Let me begin by saying the only 100% full proof way to be completely safe on social media is to not be on it. If you want to be secure beyond a doubt – close your accounts. I’m not ready to do that, are you? I enjoy keeping up with friends and family on Facebook, I like Twitter chats with like-minded people, and I appreciate sharing business connections on LinkedIn. Besides, I manage twenty social media business accounts. So, what’s the answer,  how can any of us improve our social media safety and limit our exposure?

I’m not a social media security expert. I’m just someone who uses social networks a lot and decided to use some common sense. Here are a few of the actions I’ve taken.

  1. Remove Personal Information

You can’t find my birthday –  I don’t share it on any of my profiles; nor is my street address, email, phone number, social security number, or my children’s names.  What to do: Go to settings on every account you have and delete personal information.

I never signed up for messenger, because I read the agreement. Facebook is bad enough about using my information, and I didn’t want to give up more of me and my friend’s data. For example, did you know if you signed up for messenger that Facebook has access to every single text and phone call you make regardless whether it originated in Messenger?

Facebook acknowledged this in an official post, explaining that:

“Call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android. This helps you find and stay connected with the people you care about, and provides you with a better experience across Facebook. People have to expressly agree to use this feature.” — Social Media Today  

Think about that for a minute.

  1. Don’t be Troll Bait

What do trolls look for? One of the most common things trolls do is look for, and then engage folks on controversial topics. If you look at any of my accounts, you will not find anything political or controversial. I believe social media isn’t the place to stand on a soapbox and preach. Come on, whose mind are you going to change anyway? You might as well be spitting into the wind.

“There’s a lot going in the world—civil wars, terrorism, and a myriad of issues on the home front. Today, I tweeted, “Repeat after me, tweeting about politics will change no one’s position. It will only polarize those who disagree with me … I mean us. This tweet was meant for me. It was tweeted to me, from me, as a reminder to stay out of the fray.” Is there a Place for Politics in Business?

What to do: Stop posting, sharing, and liking controversial topics.

  1. Use Strong Passwords

Create strong passwords with 8 characters or more using caps, symbols, and numbers. Don’t use the same password for every account. What about changing your passwords frequently, should you do that? Maybe, but maybe not. There are pros and cons to changing your passwords every few months. A good password is a good password, and frequent changing of passwords often leads to creating weaker passwords.

“Change your passwords regularly is a common piece of password advice, but it isn’t necessarily good advice. You shouldn’t bother changing most passwords regularly — it encourages you to use weaker passwords and wastes your time.” — How to Geek: Should you change your passwords regularly.  What to do: Create 8 to 12 digit multi-symbol passwords for each account.

  1. Be Wary of Games and Surveys

Last week on Facebook there was a fun little game. It showed an old-fashioned phone dial with words underneath. The idea was to use the last four digits of your phone number, in order, to create a four word phrase. There was a long list of commenters who did just that. My friend Paul said it best when he left this comment, “Have we not learned anything? They want your phone number.”

Many games and quizzes are only veiled attempts to access your private information. The best thing you can do is stop playing. What to do: Stop playing around.

  1. Don’t Tell Everyone Where You Are

I’m cautious about allowing geolocation, even though sometimes it’s nearly unavoidable, for example, I have a running app, and weather app. However, I limit my exposure – I never signed on to Foursquare and I keep my location to myself. Although I’m careful, I do break the rule occasionally like last summer when I shared vacation photos. I felt safe in so doing because I had a house sitter. Keep in mind that if everyone knows you’re at Red Lobster, then burglars know you’re not home. What to do: Be careful about divulging your location.

  1. Keep up with Anti-virus Updates

Here’s a mistake I’ve made, and I’d wager others have as well. The mistake is not keeping up with those pesky updates. They’re a nuisance and one time it slowed everything down for a week, right? That may be, but there’s a reason for updates. It could be that something has changed and you may be exposed if you don’t complete the update. What to do: Keep up with updates.

  1. Not Everyone is Your Friend

Everyone who sends you a friend request isn’t a friend, or a friend of a friend or someone who has an inkling of an idea who you are beyond your data. So, be careful about who you let in the door. Do a little research before you click accept. What to do: Vet friend requests before accepting them.

  1. Beware of Links

Do not open links indiscriminately. One thing you can do is hover your mouse over a link and review it before you click. For example, I saw something in a news feed that I thought was from CNN, but when I hovered over the URL, I found it to be CNM. I didn’t open it.

“One of my wife’s closest friends called last week concerned that she had fallen for one of the many online scams. Earlier that day a pop-up, supposedly from Microsoft, filled her screen informing her that her computer was under attack from a virus. It went on to explain there was a solution, and all she had to do was call the number provided.

When she called, a representative convinced her she was about to lose control of her computer, all of her files including bank accounts, her social security number, and all of her passwords. She fearfully agreed to give the “company” access to the account and to send an image of a check to the agent’s account.

Later, when she tried to log back on to her computer, she was locked out. Her password didn’t work. Her computer was no longer in her control.” — How to Recognize and avoid Online Scams.  What to do: Check it before you click it.

Common Sense Security

A mentor told me years ago that common sense was uncommon. I believe he was right. Most of what I’ve shared today isn’t much more than common sense is it? However, using your common sense to be more secure on social media begins with the understanding that social networks aren’t in the social networking business, that’s not their business model, and until there’s a pay to play social network (Like the Netflix of Social media) it never will be. Social networks make their money by gathering, and then selling your data. I for one don’t plan to give my information away any more than I have to. How about you?

Phhoto Credit: Ryan McGuire ID: 869216 Provider: Pixabay