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Would you be com­fort­able if your em­ployer or your mother saw your post? This is what you need to ask your­self be­fore you up­load that photo or state­ment to so­cial me­dia, or share other peo­ple’s posts. “Any prospec­tive em­ployer will def­i­nitely google you be­fore a pos­si­ble in­ter­view, so think be­fore you post,” warns Kathryn Ast­bury, mar­ket­ing man­ager at The SpaceS­ta­tion, the largest dig­i­tal me­dia saleshouse in SA. “Pri­vacy is, in fact, a thing of the past.”

More than 30% of the South African pop­u­la­tion, or 16 mil­lion peo­ple, use Face­book, ac­cord­ing to me­dia an­a­lyst Arthur Gold­stuck’s re­search on so­cial me­dia and the in­ter­net.

The ma­jor­ity, or 14 mil­lion, of South Africans ac­cess Face­book through their smart­phones.

By Au­gust, about 8 mil­lion South Africans were reg­u­lar Twit­ter users and more than 6 mil­lion had LinkedIn pro­files. In­sta­gram’s local con­sumers stood at nearly 4 mil­lion.

LinkedIn is a pro­fes­sional plat­form where peo­ple share cor­po­rate mes­sages and in­for­ma­tion, and where po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees can con­tact one an­other.

“On this plat­form, you should post pro­fes­sional pho­tos of your­self, as well as a de­tailed his­tory of your achieve­ments and ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Ast­bury.

Pic­tures of your baby and your dog be­long on Face­book.

“Peo­ple tend to share more per­sonal in­for­ma­tion on Face­book be­cause only friends you’ve ac­cepted can see your in­for­ma­tion. It there­fore feels like a smaller, safer group than, for ex­am­ple, Twit­ter,” Ast­bury says.

How­ever, she warns that peo­ple need to tighten up their pri­vacy set­tings and re­mem­ber that they have no con­trol over how fol­low­ers share and dis­trib­ute their in­for­ma­tion.

Also, peo­ple do not nec­es­sar­ily want the whole world to know if some­one has gone away, for ex­am­ple, and their house is stand­ing empty – thought­less posts can end up cost­ing a lot.

So­cial-me­dia law ex­pert Emma Sadleir says that all laws in “real life” re­lat­ing to defama­tion, pri­vacy, data pro­tec­tion, ha­rass­ment, dig­nity, hate speech and sex­ual of­fences also ap­ply to in­ter­net life.

So think care­fully be­fore you up­load a post or share one – the con­tent that you share will also re­flect pos­i­tively or neg­a­tively on you. Also re­mem­ber that a post does not nec­es­sar­ily dis­ap­pear just be­cause it’s been deleted – your fol­low­ers may have made screen­shots of it.

Ast­bury says: “Con­ver­sa­tions on Twit­ter are dif­fer­ent from Face­book be­cause you can only use a cer­tain Pri­vacy set­tings help, but that still does not mean you have full con­trol of what hap­pens to your in­for­ma­tion. Con­ver­sa­tions on Face­book or Twit­ter are not pri­vate. Don’t think you can make con­tro­ver­sial or il­le­gal state­ments and get away with it. num­ber of char­ac­ters and the whole world can see what you’ve writ­ten.”

Ast­bury says peo­ple of­ten rely on Twit­ter to keep up with the lat­est news and share it with oth­ers.

“For ex­am­ple, there are also lots of pol­i­tics and po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sions among South African Twit­ter users.”

Fake news is there­fore one of the is­sues Twit­ter users need to watch out for.

“Fol­low rep­utable news out­lets and sea­soned jour­nal­ists if you want to avoid false news. Stop fol­low­ing peo­ple on so­cial me­dia who share fake news posts.”

Ast­bury be­lieves con­sumers should act proac­tively and not click on false news.

“Don’t feed the fake news in­dus­try by click­ing on these ar­ti­cles. It just grows the visibility of the ar­ti­cle.”

Mean­while, video is the fastest-grow­ing for­mat in the so­cial-me­dia en­vi­ron­ment.

“Busi­nesses and big brands are es­pe­cially start­ing to see the value of video, as stud­ies show on­line con­sumers pre­fer vis­ual con­tent,” Ast­bury says. YouTube is the ideal plat­form to show peo­ple how to use a prod­uct, she said.

Gold­stuck says 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple world­wide are ac­tive YouTube users. The av­er­age YouTube chan­nel in South Africa now has 250 000 sub­scribers, ver­sus an av­er­age of only 36 000 last year.

In ad­di­tion to per­sonal use, so­cial-me­dia plat­forms are very im­por­tant for busi­nesses.

Ast­bury says that for any small busi­ness which doesn’t have re­sources to de­velop a web­site, they should con­sider set­ting up a Face­book page for free. That way they have an on­line pres­ence.

How­ever, use other plat­forms such as YouTube, In­sta­gram and Pin­ter­est to mar­ket a busi­ness. Plat­forms reg­u­larly change their op­er­a­tions and make it harder and more ex­pen­sive to reach a cho­sen mar­ket.

As far as per­sonal use is con­cerned, it is im­por­tant to re­alise that these plat­forms do not pro­vide the same plea­sure or value to ev­ery­one. “So­cial me­dia makes our re­la­tion­ships more im­per­sonal but there’s noth­ing wrong with be­ing ‘old-fash­ioned’ in your com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” Ast­bury says.

She says that peo­ple who are fiercely pri­vate can still share spe­cial mo­ments with close friends and fam­ily.

“Cre­ate a What­sApp group and send your chil­dren’s birth­day pho­tos to the fam­ily on that.”

. Check out face­book.com or google “pri­vacy set­tings on Face­book” to learn how to bet­ter pro­tect your­self


Next week, we speak to LinkedIn’s Mar­ius Gre­eff about the dos and don’ts of cre­at­ing an on­line CV. If you have ques­tions for him, SMS them to 35697 with the key­word HUAWEI. SMSes cost R1.50

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