It seems everywhere you turn these days there is a story or a message about online security or privacy. Horror stories and warnings abound on protecting yourself when online. For the business owner or professional this may present a quandary; how and what personal information should you (or your staff) disclose on your personal social media accounts to support your business efforts and your professional reputation?


Anonymity and Privacy

Any business social media choices should be driven by a goal or purpose specific to each social media channel. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google all have their own unique audience and business opportunities for engagement, networking or advertising. These channels (and the growing number or others) have their own account terms and privacy policies. Terms may vary; Facebook, LinkedIn and Google require the use of real names as well as age and gender. Twitter, on the other hand, allows pseudonyms. There are a large number of fake identities on these channels regardless of their account terms and conditions.

Anonymity is a separate issue than privacy. Anonymity can be used to somewhat help protect privacy, although this is no longer as simple as using a nickname on an Internet bulletin board. You can use all the aliases you like but this will not erase your digital footprint or the historical Internet archive that contains your real name somewhere. In that sense, true online anonymity is not possible.

Privacy, to a great degree, is possible. Techniques on how to do this are outside of the scope of this post, but anyone with an interest and a small bit of effort can accomplish a reasonable state of online privacy and safety. Businesses in particular should protect stakeholder’s interests held in their trust, e.g., client and employee records.

Social Media Profiles

Most businesses will have social media pages, such as accounts that represent a brand, organization, or company. Employees within those entities will have their own personal social media profiles and accounts. In the (not too long ago) old world these were distinctly separate because of adversarial risks; many organizations implement policies where the staff is restricted in some way in discussing their employer or responsibilities. This is changing with the evolution of the social business.

The Social Business

The term social business began its life as a cause-driven business; a financially sustainable and mission-oriented company with a social objective such as healthcare or poverty relief. With such honourable objectives, it is natural that all stakeholders would be involved in supporting these efforts, on and off-hours. A corporate variant then evolved based on this model, and that variant is commonly referred to as the social business or enterprise. Its purpose is to leverage all stakeholders; partners, employees, and customers in a relationship based collaboration to share information of a common interest and need.

“Today’s successful organizations harness the power of social, mobile and cloud to generate real business value: greater productivity, deeper customer engagement and improved operations.”

Source: IBM Collaboration and Social Business

Maximized Search Ranking

Google’s new world of semantic search loves to see social media profiles, shares and comments, and natural links about and to your business website. The more the merrier. It helps Google connect the dots and validates you are who you claim you are, as identified with your keywords and website descriptions. The greater validation you achieve, the better chance you have for higher ranking in search engine results.

All of the above relates to reputation and influence. Hiding your identity on the Internet doesn’t really make business or career sense. You and your staff’s LinkedIn, Google and Twitter personal profiles can connect everyone professionally to your business and industry, and that is of value to your online business and professional reputation.

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