Last year, serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban filmed a video for Inc. explaining the biggest mistake you're making on social media. It's since gone viral, having been shared over 280 thousand times (You can view the video at the bottom of this article.)
So what's the mistake?
People let their posts live forever.
As Cuban explains:
Every person you follow on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook...every person you retweet, repin, repost, renote, regram on social media defines who you are. And there are applications now that are collecting every bit of that and creating profiles about you and anticipating what you're going to do next.
By what you do on social media, you are creating a profile about yourself. And that is going to be used, not just by online companies, but that's going to be used in every walk of life.
Cuban goes on to paint a picture of a world where your profiles can be used against you in a variety of ways. Although I don't see all of Cuban's predictions coming true, I do strongly agree with his general point:
Most people don't think enough about what they're posting online.
Whatever you post online has the potential to be there for the rest of your life. That doesn't mean you should live in constant fear of what others can do to you. It does mean that you should be careful, cautious, and thoughtful about what you put on the internet.
Here are two things you can do to help protect yourself from becoming a victim of your past shares:
1. Think before you post.
Whether it's a blog post, comment, picture, or tweet, don't just think twice before hitting that button. Think three, four, five times.
Many will feel that this is common sense, but as social media and online behavior evolves quicker than ever, an overwhelming pattern of "posting from the gut" has emerged. And even with apps like Snapchat and Cuban's own Cyber Dust, there will always be hackers and new tech that are one step ahead. (Not to mention old tech--screenshot, anyone?)
Fix: Before posting, take a few seconds to answer the following questions.
- Am I sure I want to be identified with this post/comment/picture? (If not, wait at least a day before making a decision.)
- Could someone easily use this information to put me in a bad light?
- Is it likely that my opinion about this will change in the near future?
If you can answer these questions definitively, feel free to post with confidence.
2. Manage your content.
If you have online profiles, they're the biggest contributors to your "brand". They identify you. Nowadays, if someone wants to learn who you are, the first stops are LinkedIn, Twitter, and FaceBook.
The problem lies in how long you've had those profiles. The person you were five years ago, or last year, or in some cases last week, is not who you are today.
It's therefore important that you go back and delete the messages that you don't want people to associate with you. It's especially vital to do this when your accounts will get new traffic--such as before a networking event or your big appearance on Shark Tank.
It's true, whatever you've posted may continue to exist out there somewhere, in some shape or form, even after deleting. But the less available it is, the less likely it is to come back and haunt you.
Fix: Schedule regular times (once a week, month, year) to go through each of your social media profiles and edit, remove tweets, etc. View it as necessary regular maintenance, similar to getting your oil changed or keeping your tax records straight.
Following these two simple steps will help you stay in control of your online presence, and make sure you're always putting your best foot forward.