Social media has become the latest frontier for businesses wanting to connect with their customers. In some ways, that’s great—businesses and consumers can now easily have conversations that would have required expensive and time-consuming focus groups in the past.
More than one company has improved its product or changed its business operations based on social media feedback. You’ve got opportunity to quickly raise concerns about products, access special discounts or preorder products before anyone else.
There’s a drawback, of course. Some companies aren’t interested in what you have to say, only what they can squeeze out of you, whether it’s cash or personal information. That includes some social media sites themselves, who are always on the lookout for new ways to monetize their services – and your personal data.
Privacy and Social Media
Altimeter reports 41 percent of businesses consider listening in on social media conversations an important aspect of online marketing. This means the companies are actively eavesdropping on online conversations, looking for posts which reference their brand.
Is this legal? Certainly, if your privacy settings are set so anyone can visit your page and access your posts and personal information. If you don’t want companies listening in on your conversations, lock down your social media privacy settings so only Friends and followers can access your feed. If your feed is public, anyone can access it.
Personal Information Harvesting
Marketers love personal information. The more info they have on you, the better they can customize their marketing strategies. And, unfortunately, some social media pages are little more than fronts for identity theft.
Keep your private information off social media whenever possible. The About section in my Facebook profile doesn’t include my date of birth, home town or place of employment, because I don’t want anyone other than my real-life family and friends knowing this information.
Related Marketing Posts
Facebook and other social media sites are experimenting with sponsored and related ads, which show up in your news feed and look suspiciously like regular posts.Again, there’s nothing technically wrong with this—marketers have used targeted information for years. Run a search for backhoes, and you’ll soon see website ads for agricultural equipment on every social site you visit.
Learn to identify sponsored posts on Facebook, because they’re probably here to stay. You may even find them useful—if you really are looking for agricultural equipment, a sponsored post could direct you to the products you need.
The danger lies in clicking sponsored posts without fully realizing they’re marketing tools. When this occurs you’re at a disadvantage. You’re not expecting a marketing campaign that leaves you vulnerable to the company’s sales pitch.
When is a business’ social media presence not a social media presence? When it’s a scam. Unfortunately, scammers and identity thieves sometimes masquerade as legitimate companies, hoping you’ll click through their post.
Why do this? The scammer wants to swipe your personal information, and possibly redirect you to a malware-ridden site. The “business” may be entirely fictitious, or a spoof of a legitimate company.
Social media, like any other venue, works on the old adage “buyer beware.” Keep a clear head and you can interact with legitimate business while avoiding the less savory aspects of online marketing.