Social Networking: How to Benefit Without Losing Your Identity Online

identity protection social mediaBusinesses of all types are taking advantage of the enormous potential of social networking sites for business development, customer communications and public relations. This can be an effective way to spread the word about your products or services and reach new customers relatively inexpensively.

For example, Facebook has over 500 million users, and provides a significant opportunity to expand your business reach to your target markets. This can augment your traditional marketing strategies and leverage your marketing dollars very effectively.

Setting up a Facebook page doesn’t guarantee that sales or referrals will suddenly increase, but in today’s business environment, it has become almost essential to have a social networking presence.

How Social Networking Improves Your Marketing Efforts

Networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter enable your customers to become true “fans” or “followers” of your business. They can become promoters of your business by sharing their “like” of your business with their social networks. This can put your business in front of hundreds and potentially thousands of potential new customers.

Social networks are gathering place of like-minded people who 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.

Risks vs. Rewards

The downside to social networking is that it can expose your business to the risk of identity theft or other forms of cyber-crime if certain precautions aren’t taken. Online identity theft, perpetrated by hackers and swindlers, has increased significantly in the last several years causing serious damage to the reputations 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 many benefits a company can realize through a safe and effective social networking strategy, however, businesses must take precautions to ensure its cyber security.

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 wreaking havoc on unsuspecting users by hacking their way into profiles and other repositories of personal or business information. They also closely follow updates that can be used to uncover sensitive business 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.  Determine what your specific business objective is and control the type of information posted.  Protect your proprietary information and exercise reasonable caution when posting specific details about products or activities. Account administration should be limited to authorized personnel who can be held accountable for their actions.

When initiating your page site or networking account, target your own customers as opposed to sending out blanket invites. When accepting linking invitations, exercise reasonable caution to make sure the person is legitimate.

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, My Space and Facebook, it is vital that protections be put in place that can ward off phishers, spammers and hackers.

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 marketing strategy.

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