FRAMINGHAM -- Social media is taking up more and more of our time, both at home and work. Many enterprises have even started to treat social media tools as mission-critical, meaning that if you don't start mastering them, your lack of knowledge could impede your career.
However, since social media is so new, there really aren't established best practices built around it. It's hard to determine what works and what doesn't, and it's easy to be blind to social media risks. Here are 7 social media tips and tricks that will help you better protect your privacy, attract more followers, and increase your reach and influence.
No. 1: Value your privacy
The worst privacy offender in the social media world is Facebook, or, more accurately, the invasive apps layered on top of the poorly secured Facebook platform. In October of 2010, a Wall Street Journal investigation found that the ten most popular Facebook apps were vacuuming up contact lists and stealing people's identifying data.
This practice violated Facebook's policies, so the social-media giant responded by giving the apps what amounted to a time out. They were suspended for the weekend and reinstituted the following Monday. That pretty much describes how important privacy is to Facebook.
Even the apps that take only the data you gave them permission to take may create problems. How many times have you gone on your Facebook page and seen that a friend has "read articles about 'Kim Kardashian's 5 secrets for a firmer butt'" (Yahoo News Reader) or watched a video of "Busty girl on the beach doing a backflip" (Socialcam)?
Never allow an app to announce your personal reading habits or other personal information to the world. Future employees, prospective mates, ex-spouses, future stalkers, random weirdoes all could end up knowing things about you that you'd rather they not.
The problem here is that we have made a deal with the devil on the Internet, and we then extended and deepened that deal when we moved to social media and smartphones.
As long as people refuse to pay for things on these channels, software creators and service providers will monetize their products by using your personal information. It's a business model with an aggregate market valuation well over $100 billion.
Until enough people refuse end-user agreements that violate your privacy, the problem will continue to get worse. To start getting a sense of the scope of the problem, install PrivacyScore, a browser plug-in that ranks how well apps, websites and trackers respect your privacy. You'll be shocked.
No. 2: Protect your posts
Privacy will probably never be completely fixed on social media networks, but tools are emerging to help you regain control. One of the best is the browser extension Scrambls.
"Would you let the phone company listen into your calls in order to target you with specific telemarketing offers?" asks Steven Sprague, co-founder of Scrambls and CEO of security company Wave Systems. "Of course not, but that's pretty much what social media does every day."