Social Media Privacy 101: What You Need to Do to Optimise Your Online Security
In an increasingly digital world, platforms like TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram and Facebook have seamlessly integrated into our lives, offering spaces for self-expression, connection and even marketing opportunities. However, amidst the fun and creativity, it’s crucial for individuals as well as SMEs to ensure their online presence is secure.
Having a comprehensive social media security strategy will equip marketers to safeguard their privacy, utilise platform security tools and protect their online presence. Here we look at some of the steps that can be taken to minimise any online security threats.
The Importance of Social Media Privacy
For businesses, it’s particularly important to control social media accounts to protect brand reputation. This means only giving social media access to authorised personnel and ensuring there is a robust password strategy in place.
Brands also need to educate their employees about social media privacy to ensure they are aware of the risks of using social media irresponsibly and how best to protect both themselves and the brand.
Nor is just the risk to brand reputation. There is also a financial risk. According to a report by UK business law specialists Slater and Gordon, almost one in five SMEs have had their social media accounts hacked by cybercriminals, with many not realising until it’s too late.
The research revealed 64% of those surveyed were told to pay a cash ransom in return for social media hackers handing back control of their accounts, with 25% of respondents rarely checking their business’s social media activity, including feedback from users.
Building a Fortified Account
Importance of Password Management
Undoubtedly the most important step brands can take to protect their social media accounts is to use a strong password. Passwords should be at least 12 characters long and include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. They should also be unique for each social media account.
One option to protect social media accounts is to use a password manager – a software application that generates and stores unique passwords in an encrypted vault. This makes it more difficult for hackers to gain access to social media accounts. However, it isn’t completely foolproof as last year’s cybersecurity attack on password manager LastPass showed.
Importantly, more than one employee should have access to a company’s social media accounts in case they leave the company suddenly. Businesses should also restrict social media access from third party apps which may save time logging in but will also increase risk.
Install Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security method that requires two forms of identification. It adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to enter a code from a different source in addition to their password when they log in.
All social media companies provide a 2FA option, usually a code sent via SMS to a smartphone. However, with Twitter/X, businesses will need to use an authentication app or a security key unless they pay for the premium Twitter Blue service (now called X Premium). Prices start from $8/£9.60 a month.
For TikTok, users can enable 2FA via the Security menu. They can also see what other devices are logged into their account by tapping the Manage Devices tab.
Avoiding Phishing Attempts
For hackers, social media presents a number of phishing opportunities. Often they set up fake social media profiles that look like they belong to legitimate businesses, then send messages asking for personal information.
Or they create quizzes and surveys that seem harmless but are just a means to collect possible passwords. Another way for hackers to get information is to scrape social media profiles of business leaders (called spear phishing). Here they look for information that could be useful for a cyberattack such as a user’s birthday, their home town or even the name of their pet.
Ensuring Safe Social Media Content
Content Visibility Management
Deciding who can view your social media is crucial to any content management strategy. For the individual, protecting privacy from potential cybercriminals, stalkers or even burglars may be the most important consideration when it comes to content visibility.
However, for businesses, it’s important to ensure marketing messages are viewed by the appropriate audience and that brand reputation is maintained. First, businesses need to review their current privacy settings.
This article features a step-by-step guide to optimise your privacy settings on each of the popular social media platforms. Businesses then need to decide on the content placed on each social media platform and how viewers can engage with it – for example, whether they can leave comments and post their own images and video.
Smart Interaction Management
Unlike a company website, which is largely static and doesn’t invite interaction, social media platforms are designed to be interactive and need to be constantly monitored and managed properly. While the temptation for many small businesses is to post on social media in the hope of only getting ‘likes’ for their content, companies must have a strategy in place for dealing with negative criticism.
For example, if someone leaves a negative comment this means being respectful when responding and not resorting to name calling or personal attacks when replying. Brands need to ensure their social media pages remain a safe space for users, free from bullying and online trolls. Fortunately, there are several social media tools that can help track comments, filter out spam and respond more quickly.
The Power of Prevention
Proactive Security Measures
Given the potential risk that social media poses, it’s important businesses are proactive in maintaining security.
Brands should make sure any software they use to manage their social media accounts is kept up to date. They should also regularly monitor their social media accounts for suspicious activity, such as login attempts from unauthorised devices or IP addresses.
And If the Worst Should Happen…
Finally, if your social media accounts are hacked, it's important to have a plan in place to deal with the situation. This plan should include steps to notify users, reset passwords and investigate the breach.
Explore avenues to seek assistance (perhaps by calling in a specialist agency) and report cybercrime to the correct authorities (for example, the ICO in the UK).
Mastering social media security is a vital step toward enjoying online platforms with confidence, especially when considering the critical role they play in marketing.
By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can safeguard your accounts, interactions, and personal information from potential threats, thereby fortifying your marketing campaigns.
Whether you're an individual sharing your life or a business building a brand, embracing a security-first mindset ensures a safer and more enjoyable online experience.