Saturday, March 27, 2010

Learn to notice too-good-to-be-true Facebook offers

Social Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Friday, March 26, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Metro section - pg. F4

Facebook scams abound: I admit, I take great pleasure in pointing out to people that they've been taken in by a hoax, especially when it's so easy to find out the truth about something that sounds too good to be true. When friends started joining a Facebook group that purported to be giving away a $1,000 gift card to Wal-Mart, I immediately became suspicious. A simple Google search showed that it was a scam. And it certainly wasn't Wal-Mart's fault. They had nothing to do with it.

It was a sad statement on society, though, that many of my Facebook friends who joined the group could use more money in their lives right at this moment.

If a Facebook group or fan page pops up that sounds too good to be true, it usually is. And no, Fcebook won't soon be charging $3.99 per month... and no, there's no official "dislike" button... and no, there's no official Facebook webcam... and no, you can't see who just viewed your profile.

Would-be robbers checking your status? I'm not sure if it's an urban legend, but I've always heard that would-be robbers like to check the obituaries to see when certain people will be out of the house. After all, if grandma died, it's probably a reasonable assumption that the people listed as survivors will be at the funeral, leaving their home as easy pickings.

While it's a good idea to only allow personally known Facebook friends to see your status updates -- those who likely won't be breaking in to your house when you're not home -- the way things are done on Twitter are a bit different. Only the most paranoid and secretive Twitter users block their status updates from "non-friends". Since you're only posting updates and links, the same need for privacy espoused on Facebook (and all your family photos, personal information, etc.) isn't as necessary.

I'm not a paranoid person, but just be aware that if you're constantly announcing on Twitter that your house is empty, someone with less-than-honourable motives may see the update and pay you a visit when you're not home. Again, it likely won't happen, but again, Twitter users seem to be a lot less private than Facebook users. And they can usually afford to be because Twitter is pretty much just status updates and links, whereas Facebook can be your entire life story, if that's what you choose to post.

So the next time you tweet that the entire family's out of the house for a week, just be aware that anyone can see that update unless you've blocked your tweets to non-users... and not many serious Twitter users do that.

Be careful what you post: There are many debates happening online now regarding a variety of provincial, federal and international issues. Remember, what you post can be seen by anyone. Some of the amazingly inappropriate, vile, insulting comments being posted by both Facebook and Twitter users cause me to shake my head. Surprisingly, these people don't even try to hide who they are, including links to their company websites, personal homepages, etc.

There's a very short road from being considered passionate and credible on a certain issue to being considered a complete out-of-control fruitcake. Free speech abounds on the Internet. Just remember that free speech also comes with consequences. In the end, say what you want, but try to be respectful of others. Just be prepared to suffer the consequences like big boys and girls when you don't. Potential employers and clients may be determining whether or not they want anything to do with you.

Learn to retweet properly: One of my biggest pet peeves is being retweeted by someone who doesn't know how to do it properly. This can cause a huge headache when someone adds their own personal comment but it looks like you're the one who made it.

Recently, I posted something that was retweeted (or "forwarded") by a Twitter follower of mine. This is usually a good thing and is welcomed, however they added their comment after the "RT" and not before. For example, I may have written: "John is a nice guy." My follower thought it was interesting and would send it to his followers like this: "RT @briancormier: John is a nice guy".

If you have your own thing to add, you could write, "Too bad he's so ugly RT @briancormier: John is a nice guy." Written this way, the "ugly" comment is clearly understood to be the comment of the person retweeting, and not mine. The person who retweeted me, however, thought John was ugly and wrote it this way: "RT @ briancormier: John is a nice guy... too bad he's so ugly," making it look like I'm the one who said he was ugly. I was furious. If you're going to play the game, learn the rules! Making yourself look stupid is one thing, but embarrassing someone else is another thing.

If you're new to social media, sit down with someone who knows what they're doing who can show you the ropes, otherwise you may cause more harm than good. You may alienate your followers if you don't learn how to retweet properly.

Unfriend wisely: If you haven't heard by now, "unfriend" was the New Oxford American Dictionary's word of the year for 2009. As you may have guessed, it means to remove someone as a friend on social media sites such as Facebook.

If you're trying to build a reputation online, unfriending should be done with caution. It may be best to be more selective on who you add to your friends list rather than have to deal with rejecting people after you've already interacted with them. Or, if you want to add people you don't know, put them on "limited profile" status on Facebook so they only see certain things, or start a fan page that is more business-like and without all your family photos, personal updates, etc.


Sarah Butland said...

Thanks for squashing some of the rumours, maybe more people will realize how fake most of these "too good to be true" groups are. I'm not sure everyone will fall under this umbrella but at least my invites have seemed to die down a bit.

Now if only someone would explain how pointless Farmville is that would be great!

Ray Hiltz said...

Excellent post, Brian; especially the "retweet" advice. Have to admit, I had been guilty of that faux-pas in the past; thinking that you should lead with the original tweet then follow with your comment.

The irony of social media is that it is so accessible (and free) that people don't realize that once you hit that post or share button, your thoughts become public domain.

Now I can add you to my Social Media guru list - oh, never mind, you're already there.

Rest this weekend; you've been a very busy boy.