially guilty here. In the early days of Twitter, I was an active Twit when unemployed. Now with 15,000 followers, far too many messages to track. The speed of postings is annoying too; my brain doesn’t work that quickly. While there are many add-ons such as TweetDeck to help organize and filter tweets, I could care less about Lindsay Lohen’s latest rant.
Which is the lesser evil? Taking a risk when using Twitter and Facebook or risking loss of sales, branding, and current trends in technology? My recommendation is to limit personal information, radical opinions, and anything that might bite you in the future. With this in mind, embrace the power of social media and the benefits it can provide.
By Dion D Shaw
Dion Shaw is the founder and owner of homepreneurs