Social media security: how to use Twitter and LinkedIn


There are a couple of caveats when it comes to using Twitter. On the one hand, privacy is far less complicated to manage on Twitter. You don’t have to worry about managing specific tweets to go out to specific people (yet). All you have to do is go to Twitter’s home page, click the icon of the head in the corner, and then click “Settings”.

Scrolling down, you’ll see an option that says “Protect My Privacy” which you can either check or uncheck. The benefit of having your account private is that all of your tweets will now be protected, with a few basic caveats.

If you previously had a public twitter account and have been retweeted, that is still out there. Twitter won’t be able to undo any of that. I’ll go into how to manage damage control later. Having a protected account also means you tend to miss out on some of the larger parts of being involved in Twitter. If you want to participate in any contests, promotions, public hashtags, or anything else that requires your tweets to be visible to anyone but your followers, you won’t be able to.

Your followers won’t be able to retweet any of your tweets without a warning, so if you plan to use your Twitter accounts to solicit donations for your fun run, it might not work out as well as it could. And if you reply to anyone who’s not following you, they won’t be able to see it. So forget sending Stephen Fry a clever rogue tweet and hoping he becomes your best Twitter friend.

The best approach for this is to create a locked, private account where you can communicate with your friends under a pseudonym or screen name you frequently use, anything that’s not connected with your real name in any way. What you’re trying to avoid here is anything unprofessional popping up when your legal name is searched in Twitter. Equally, you want to avoid connections with your email address, so it’s best here to employ the methods I advised in the first article and have an email for work purposes that you give employers. That way, they can’t search it and find your Twitter account.

Be aware of what you put in your Name and Bio fields. You can find those under the “Profile” tab of your “Settings” page.

Keeping a private Twitter for your friends to hide from potential employers won’t do you much good if your name is Pete Townsend, your Twitter handle is @awesomepete, “Pete Townsend” is in your “Name” field and your bio talks about how much you love getting drunk on Friday nights. You don’t have to be completely cryptic or avoid any mentions of your name, but always be aware that, even if your account is protected, your name is still searchable and they can still see your bio and your profile picture.

So what if you already have a public Twitter account? And you’ve tweeted some pretty unflattering stuff, been retweeted, and your username happens to be @PeteTownsend? Well, for one, you can always change your username under the “Account” tab under “Settings”. Changing your username will go into effect across the site, which can help you do any damage control if you take into account the other suggestions and remove other indications toward your name.

Step Four: LinkedIn

While most of the other social networks I’ve discussed here receive a lot of use from young people just starting off, LinkedIn is a service I feel like most young people haven’t really taken advantage of. It may be because younger users don’t have much to fill their profile with just yet, but having a LinkedIn profile with as much information on it as possible may be helpful for you in a variety of ways.

The first quick reason is that it gives someone something to see when they do look you up online. While most of social media security has been about hiding things from employers, depending on what type of job you’re applying for, it’s not always good that no results appear when your name is Googled. If you don’t have the time to look into building a website or starting a regular blog, having at least a LinkedIn profile up gives your employers something to find and something that’s very relevant to what they would like to see.

Secondly, a LinkedIn profile is very useful for your own records. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been trying to design a CV for a specific position and I can’t recall where I worked and for how long. If you put all of your work, even something that isn’t immediately relevant for the position you’re gunning for, you can have a running record to pull from when you decide to design a CV for a specific position and won’t have to fumble with older CVs or your memory.

LinkedIn also has a Jobs section of their profile, which is incredibly useful. It makes applying for jobs a little bit easier when you have all of your CV information right there. It’s simple to attach CV specifically tailored to the job or just include your profile. Once you’ve built up your LinkedIn profile, it can be more useful for you than a CV. While CVs have always had specific rules about what order information is presented in (e.g. should it be one page or two?), your LinkedIn profile will have a whole host of information without having to limit yourself too badly.

Another huge benefit of LinkedIn is your ability to anyone without much fear. You can connect with friends, colleagues, teachers, or even us it as a way to connect with people you’ve only ever briefly spoken to. Be careful adding random people, however. If you try to add too many people randomly without knowing them, you might find yourself unable to add people for a while.

Definitely take advantage of setting up a full LinkedIn profile, making as many connections as you can, getting some recommendations, and utilizing the Groups and the Jobs feature to the best of your abilities.

While some people avoid social media like the plague in order to keep their records clean, following these simple steps will allow you to participate in these networks without risking your private life from crossing over into your work life.

This is the second in a series of articles on how to protect your privacy online.

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