Since its inception social media has been exalted as the next generation in communication for humanity, whilst simultaneously being tarnished by countless controversies over privacy fears. Furthermore, despite the relative maturity of the industry in the technology world – Facebook, by far the largest social media network, has been operating for a decade – it seems that people are still unsure of how to use it. Indeed, there is a near-constant stream of news stories published in which a wayward tweet or post has led to the dismissal of an executive at a business or prosecution by law enforcement agencies. It seems prudent, therefore, to discuss the best policy to follow when using social media.
Michael Maksoudian, Partner and Chief Media Officer for Netizency, a digital marketing agency specialising in building social media communities through the use of big data, said, “The first thing people should do is go and study the privacy settings of the applicable social media platform, and apply the necessary measures to protect themselves… Then you will realise that there are a lot of settings which by default are set to full public release.”
Attempting to limit the extent to which your online presence can be observed seems sensible. One of the first rules to follow, therefore, when interacting with a social media platform would be to change your privacy settings in order to inhibit the level to which prying eyes may be able to find, otherwise public, information about you.
YOUR PRIVACY, YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
This is a particularly salient point in light of the fact that there are numerous examples of old messages and posts coming back to haunt their owners in later life. Maksoudian said, “Sometimes you may even post without thinking, but a few years down the line it will be able to come and bite you back. As a rule be very sensible with what you are posting, whilst being protective of what you’re doing.”
Maksoudian added, “If someone wants to cause damage all they have to do is take a screenshot of [a message]. So even if you delete it, they still have it.”
Just recently the newly-hired strategy executive for PayPal, Rakesh Agrawal, was fired due to messages posted on Twitter. This was despite the fact that these messages were promptly deleted only several hours after posting. This point adds weight to the argument that, as a general rule, you must be careful with what is posted online as not only can a message follow you in the public eye, but it can be incredibly difficult to retract afterwards.
As such, by taking part in a social media platform the responsibility is ultimately on you to censor out potential posts which may be damaging. “Facebook doesn’t force you to share, said Maksoudian. “It’s a public platform. You need to be sensible about what you’re sharing and what you’re discussing – whilst also bearing in mind that this discussion can be spread to the media and elsewhere.”
This is not to say that social media does not provide very important benefits to its users. “They are offering tools which are great to help you with your life, staying close with your family and friends, knowing what’s happening in other communities,” states Maksoudian. “Often, these platforms are also provided free of charge to the user, with money being made through corporate advertising. Indeed, these services would not be able to exist free to the user without this targeted advertising. Through using a social media network, the user is arguably giving his/her tacit consent to have any information garnered used for advertising by the network to guarantee its continued existence. This is the trade-off which we make in order to use these sites. Just know the benefits and disadvantages, as well as the limitations, of being online, chatting and sharing your whole life.”
By their very nature social media platforms ask for more information to provide a better service to us. “That’s a concern; do I give them more information? If I don’t then they’re not as useful, if I do then I have much more functionality. That’s a decision each individual needs to make.” So, although more data allows for greater marketing opportunities to a network; with a better profile of you as an individual a social media platform is able to offer you a better service. For instance, a platform may be able to provide a user with links to potential friends and online communities which may not have been found otherwise – possibly only because more data will improve the service that a network can make.
Facebook recently posted record breaking Q1 results, and usage is growing fast – with new technologies being invented to speed up the connection of ‘the next billion’. In the UAE, Maksoudian says that usage is growing quickly among businesses. “One aspect to measure that companies are getting into social media is by checking the number of social media agencies that are out in the UAE. More agencies are opening every day, obviously because there is a genuine demand. Most companies are now on social media or are joining social media. There is growth and huge potential.
“As a general trend people are sharing more and want to share more. Once you share more, you feel closer to other people, and the world feels smaller and more connected, so there’s that good psychological aspect.”
Ultimately, for the time being however, the most important aspect to remember when using social media according to Maksoudian is: “You need to always be consciously aware of what you are doing online. Just keep that in mind whatever you are doing… So look, if it’s digital, it’s pretty much out there. Long story short.”
Emirates Review Issue 8 – July 2014