Staying Safe in the Social Media World

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Spring 2013


Social media, once a fad for college students, has evolved into a powerful form of real-time communication widely used by people of all ages, incomes and life circumstances.

 

In fact, the largest growth in social media use for any age group from 2011 to 2012 was 45- to 54-year-olds, according to data from market research firm Edison Research. What’s more, 55 percent of Americans in this age group now have a profile on a social networking site. Even three out of 10 Americans 55 and older have a profile on a social networking site.

 

 

When used correctly, social media can enable wealthy families and their businesses to market their brand, find new business opportunities and bring together family members. On the other hand, if families fail to approach social networking sites with caution and care, they might put themselves at risk of damaging their reputation and releasing private information.

 

Consider these six tips that may help keep your family protected in the world of social media:

1. Choose appropriate social networking sites based on their intended purpose and use.

Rather than becoming overwhelmed by the many different social media tools available, choose those whose purpose aligns with your goals or interests:

 

  • Social networks like Facebook: Develop personal connections with others of similar interests and backgrounds, especially friends and family. 
  • Professional networks like LinkedIn: Connect with other professionals and recruit employees.
  • Media sharing networks like YouTube: Upload, share and comment on various forms of media, such as videos.
  • Blogs, vlogs and forums: Share information and participate in discussions, usually centered on a specific topic.
  • Micro-blogging like Twitter: Share short updates (industry and educational news and trends, tools and tips, etc.).

2. Use social media to stay connected with family and friends.

By sharing information and photos via social media sites, family members around the world can feel intimately involved in one another’s lives. Because information can be posted in real time, family members also can feel like they’re part of the experience and can reply instantly.

 

In unfortunate situations like hurricanes and tornadoes, social media can allow you to tell family members that you’re safe and provide peace of mind for those not with you.

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Spring 2013


3. Think twice before posting personal details.

Be cautious when offering personal information that could inadvertently divulge family or business secrets, or could be reposted to other sites without your knowledge.

 

Take heed when sharing pictures, as inappropriate ones could provide permanent documentation of embarrassing or even illegal activity.

 

Proceed with caution when “checking in” — or using GPS capabilities on your mobile device to announce your location via a social network. Checking in at a resort in Hawaii, for example, could serve as an open invitation to thieves and compromise the physical security of your home.

 

Before checking in or offering any personal details, ask yourself if you are putting anyone at risk or offering potentially incriminating information.

 

4. Practice smart password protection.

Avoid using the same username and password for different accounts. If you use the same passwords for your LinkedIn and Amazon accounts, for example, a thief could hack into your LinkedIn account and use stolen information to gain access to your Amazon account, which is linked to credit card information.

 

In addition, frequently change your passwords and create passwords with a combination of numbers, letters and symbols.

5. Monitor your reputation — and your family’s.

You can help avoid becoming a victim of the dangers of social media by proactively performing searches on your name, your kids’ names and your business’s name. Some sites like Google allow you to sign up for alerts when your name is mentioned online.

 

6. Educate your kids and family members.

Closely monitor your kids’ social media accounts and talk with them about the potential dangers of social media. Teach them not to post anything that they wouldn’t want everyone, including their grandparents and employer, to see.

 

Consider designating a family member as the social media expert in charge of teaching others about social media trends and protective measures.

 

You also might consider creating guiding principles for social media use that every family member above a certain age must read and sign.

 

Be Proactive

Social media appears to be here to stay. So rather than avoiding it or participating in it without caution or care, learn about the tools available and how to properly use them to the benefit of you, your family and your business.

 

This information was adapted from “Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” a white paper from Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank. The paper's authors are Jenna Guenther, Director, Wealth Impact Planning; and Amy Zehnder, Strategic Wealth Coach. 

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