10 Key Tips for Social Media Security

12 Jun

The hacking of mass accounts on a social network is something that seems to be happening a great deal recently, with LinkedIn being the latest victim, after having 6.5m of its users passwords stolen. Prior to LinkedIn, Twitter suffered a similar hack, and Facebook way did too.

Social media profiles have become the target of social media hackers who use that data to further spread their maliciousness or gain access to your more sensitive data. It is always worth remembering that you can become a victim at any time. Not a day goes by when we don’t hear about a new hack, and with 55,000 new pieces of malware generated a day, security never sleeps.

With the latest security threat to LinkedIn fresh in our minds, here are 10 key social media security tips.

1. Think before you post! Status updates, photos, and comments can end up revealing more about you than you intended to disclose, and you could end up feeling like some silly politician as you struggle to explain yourself.

2. Think twice about allowing applications that request permission to access your data. You will be allowing an unknown party to send you email, post to your wall, and access your information at any time, regardless of whether you’re using the application. Before you decide if you want to allow the application access, make sure you know exactly what the application is!

3. Don’t click on short links that don’t clearly show the link location. With URL shorteners like bit.ly (and many more) are becoming increasingly common, it’s easy to forget that such URL’s can also be used by criminals to dupe you. Criminals often post phony links that claim to show you who has been viewing your profile. If you’re unsure about a link, you can test unknown links at SiteAdvisor by simply pasting the link into the “View a Site Report” form on the right-hand side of the page. Alternatively, if you use Hootsuite, you can see the extended URL or a shortened link by simply clicking the ‘+’ sign next to the shortened URL.

4. Beware of posts with subjects along the lines of, “LOL! Look at the video I found of you online!” When you click the link, you often get a message saying that you need to upgrade your video player in order to see the clip, but when you attempt to download the “upgrade,” the malicious page will instead install malware that tracks and steals your data.

5. Geolocation apps such as Foursquare share your exact location, which can also let criminals know that you aren’t home, so reconsider broadcasting exactly where you are. Remember, apps like Foursquare still allow you to gain check-in points without having to disclose your location on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

6. Always use an up-to-date browser. Older browsers tend to have more security flaws, and it is very simple and quick to update your browser to the latest version.

7. Choose unique logins and passwords for each of the websites you use. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to have different passwords for EVERY site you use, but it’s the best way to limit your exposure if (and probably when) a particular site you use gets hacked. I’m a big fan of password managers, which can create and store secure passwords for you.

8. Check the domain of the website to be sure that you’re logging into a legitimate website. So if you’re visiting a Facebook page from a link in an email, make sure the URL of the site is actually ‘www.facebook.com’ and not a site which looks like Facebook. Hackers often duplicate websites with the exact same design, and once you log into their fake site, they have your real login and password within seconds. This principle also applies to online banking websites, so be extra careful!

9. Be cautious of any message, post, or link you find on a social network that looks at all suspicious or requires to login again once you’re already logged in.

10. Make sure your security suite is up to date and includes antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, a firewall, and a website safety advisor.

BONUS TIP: Take the time to understand your privacy settings! Select the most secure options and check periodically for changes that can open up your profile to the public. Facebook is renowned for continually changing its layout and one such change could result in information that was once private, now being public!

Have you ever had in social media security issues? Or do you have any additional tips? I’d love to hear from you!

Is It Really Worth Linking Your Personal Twitter Account To Post All Tweets To Your LinkedIn Profile?

29 May

I have recently started to see a lot of my LinkedIn connections link their personal Twitter accounts to their LinkedIn profile, and allow it to push all of their tweets to their LinkedIn profile. Linking your LinkedIn and your personal Twitter account may seem like a good idea to begin with: It’s a function which exists to make your life more efficient and save you having to post the same updates individually on each platform, however LinkedIn’s option to link your Twitter account should not be taken lightly, and is something I would advise against.

I must point out that my opinion on linking your personal Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile mainly applies to those who tweet a lot, about many kinds of topic. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing! It’s natural to do this, and Twitter is a wonderful online platform for sharing information, links and opinions on a large variety of topics.

But it is worth remembering that unlike Twitter, the greatest strength of LinkedIn is that the audience is there specifically to gather useful information that helps them, or their business, to grow professionally. If you focus your message on that audience’s needs, you’ll have a tremendous opportunity to serve as a resource to them – and maybe ultimately have them choose to do business with you, or refer others to you.

However, if you constantly bombard your LinkedIn users with updates of tweets related to TV Programmes, Sports or any other personal interests you have, the LinkedIn user who has connected with you on a professional level will not find any of this content relevant, and the user can choose to ‘hide’ your updates, which means any updates you make in the future that are relevant to your professional connections could easily be drowned by the amount of other ‘irrelevant’ updates you have posted.

The same applies to updates which show you replying to other tweets where LinkedIn users don’t have the context of the larger conversation to make sense of it. Although your Twitter followers will appreciate this, chances are your LinkedIn connections will not.

If you have the two criteria below, I feel it is worth linking your personal Twitter Account to your LinkedIn Profile:

1. You only tweet a maximum of two/three time a days.
2. You only tweet about topics related to your profession/niche.

There will be occasions when you post tweets that you would like to appear in your LinkedIn profile as well, and you can modify your settings so that when you include the hashtag “#in” your tweet will automatically be posted on LinkedIn. This is the best alternative for those who tweet a lot, but not only about work.

It’s always important to be as professional as often as possible on LinkedIn and this is a simple way to avoid annoying your business connections while still being able to update your LinkedIn status with relevant information.

If your LinkedIn stream isn’t relevant, people will begin to ignore your updates!

What are your thoughts on linking social media accounts?

The Rise of The Social Customer and Their Impact on Business

22 May

Fifteen to twenty years ago, if you were dissatisfied with a company’s product or business practices, you’d probably stop buying from them. You might write an angry letter. You might even tell your friends and family (a whopping 25 people, at best) not to patronise that business. Five to ten years ago, you may have called the company’s callcentre, spoke to a customer service advisor and it’s likely that your complaint would have fallen on deaf ears.

But the game has changed thanks to social media. While it may feel like one angry tweet from you may not make much impact, the power of social media makes it possible for dissatisfied customers to change the course of business, even at giant companies. At best, companies are now striving to be more responsive to their customers to show that they care and at worst, companies are now living in fear of these pools of discontent.

There are some great examples of companies who are using social media as a customer care channel very well, including BT, First Direct, Dell, Virgin Media and Barclays, just to name a few. A recent article by BBC Journalist Alexis Akwagyiram highlighted this very issue, explaining how 65% of people surveyed actually thought social media was a better way to communicate with companies than call centres, as the success rate of ‘complaining’ on a social media platform (for everybody to see) was much more effective than talking to a callcentre representative who didn’t seem to have as much power to do anything (not to mention the expense of calling the company and having to wait in a queue whilst listening to awful hold music). With this in mind, could this be the biggest sign yet on how customer service will continue to evolve in the future?

As well as realising the benefits of being on social media to monitor the conversations their customers are having about them, a lot of companies have realised is the cost of not being on these platforms! With this in mind, I wanted to share this brilliant infographic from Frugal Dad, which shows some compelling examples that illustrate the rising power of the social media customer and the reasons why it is so important for companies to be ‘listening’ to what their customers are saying about their business/brand on social media platforms, regardless of the size of the company.

Do you have a favourite story about how an outcry on a social media platform changed the course of business? Or are you a business who is yet to start using social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How Dell Has Reinvented Itself Thanks To Social Media

15 May

After last week’s post about the biggest Social Media Campaign Fails of 2012 (so far), I thought it would be a good idea to look at a company who has managed to use social media in the best way possible and have transformed their image and reputation as a result.

Social Media, Inspired by Dell

Dell is, without a doubt, a “darling” when it comes to social media industry case studies. Why? They are one of the first real “rags to riches” story that bridges several market segments including consumer, enterprise, SMB and healthcare; and they offer an industry-leading example of “listening” to their customers in social media channels, from blogs to Twitter. And perhaps even more compelling is Dell’s approach to managing the oceans of new information that they uncover on a daily basis — everything from support requests and product feedback to complaints and high-level topic discussions.

It all started with “Dell Hell”

In 2005, Dell’s customer service and support was apparently not what it is today. Combine the subsequent low-levels of customer satisfaction along with the rapid adoption of social media (which gives you the ability to spread discontent very far, very quickly), and you have the beginnings of a major brand backlash.

That’s exactly what happened with the now famous social media firestorm of “Dell Hell”, where Jeff Jarvis, (a blogger who had clout before Klout was even an idea), posted a rant on his “Buzz Machine” blog titled “Dell lies. Dell sucks.” This post ignited a customer revolt (which involved most of the comments on Jeff’s post being similar stories from other customers) which ended up changing much of the culture and customer service practices at one of the world’s most venerable technology companies.

How Dell Weathered The Storm

Dell ultimately weathered the storm thanks to Michael Dell, who recognized the importance of social media (both the risks and the opportunities), and got personally involved. One of the first moves Michael Dell made was was to create a dedicated corporate blogger that would span functional groups. Lionel Menchaca was nominated for the new position, who found immediate success dealing with Jeff Jarvis and other connected bloggers by speaking “honestly and directly”, effectively giving the company a human voice.

But Menchaca and his team did a lot more than just manage blogger outreach – They started a “listening and responding” program, for customer service and support, community-building and topic discussions with subject matter experts. When the small team finally hit the “on” switch for their listening platforms, four to five thousand conversations about Dell started landing in their lap every single day!

Dell’s “Listening Czar”

They ended up creating a new position called Dell’s “Listening Czar”, which became one of the most important components of their social media programme. The Czar was the overall integration lead for all of Dell’s social media functions, from their support forums to Ideastorm, and led a mix of resources to segment out conversations for different business functions.

Additionally, the Czar monitored a customized social media dashboard to identify trends and emerging issues. If a given threshold is reached, for example, if there are a lot of people talking or asking about a certain issue, a blog post on Direct2Dell was initiated.

Today: World-Class Listening through the “Command Centre”

Dell have recently expanded their programme even further by launching their Social Media Listening Command Centre, a social media hub focused purely on listening, engaging and responding to all-things-Dell in more than 11 languages and the Social Outreach Services (SOS) team has grown from 10 to 70 people over the past 2 years.

Dell’s Radian6 monitoring and management tools record an average of 20k – 25k social media events for the company each day, and they make a point of engaging wherever appropriate as quickly as possible. Most tweets, Facebook posts and the like receive some kind of response in no more than 24 hours, and many are handled in real-time.

In case you are a Dell customer, social media support is available to you via Twitter (@DellCares), Facebook (click the “Support” Button under the Cover Photo) and via Dell’s website by clicking “Support” on each Dell.com web page.

In just a few years, Dell went from a serious brand backlash to leading the social media bunch; especially when it comes to effectively listening and responding to an ocean of customer conversations. By doing so, Dell has become a great example of how to integrate social media into an organisation.

Social Media Campaigns: Case Studies of the Biggest Fails of 2012 (So Far)

8 May

As social media continues to evolve, there is no set formula that defines a perfect campaign. While there are some great social media campaigns being run by companies, there are also plenty of campaigns being run which highlight how running a social media campaign isn’t easy, and there can be downfalls. Many individuals and companies are learning this the hard way, and it’s good to learn from other people’s mistakes so we don’t end up making them ourselves!

Here are some case studies of such failures that have occurred this year, along with the key lesson learnt from each failure.

1. McDonald’s #McDStories

In mid-January, McDonalds launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #McDStories. McDonald’s asked users to post nostalgic stories about their experiences on Happy Meals, however, the #McDStories campaign quickly took a whole different turn very quickly as users started using the hashtag to instead share horror experiences and shock tales. From poor work conditions to appalling food quality, McDonald’s campaign turned negative attention back to itself.

Here are just a few examples of tweets on the #McDStories Hashtag:

The Lesson:
Social media campaigns always contain a measure of risk, where perception from users cannot be controlled. McDonald’s suffered from this, with the hijacking of their hashtag campaign. While companies, to some degree, can attempt to anticipate reaction from customers, at times it is simply impossible. In general, companies need to prepare contingency plans, and have a strategy for when social media fails. This is also a great example which shows that no-one, not even a global restaurant giant, can control conversations on the internet.

2. Reddit & Woody Harrelson’s ‘Ask Me Anything’

At the start of February, Academy Award Nominee Woody Harrelson hosted Reddit’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA), where users can ask questions to individuals who have a unique story or occupation. While the AMA’s are generally used to promote thoughtful dialogue and discussion, Harrelson’s AMA chat took a different approach – Reddit users quickly got the impression that the movie star was simply using the site for nothing more than marketing purposes, and Reddit users lashed out. There was an enormous amount of backlash fired against Harrelson, his publicists and his upcoming movie, and Harrelson became infamous in Reddit history ever since. Google ‘Woody Harrelson’ today and ‘Woody Harrelson AMA’ is still the most popular search term!

Here are a few of the comments directly from Harrelson’s AMA:

The Lesson:
The main reason why this campaign failed so spectacularly is because of Harrelson’s (and his publicists) failure to understand his audience. Reddit is a social news website which possesses a dedicated audience that is very sensitive towards marketing attempts. With AMA threads, Reddit users expect an honest dialogue, providing an open forum between the host and the audience. When using a social media platform, it is vital that you carefully understand the community and how they work.

3. Chris Brown’s Post-Grammy Tweets

One of the big winners at the 2012 Grammy Awards was R&B singer Chris Brown, who won an award for Best R&B album. After the Grammys, Chris Brown celebrated his victory on Twitter, by sending out tweets to his followers. But instead of thanking his loyal fans for their support, he instead focused his updates towards his haters, attacking them with disparaging remarks and F-bombs. Given the singer’s already shaky reputation, these tweets further solidified the controversy around him.

The Lesson:
Given the shareable nature of social media, public perception and reputation can change at the drop of a hat. A single tweet can quickly spread to others, whether it is good or bad, especially if you are extremely influential within your respective industry, especially if this occurs from a business/company account. By posting such remarks, Chris Brown’s tweets turned some fans against him and had them commenting on his temperamental nature instead of the Grammy win itself. While the tweet was later deleted from Brown’s account, it lives on through the hundreds and thousands of retweets it received, which can’t be deleted.

4. Toyota’s #CamryEffect Campaign

During the Superbowl, Toyota planned a major Twitter campaign meant to promote the Camry. Creating a number of Twitter accounts labeled @CamryEffect1 through @CamryEffect9, Toyota intended to engage users by directly tweeting them. However, this had the opposite effect: users accused Toyota of bombarding and spamming them with unsolicited messages. Though Toyota quickly suspended the accounts, this campaign still resonates as an example of a failed, large-scale endeavour.

Here are some examples of the spam tweets it bombarded users with:

The Lesson:
In Toyota’s case, mass spamming was not the main problem, though it definitely added to their woes. Instead, it was the content itself that caused the uproar. In order to engage users, your tweets need to be interesting and intriguing, motivating users to retweet the message. However, the content used in the #CamryEffect campaign gave a self-serving and promotional impression. The bland, spammed messages and poor timing became a recipe for disaster for the major automobile company.

What lessons have you learned from these social media fiascos that you will apply in your own social media and PR efforts? Do you have examples of any similar fails from which we can also learn?

London 2012: Get Ready for the First Social Media Olympics!

1 May

Two weeks ago, the International Olympic Committee launched The Olympic Athletes’ Hub, to mark the 100-day countdown to the start of the Olympic Games in London. The Athletes Hub is microsite dedicated to aggregating Facebook posts and tweets from the athletes, and the Hub also boasts a gamification component: Users who sign up, follow athletes, and engage in the community have the opportunity to unlock rewards and win prizes.

This year promises to be the first truly social Olympic Games. Television networks are planning to incorporate athletes’ Twitter posts into broadcast spots, and marketers are planning a flood of Facebook marketing tied to the Games.

The IOC’s new social media guidelines lay out dos-and-don’ts for tweeting athletes.

During the London 2012 Summer Olympics, athletes will:

  • Have real-time text chats with fans from inside Olympic Village
  • Share their results and engage with fans
  • Grow their social media followings
  • And much more

The last summer Olympics took place in 2008. Since then, a lot has changed.

Not only are we a little older, but so is social media. For example, Facebook was relatively small in 2008 with ‘only’ 100 million users. This year, Facebook passed the 900 million user milestone. Likewise, Twitter had 6 million users in 2008; today the network is more than 20 times larger, at 140 million users.

Check out this great infographic produced by The IOC, which illustrates how social media has contributed to the changes in the Summer Olympics experience for fans and athletes. It highlights how coverage has evolved since the first modern Games in 1896, and the most popular athletes on Facebook and Twitter.

What role will social media play in your Olympics experience this summer? Are you looking forward to seeing how social media will play an integral role?

Social Media Crisis Management: It’s All About How You Respond

24 Apr

Social Media dramas involving organisations seem to be more and more common in recent times, and they are good reminders of the importance of having a solid social media crisis management plan in place.

At its very basic level, the proper handling of a social media crisis should consist of two things: A quick response, and a proper response.

Let’s look at both areas:

1. Responding quickly to a social media crisis

If you look back at many of the social media dramas that have played out for companies over the past couple of years, many of them were exacerbated by a slow response from the company or organisation. The delay in responding meant the people that were upset had more time to voice their displeasure with the company, to other people, which raised further awareness of the problem, and made it far worse.  An example of a company who one of the first companies to have suffered from this in the social media world was Motrin.

This was a situation which had the could have been defused very quickly, if Motrin and their agency had been proactive in responding to complaints on Twitter about one of its adverts. But since the crisis occurred on the weekend, when the brand and agency weren’t monitoring Twitter, it was allowed to grow and fester.  By Sunday, most people were complaining more about Motrin’s lack of a response, than they were about the commercial itself.

So you can’t respond quickly, unless you know what you are responding to. That means you need to aggressively monitor your brand’s online mentions. There’s no excuse for any company that conducts business online, to not monitor online mentions. Even if you are a small company with a limited budget, there are still free tools you can use like Google Alerts to monitor. If you are a mid-sized to larger company, you should seriously consider investing in a premium monitoring suite that will track not only mentions, but trends and sentiment as well. But the point is to know what is being said online about your company or organization.

So now that you are monitoring online mentions, then you can see what is being said about your brand in (more or less) real-time. This also means that when a situation arises that needs to be addressed, that you can quickly assess the situation and formulate a response. We’ll talk more about the tone of your response in a second, but another key benefit of monitoring is that it tells you WHERE you need to respond. If there is a potential crisis developing on Twitter, then that’s where you need to respond. If it’s on a single messageboard or forum, then you need to find a way to respond there.  The point is, you need to go to the source of the complaints, and interact with people there.

2. Responding properly to a social media crisis

So if you have identified a potential issue that you need to address, how should you respond?  Here are 5 common sense tips for handling complaints or negative online feedback:

If someone is leaving negative comments about your company, respond!  Even if they are intentionally attacking your company (or ‘trolling’), then invite them to please contact you directly so you can help them with their issues. And remember, if someone is leaving comments that personally attack your employees or customers, or that contain profanity or inflammatory language, you should delete them.  Now if they are simply saying that they think your company sucks, deleting these types of comments will tend to draw more of the same.  People can see when someone has crossed the line with the tone of their comments, and they won’t fault a blogging company for deleting comments in this case.

Be thankful and polite  Nothing escalates a negative comment into a full-blown spat faster than an ‘Oh yeah?!?’ response from the company.  You have to always remember that the person commenting thinks their complaint is warranted.  And many times, they are right.

If you are in the wrong, then apologize  And mean it.  The two most magical words in putting out a social media crisis are ‘We’re sorry’.

If commenters are jumping to the wrong conclusion about your company, kindly correct them with the proper information  Just as you don’t have to accept profanity or attacking comments on your blog, you shouldn’t feel that you have to accept if a blogger or commenter is posting inaccurate information on another site.  But again, remember to correct the misinformation with a respectful tone.

Thank them for their feedback  and encourage them to provide more. Leave your email address so they can contact you off the blog, if they choose.  This communicates to everyone that you WANT engagement and want to communicate with them.

Even if you respond quickly and appropriately, you still have to fix the problem. People are upset for a reason, and you still need to address that reason, and correct the problem. It might not be a quick fix, but you need to let people know how you are handling the issue, and what steps will be taken to correct the problem. This is where you can use your social media presences such a blog or Facebook page to communicate to customers and supporters what your plan is for handling the crisis.  But you need to have a plan, you need to communicate that plan (not every detail, obviously), then you need to execute it.

EXAMPLE: An example of a company which successfully followed all of the above rules was Fed-Ex, who responded to a customer’s viral video, with their own video.

This scenario involves a Fed-Ex customer who had a horrible experience with a delivery. A computer monitor was delivered by the Fed-Ex driver who casually thrown the monitor over the customer’s gate, even though the customer was at home, and the front door was wide open! The customer filmed the delivery, and he posted it on YouTube.

The video has been viewed almost 9 million times, and has been featured on a number of TV shows. Now if this was your company, would you respond? And if so, then how would you respond?

To its credit, Fed-Ex responded 2 days later with its own video.

Here’s what was so great about the video and the post on Fed-Ex’s blog:

  1. Fed-Ex admitted the problem and apologized for it immediately in the video.
  2. Fed-Ex detailed what was done to correct this problem.
  3. Fed-Ex detailed what will happen moving forward.
  4. Fed-Ex responded to the customer video with its own video.  Using the same tool as its customer.

There is a very significant lesson here for companies about using social media:

Participating in a conversation changes that conversation!

By creating a video response to the customer video, apologising, and detailing exactly how the problem would be fixed, Fed-Ex changed the conversation that was currently happening around its brand.  Prior to this video, the conversation around the brand was decidedly negative and dominated by the customer’s video, because Fed-Ex hadn’t responded.

When they did, the conversation changed.  The company’s response was fast and appropriate, and that not only changed the opinion of the company from some observers, but it also served as motivation for customers and employees to come to defense of the brand.

Always remember this:  Social Media backlashes aren’t created by the initial trigger event (such as the customer’s video above), they are created by HOW the company responds.