Social media can be a blessing when you use it responsibly and a curse when you don’t. On the positive side, social media allows you to build and maintain relationships, both personal and professional. On the negative side, social media can destroy relationships just as quickly when an account is hacked, or people share content or opinions that their contacts find inappropriate. Similarly, social media can be used to enhance a brand and expand its reach, but it can also kill a brand’s reputation, almost overnight.

Even when an organization has a social media policy, it’s up to individual users to protect themselves and their employers. Here are four categories of social media tips that can keep you out of hot water.

Apply Cybersecurity Best Practices

Basic best practices for security apply to social media. Use strong passwords, use different passwords for different social media accounts, and update your passwords frequently. Make sure your security software is up-to-date so that you’re alerted to potentially malicious content. If content seems suspicious or comes from a questionable source, don’t click it. Then report it. 

For example, if you get an invitation to connect from an existing connection, don’t accept. Hackers often take over social media accounts or create bogus accounts to steal personal data from their contacts. Also, avoid using social media accounts to sign into other applications. 

Protect Your Privacy

Social media and professional networking platforms offer granular privacy settings to control what information is available to your contacts and the general public. Problem is, most social media users never change the default settings, making their lives an open book. 

Avoid sharing personal information on social media. Make as little content as possible publicly available, and consider separating personal connections from work connection. If you don’t know someone, don’t accept their invitation to connect and don’t respond to their private messages. This is often the first step to identity theft.

Be careful about taking quizzes and participating in contests, particularly when third-party tools want access to your profile, photos, news feed, etc. The goal could be to serve relevant ads, but it could also be something far more malicious.

Protect Your Professional Reputation

Once you post something on a social media platform, it’s out there forever. Even if you delete a post, it’s probably archived somewhere. If you’re not going to remain silent, you need to accept the fact that anything you post may be used against you. 

For example, complaining about a co-worker or manager on social media could trigger a meeting. Depending on the nature of what you said and whether it violates your employer’s social media policy, you could be subject to discipline. And you could develop a reputation as a malcontent.

Also, keep in mind that recruiters will look at your social media activity when evaluating applicants. In fact, research has shown that 70 percent of recruiters have rejected applicants based on information they found online. If you post comments or photos that seem irresponsible, insensitive, controversial or even illegal, you could be damaging your career.

Protect Your Employer

Simply put, you should never post on behalf of your employer unless you have written permission to do so. If you do have permission, your posts should adhere to your employer’s social media policy and reflect the company culture. Also, you should never post org charts and other information that could give hackers or competitors an opening to exploit. 

ICG offers cybersecurity training, including recommendations for safe, responsible use of social media. Let us help train your employees to take advantage of the benefits of social media while minimizing risk.