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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
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
- 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
- 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
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
Copyright © 1/13 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.
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