The most common clash I see between the social network user and the hosting company is that users want functionality and free connectivity, while companies are looking to pleasure investors by generating revenue. The reason why MySpace won’t exist in five years is because they chose advertising over the user experience, whereas Facebook did the opposite. MySpace made quick money (more of a get rich quick model), while Facebook took the long-term approach, which has proven to be successful. This post is not meant to say that social networks are evil or that you shouldn’t register for accounts and be active on them. I preach about social networking every day, so I’m not going against my core message, but I do believe you have to be aware of the issues that are going to affect your life on the net now and for time to come.
Facebook has triumphed over Google when it comes to traffic, and now they have 6.8% of all business internet traffic, so there’s no doubt they have a financial future. Below are five reasons why you shouldn’t trust social networks that you’re probably already active on and how to manage the networks more effectively, and without fear.
1. If you don’t pay Ning, you lose your community.
This is perhaps the most bold move this year by a social network. Ning’s new CEO will be forcing people who have free (advertising-based) social networks on the platform to either pay or lose their platform/community. There are 2.3 million networks on Ning, a website that allows everyone to establish their own social network. Users will have to pay or export their network to another platform, which I’m sure will be complicated. The reason why this is such a significant play is that people have invested a lot of time with their Ning communities, including recruiting new members, building profiles, sharing content, and the promotion of their Ning communities, which helps the owner and Ning, as a company looking to build their brand. Other social networks might take the same route at some point, which means we might have to pay to play on these networks and if we lose a percentage of people who won’t pay, it could really hurt our personal and professional relationships. I’m concerned, but relieved that I didn’t build a Ning community, because a lot of people I know are either going to make the investment or be stuck with almost nothing in return for their evangelism and time.
What you should do: Use social networks to market your brand, but don’t invest your soul in them because “the devil” might take it from you, without your consent. Spend less time social networking and more time developing your blog as your main content source and as the website you control. The CEO of Ning can’t shut your blog down, nor can anyone else. I would rather have ten thousand blog subscribers than twenty thousand Facebook friends because those could wash away next week depending on Facebook’s policies.
2. Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy.
What you should do: Be smart about the information you publish online. Would your grandma approve of it? I would think about all of your content as public and not private so when Facebook or another social network makes it public in the future, you won’t be as upset. Zuckerberg’s comments show a glimpse at Facebook future, so prepare yourself now for “armageddon.”
3. Twitter sells your tweets to the Library of Congress.
Without your approval, Twitter’s founders made an agreement with the Library of Congress, allowing them to store all of your tweets forever. Overall, this is several billion tweets that have been publicly posted, regardless if the tweet says that you just brushed your teeth or that you just came back from your trip to Russia. They believe it’s an amazing thing and it shows that people care about your personal life now, but I think that it’s a major cover up (possibly a conspiracy). Basically, the government wants to have more control over online communication – including Twitter – so this move will allow them to spy on us. What you tweet today could hurt your career in five years. Everything is on record, so if you’re drunk and tweet something you shouldn’t have, the Library of Congress will have it. If you commit a crime in ten years, the judge might use a tweet against you.
What you should do: Just like with Facebook, you’ll want to be extra careful with your tweets now because they are part of your permanent record. They are also viewable in search engines, including Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.
4. You will receive spam and viruses.
Spam and viruses are commonplace on social networks. There is even some virus going around on Gmail right now, so it’s not just social networks. In a recent study by JanRain of 170,000 websites, 39% of people trusted Google with their login credentials, 23% trusted Facebook, and only 6% trusted Twitter. As you can see, people are paranoid with social networking and I believe it’s because of past issues. I bet you’ve received Facebook spam from your friend. It made them look bad, even if it wasn’t their fault because their name and face was attached to it, and it was just plain annoying for you to deal with. I remember viewing a survey where it showed that 1% of Twitter profiles were spam accounts. Sophos identified that 57% of social networking users have reported spam, which is a 70.6% increase compared to last year.
What you should do: Be conscious of who you are friend’ing and whose following you, so that you can block spam before you become a spam bot yourself. I doubt social networks will ever completely block spam because spammers will experiment with new methods again and again.
5. They are restricted in the workplace.
A lot of companies, especially financial institutions, block social networking sites out of fear that data could leak. A new report out shows that 38% of chief information officers (CIOs) have now implemented stricter social networking policies. If social networks didn’t have issues, then they might not be blocked by as many companies. Of course, you can use your mobile phone at work to tap into your social profiles, but companies are getting wiser and can tap into your activities if it’s a corporate phone. I predict that there will be more formal policies in the future, but it will take companies time to adjust to the new media landscape and to how connected their employees are to the outside world, not just the inside.
What you should do: Ask your manager or email IT to find out what your corporate policy is concerning social networking at work. The more you know what not to do, the more you can use your network to support your professional career, as well as your company, without any hassles.