Skip to main content

How Not To Be Anonymous On Social Media



One of the things people worry about, when it comes to their behavior on social media, is how much of their personal opinion can be shared.

And they should worry. Putting the legal discussion of rights and responsibilities aside, we exist in a social context. People judge us by what we say, and also how we say it.

For my part I think that you should be yourself online, just like in real life. If other people don't like it then you probably shouldn't associate with them.

But there is a problem with my position. And it has to do with the continuum along which "being yourself" turns into "sharing my views that are very offensive to you."

At work, in person, we know to keep strong opinions to ourselves. But online, we are becoming more and more conditioned to say exactly what we think, and the reaction of others be damned. And unless you're expressing your views in a way that is fully anonymous, someone can easily take offense to you -- someone you work with, someone you love, someone or some group you associate with on a regular if casual basis.

So a lot of people go out there and comment anonymously -- or, at least they try. The problem is that many times these people make mistakes as they do so. In an effort to help these people protect their personal brands, I thought I would list some typical mistakes that let me know who you are, even if you think you're shielding your identity:
  • Using your name, or a portion thereof, as your handle. You may not realize that your name is very unique, and that your online activities can be traced to you if you provide other distinct identifying information as part of your commentary.
  • Visiting multiple forums under the same handle. It has been my observation that people who do this tend to reveal some sort of identifying information. It is also my observation that people who do this tend to make very extreme comments.
  • Complaining about your job, either generally or with reference to a particular person. You may keep your name offline, but if you make comments so specific that they can be traced back to you, you aren't really anonymous.
  • Providing your telephone number or address. You may not realize that many discussion forums that seem private are actually public, and that "conversations" you're having online are open to casual readers who can trace your number back to you.
  • Focusing your comments on your own involvement in an activity. If you provide enough of a description, your anonymity becomes less assured.

Again, I want to stress that there are many legal issues involved here, and that this is not a substitute for legal advice. Rather, it is a cautionary note. If you're going "the safe route" and venting anonymously online, understand somewhere in the back of your head that your anonymity is never truly assured -- especially if some hacker decides to release all the usernames and emails associated with the sites you visit and make use of.

____________________________

All opinions my own. Photo by Richard King via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …

Should I Add My Beer-Focused Instagram Account To My LinkedIn profile?

This is my response to a question originally posed on Quora.

The answer, like lawyers tend to say, is: “It depends.”

Not knowing what you do for a living, let’s assume that your LinkedIn profile is typical, meaning that it reflects the image of a corporate professional.

Would your boss, or a prospective employer, think badly of you for promoting your passion for beer?

Traditional product branding says that you should focus on your unique selling proposition fairly single-mindedly. Your goal is to create a space in the customer’s mind dedicated to your brand so that when they want to purchase something like it, they shortcut all alternatives and go straight to you.

So from a product branding point of view, putting a personal beer account on your professional profile is distracting. It tells an employer that you’re not totally focused on the encyclopedic and ever-evolving knowledge, skills and abilities required to do your valuable type of job.

However, people are not products, and appl…