Winett Associates: Market Research for Results


Professional Approach

Business Research

Case Studies

Typical Projects

Selected Clients

About Us

Contact Us

Subscribe to Newsletter


Articles and Publications


Seven Tips for Using Social Media
without Giving Away the Store

For most of us, social media is a convenient way to communicate with friends and associates and occasionally a way to gather intelligence about other businesses. In How Not to Unwittingly Reveal Company Secrets, M. Harrysson, E. Metayer, and H Sarrazin discuss some of the ways in which your social media posts could unintentionally reveal company secrets. They also provide tips on how you can stem the flow of company information through using social media.

Several Posts Together Have Meaning for Competitors

While a single post may be innocuous, several posts taken together may have significance. Three ways in which you might be inadvertently spilling the beans are by tweeting plans for business trips; by providing detailed descriptions of your work on LinkedIn; and by enabling localization on your mobile device.

If you were the VP of Manufacturing and you made monthly Facebook posts from China, it could mean that your company is going to outsource manufacturing to lower costs and also to lower prices. The authors caution that LinkedIn posts are also revealing. The past experience of your new hires could signal a change in strategic direction, for instance if you hired people with cloud technology expertise. Additionally, localization technology records your visits to clients, partners, and service providers. Competitors could find meaningful patterns in your travels.

Social Media Policies Help Minimize Exposure

While most companies are not aware of the risks posed by social media, some companies have developed social media policies. Here are some tips that apply to everyone in the company--from janitors to CEOs to the board of directors:

  • Develop a social media policy. What information is off limits? The authors recommend the Online Database of Social Media Policies for sample policies.
  • Educate employees about the policies. What information is confidential, and what information is for public consumption? Provide meaningful examples.
  • Caution employees about detailed LinkedIn profiles. Overly detailed LinkedIn profiles often hint at the company's future strategies. If you post a flurry of new contacts of one type, your postings could also signify a change in corporate direction, e.g., new locations, new applications, or new technologies.
  • Track employees' social media postings to make sure that employees understand and adhere to company policies.
  • Provide separate internal networks. The authors advocate social media networks that are "walled off from the outside world." These networks provide a secure environment for employees to exchange ideas with colleagues.
  • Use localization apps judiciously. Some companies even instruct employees to disable localization.
  • Stop and think before each posting. I recommend that you ask yourself, "Who is likely to access this information? What will they do with the information? How will that affect the company? How will it affect my career?

For businesses, social media is a two edged sword. On the one hand, it is a way to track what your competitors are saying and doing. However, it is also a way for your competitors to track what you are saying and doing. Many companies restrict what employees can say to analysts and the press. Including social media in these restrictions makes good business sense.

Copyright 1/13 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter
For Email Marketing you can trust

articles index | home | back

Winett Associates     tel: 508-877-1938      fax: 508-877-9409      email
©2019 Winett Associates. All rights reserved.