Your data is being watched – the Snowden lesson

Some call him a traitor, others call him a whistleblower, but what Edward Snowden has truly done is wake Americans from a dormant sleep of indifference. Snowden’s announcements have been a wake-up call for many Americans that feel safe placing confidential information online. It is a lesson that all individuals should learn; in the era of big data everything you do is being tracked, recorded, and saved for future use.

Many Facebook users, myself included, participate in a “Facebook stalk” – sitting around visiting the pages of your friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and random people you met once at a party. Facebook is tracking exactly what you are searching, what you click on, what your mouse cursor moves over, and the photos you view.  Without a doubt, Facebook understands which advertisements work best on you, your sexual preference and individuals you’re interested in, the restaurants you visited and with whom, the movies you watch, the conversations you have, and the places you have visited.

When the Boston Marathon Bombings occurred, I’m sure that someone called up Mark Zuckerberg to ask whether Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev had Facebook accounts. Is there a doubt in my mind that Zuckerberg doesn’t back up data from everything conducted on Facebook? No.

While “deleting your creeper Facebook Search history” may make you feel more secure from the prying eyes of friends and family, it’s just as unreliable as deleting files off of a computer or deleting your Google Search history. Someone has that data. Think about how the computers of sex offenders or other individuals are confiscated and searched for data. Your information is being stored.

Every tweet you send, note you make, trolling you do on online forums, and email you draft may be watched. Think about the downfall of General Petraeus and the email trick that he used, a trick that is used by terrorists and those looking to hide their search history. He left draft emails that he figured would never be discovered. And we all know how that story ended up.

What can you do? Know that what you search, whether at work, home, or even through Google Incognito has the chance of being recorded. Sure, it may not be a secret that the NSA or CIA may be monitoring for, but what you do is never safe. We are all guilty. Don’t trust the Internet because you have a secure password, instead, research techniques that lesson your likelihood of a problem, while also bearing in mind that what you say is being recorded (also, don’t research things that may be compromising). There are more dangerous things in the world than Trojan Viruses infecting your computer.

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Every Small Business Needs Social Media

I get baffled when I hear of small business owners not using social media. To me, that’s like a company saying they can’t benefit from having an email address or a phone number. Can you imagine a business turning down free channels of engagement because they aren’t comfortable using it? It’s shooting yourself in the foot and trying to hike a mountain. Pizza places, PR firms, law offices, car dealerships, ski mountains, and oil companies can all benefit from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, etc.

The people that resist the most are those in a fields that are “not directly related to social media”.

I’ve been fortunate to have multiple social media proposal requests. As a social media specialist, I love this sort of stuff. I get to keep my skills fresh and I learn about new types of business. Recently, I had the opportunity to research social media utilization for metal refiners. Obviously, this is a fairly niche field. Think refining of gold for carburetors, computer chips, etc. What a weird field to market in, right?

Wrong! I live by a concept called “raising the bar”. Essentially, find what your competition is doing online and raise the bar a bit more. Whoever is most active becomes your level of mediocrity. If you want to do succeed, you need to do at least a little better than them; we all want more bang for our buck. If you offer a 10% discount, I’ll offer 11%. If you’re not doing anything in social media, I will jump right in there and set the bar myself.

But what is the ROI of Social Media?

This is another problematic thing for me. I hate to echo Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library as much as I do, but social media marketing can’t be measured in a traditional way. A business needs to “outcare” its competitors.

Example 1: I am a struggling restaurant, what are my options?
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