Social Networking Sites and Protecting Your Brand Online

The aim of this article is to help bring attention to the fact we are letting our guard down as a society in terms of what public image we want to broadcast of ourselves. We are living in an age of amazing technological developments that is allowing us the ability to access information much more easily than previous generations. It is liberating to have access to this information, to keep in contact with friends and family all over the world, to connect with media like never before and to bring the retail shopping experience into our homes. But it comes with great risk. This being that we are essentially broadcasting live to the world through online mediums our deepest personal thoughts, emotions and behaviors; some of which can have inherent consequences.

My intention is to help educate how we can mitigate this risk faced in ever-changing technology through a very simple approach. Over the past ten years in sales, marketing, branding and business development with some of the largest multinational companies working with equally sizable brands, I have learnt that your brand is everything. You have to understand that your identity is your brand which needs to be looked after in public – I will touch more on this in a moment.

Brand – is the personality that identifies a product, service or company (name, term, sign, symbol or design or combination of them) and how it relates to key constituencies: customers, staff, partners and investors etc. *

Imagine the number 1 product from an international beverage company as an example of a brand, these are the most recognized brands in the world and they look after these brand with the level of respect they deserve. Any information that is important to the security of the brand and its value is mercilessly protected, ie the ingredients are kept in vaults that only a select few have access to. Every communication with the public is backed by millions of dollars and forensically analyzed to ensure they are sending the right message, showing the importance of being careful how you broadcast your brand.

If you replace this product with yourself and understand each time you are publishing information about yourself or others online this information is available to everyone. It could be friends, family, previous-current or even future employers. Whether this information is unintentionally sent (not many understand the full reading audience that your message is sent to) or is viewed with motivation (anyone searching for information about you including but not limited to potential employers). It can’t be stressed enough, you have to be CAREFUL!!

If we use Facebook as an example:

– Imagine your personal details are like the ingredients of a beverage companies product, be extremely careful publishing information such as your full date of birth, phone numbers, address, work, schools and so on. If you are not cautious with the personal information you share online you are leaving yourself at risk of identity theft

– Before you communicate with others in a publicly viewable forum, think if this is something you would say to your parents, grandparents, employer or future employer? Send a private email or message instead of writing on someone’s wall – it feels better receiving something privately and your message will not be read by unintended viewers

– Avoid using foul, racial or discriminatory language anywhere online; it can be viewed by anyone and apart from the fact it is unnecessary this might have been a future employer. Would you employ a person who acted like this in public to represent your company and your brand?

– When photo sharing, think before you post…especially if the photos are not just of yourself. If you have photos that are not suitable to share with the public, including strangers, don’t publish them for the world to see. The chances are it will be something you regret and once information is published online it is there forever

As society moves further towards social interaction in an online environment it brings with it a new level of responsibility in managing how society perceives you. Remember that there is no separation between what you say and share online and what you would be comfortable saying or sharing with people in person. Businesses are moving towards online social sites at a rapid rate; if it’s not information that you would want a future employer to see, don’t share it. If it’s not something that you would want your grandparents reading or seeing, keep it to yourself.

Don’t let your decisions be a health hazard to your brand!