Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How to spot a social media scam - and 5 tips to avoid them

Social media scams have always been around, but it seems that each year they get a little more sophisticated and a bit more targeted. 

This week on Facebook a lot of folks in Rochester, N.Y. (where I’m based) opened Facebook and there in their news feed was a post seemingly offering a "free $200 grocery coupon" (see image) to Wegmans supermarkets – the biggest and by-far-the-most-popular chain in the area. The posts were accompanied by poster’s comments such as “Wow” and “Can you believe this?”
The widely shared scam post

Well … no. There were a couple of clues right in the post that it was a scam.
  • The URL (web address) at the bottom of the public post does not look like it belongs to Wegmans’s official page
  • The English is fractured – typical in scams since they are often posted overseas by non-native English speakers 
Then, if an offer seems too good to be true, well it likely is. So don’t ever click on the headline or any link before going to Wegmans (or any supposed posting company’s) official social media page.

In this case a quick visit to Wegmans’ official Facebook page shows that this "offer" is not posted there and instead there’s a warning about the scam.
The warning on the Wegmans Facebook page

If you do click through to the offer (not recommended as this can be the way the scammers download malicious software onto your computer) there will be abundant evidence that this is a scam. For example: In the case of the Wegmans "offer" it was a digital counter counting down how many coupons supposedly remained. Every time the page refreshed it went back to 360 and started counting down again… 

And, if you are a business that has been spoofed and your organization’s name associated with a scam you should quickly do two things:

  • Post something on your own social accounts warning about the scam so people will find the information there.
  • Contact the affected social networks and ask for the malicious scam material to be taken down and the poster banned.

Both of which Wegmans did very quickly after the coupon scam surfaced …. 

So, in general what are the best ways anyone can avoid falling for a scam?

Top 5 Tips to Avoid a Social Media Scam

1. Does this news/post sound too good to be true? If it does it likely is. Headlines screaming unbelievably exciting or tragic news. Or offers of cash or goods that seem like they would make your life a lot better. Or words such as “Unbelievable,” “Shocking” and “Disturbing.” All are often related to an attempt to get your attention and get you to click.

As mentioned above, the first thing to do is seek verification by going to an official social network site to see if the post exists there. Or go to Snopes.com and enter a few key words from the item – Snopes is the best online debunker of fake news/information (and, in fact, had an item posted about the Wegmans coupon scam within a few hours). Even a general Google search might turn up warnings that something is a scam.

2. Think before acting: Typically scammers want to make you feel you have to act quickly. Nothing on social media is a matter of life or death. For example, those urgent appeals from a friend who lost their wallet overseas? Think about it: Why are they using Facebook or Twitter to reach out to all their friends?

3. Ask yourself: Is this a chain letter? The old chain letter used to ask people to forward a letter to a number of friends to bring good luck or cash. Today, by way of examples, the chain letter takes the form of "Tweet this image and Bill Gates will donate $100 to help premature babies" or "Share this post with your Facebook friends and Mark Zuckerberg will randomly pick 1,000 people to each receive $1 million in Facebook stock." These appeals almost always tap into a grain of truth, but would these very rich men really do what is proposed?

4. Watch for phishing attacks: You innocently click on a link you find on a Facebook or Twitter post and you are asked to log in using your Facebook or Twitter credentials – don’t. Yes there may be a legitimate reason some sites want you to do this, but before you do check out the URL of the page you are now on. Is it still a Facebook page or some other legitimate site? If not this site is wanting you to sign in so it can grab your credentials and hijack your account.

5. Be cautious of shortened URLs: Don’t blindly click on shortened URLs. You'll see them everywhere on Twitter, for example. But because they are shortened and consist of a garbled collection of characters you can’t tell where the link will take you. The best practice is only click on shortened links from social media posters you highly trust. This is not foolproof, but offers a degree of protection.

Hopefully these tips will spare some of you the grief of having been fooled by a scam or, worse, having your social media accounts compromised.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Collected knowledge: 5 Useful Posts About Snapchat for Business

Snapchat is apparently the social media platform to pay attention to in 2016 – for users and for business. 
Snapchat for business

According to an article in Business Insider Why Snapchat is 'the one to watch in 2016' - has offered many new features for users and has made it a more advertising-friendly place for business.

With 86 percent of Snapchat’s 100 million active daily users falling into the 13-37 age range it’s clearly a place to reach a younger audience.

If you’re still not understanding Snapchat or how to get into it for the sake of your business here are a few resources that may help.

5 Useful Posts About Snapchat for Business

But first, if you literally know little to nothing about Snapchat you might start with the basics at Snapchat Support 

Small businesses may find the list of tips from Brian Solomon (@Brian_Solomon) at Forbes useful: How To Use Snapchat: A Small Business Guide.

Kristi Hines (@kikolani) writing for Social Media Examiner offers a comprehensive guide to Snapchat for marketing purposes in Snapchat for Business: A Guide for Marketers

An AdWeek article by Lauren Johnson (@LaurenJohnson) has tips for all businesses using Snapchat with examples of brands who are already doing it very well. Read 5 Ways Brands Are Standing Out and Building Audiences on Snapchat

And for an update on features added recently see Snapchat Adds New Features, Allows Users to Re-View Snaps (for a Price) by Andrew Hutchinson (@adhutchinson) writing for Social Media Today.

And last, but not least, for a look at how Snapchat will become even more advertiser-friendly in 2016 see Snapchat is building an ad technology platform by Garett Sloane (@GarettSloane) of DigiDay.

So, if you haven’t explored Snapchat for business will you? In 2016 it seems like it will be the social media platform to work with.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Personal Branding With Social Media: 4 Links

I’m honored to be part the very first Upstate Social Sessions conference Oct. 31 in Rochester, N.Y.

The panel I’m on – Brand Yourself: Advancing Your Career Through Social Media – looks to be a lot of fun. My co-panelists are Alex Fitzpatrick, a Deputy Tech Editor at Time magazine, and Rachel Barnhart, a news anchor and reporter at WROC-TV in Rochester.

Since I’m assuming the focus will mostly be on more advanced techniques for using social media for personal branding I thought it might be helpful to offer a collection of blog posts on some of the basics of personal branding. Here goes:


Quality SM connections for personal branding Making connections is what social media is all about. When it comes to personal branding however, the quality of those connections is important. For example, imagine a recruiter looking through your Twitter Followers and finding a spammy “Buy 5,000 Twitter followers” account or, worse, a porn account. What does that say about you that you didn't block such accounts? Read more … 


Blogging for personal branding Building or improving your personal brand can seem like facing a massive mountain. But some strategic use of social media can help anyone improve their personal brand – or the collective impression online search results speak about who you are. One of the best places to start? A blog. To read more … 


Personal branding – don’t leave it to chance Like it or not a personal brand is something that follows you wherever you go from your personal life to the work world and beyond. It’s the combined information (Internet postings, social media updates etc.) about you that shows up when someone searches online. Don't leave it to chance. To read more …


6 Overlooked SM Personal Branding Must-Dos Personal branding – it’s all the rage. Working hard to make sure that everything that shows up online – social media and everything else – reflects well on you and paints an accurate picture of who you are. But there a few things that often get overlooked when considering working on a personal brand. To read more …

6 Overlooked SM Personal Branding Must-Dos


Personal branding – it’s all the rage. Working hard to make sure that everything that shows up online – social media and everything else – reflects well on you and paints an accurate picture of who you are.

But there a few things that often go overlooked when considering working on a personal brand.

6 Personal Branding Must-Dos

1. Updating: Stay on top of your various online presences and what they say about you. If you have a job title change, be sure to update it in all of your bios. If that profile photo more than 10 years old its time to update it – everywhere.

2. Social media and SM connections: Reevaluate all of you social media presences. Do they all still make sense to tell your story? Are there others you should be on? Evaluate your connections for quality. Be sure that anyone looking at who you’re connected to is not going to be less than impressed.

To read more on this topic, see Quality SM connections for personal branding 

3. Blogging: Writing and regularly posting to a blog is viewed by some as a bit of a vanity pastime. They could not be more wrong. To claim extra internet real estate, show off some expertise or to simply get found in Google search results – it’s hard to beat the power of a blog. 

To read more on this topic, see Blogging for personal branding 

4. Your focus: Yes, you’re focused on things you can do to your personal brand stand out, but ultimately your success in social media is mostly about how social you are and how others perceive you. To that end make your time on social mostly about others. Be helpful: help others connect, help others learn and most of all notice, and comment on, the hard work of others. It’s the No. 1 commandment here: 10 Commandments for Social Media 

5. Get uncomfortable: It’s easy to stick to connecting to people we know; to interact with people like us. But the real secret sauce of social media is the opportunity to meet people all over the world who have interesting stories to share.

Make a point of connecting to at least one intriguing Twitter or other social network account per week and look for ways to interact with the account-holder. 

You’ll be surprised where this might lead in terms of connections down the road. 

6. Get real: Finally, but most importantly you need to turn all this online activity in something in the real world or IRL as the kids say). Massive effort on social media is not worth a hill of beans if you don’t make new connections in the real world.

How to do this? Look for opportunities to attend meetups. Suggest your own meetup. If you’re visiting a different city or even a different country let your connections know and offer to buy coffee so you can meet. It truly is a very gratifying and fun experience to meet someone you’ve been connected to on social media for years to finally meet them in real life…. 

There you have it: Six often overlooked keys to stronger personal branding wit social media and other online presences. Do you have other suggestions? I’d love to hear them.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Personal branding – don’t leave it to chance

Like it or not a personal brand is something that follows you wherever you go from your personal life to the work world and beyond.
It’s the combined information (Internet postings, social media updates etc.) about you that shows up when someone searches online. So it probably makes sense to figure out how to make your brand the best it can be.

5 steps to take this weekend to boost your personal brand:

1. Define your tactics:
Ask yourself: What do you want people to find when they search for you online? Someone they’d like to …
  • Hire: Then focus on optimizing your Linkedin profile (and not just to get it to Linkedin’s 100 percent complete status, but adding images, videos, examples of your work etc.) Consider using other channels too: A blog to demonstrate your knowledge, Pinterest boards to demonstrate any visual work and interests, and Twitter to share your work and to network without the barriers of Linkedin.
  • Get to know: Start by picking three platforms to focus on that will allow you to tell your story. For example, if your interests are sports, travel and reading consider creating boards on Pinterest for each of you specific interests.
2. Define yourself:
Develop a short description of who you are, what you believe in and what you do best. In other words: How would you tell your online audience why you’re the right person to work with or connect with? 

This two- or three-sentence statement is for you, but should guide how you describe yourself - everywhere. Be sure to describe what makes you different from other people with the same or similar expertise. 

If you’re not sure what that is, do some research on well-known people in your field. Observe what they do and adapt it to your own way of doing things.

3. Define your expertise:
What particular skills and knowledge do you want to be known for? Who do you hope to connect with?

Determining what makes you unique helps you understand what sets you apart from crowd on the Internet. 

Your areas of expertise define who you are and what you do. They should be included in your social media profile descriptions and should include your main keywords.

4. Define your approach:
How will you use various social media platforms to advance your brand? For example, will ...
  • You only use Linkedin to post things relevant to your career or will you also post a few things that show some of your personality?
  • Facebook be strictly for people you’ve met in real life or consider personal friends?
  • Twitter be a place to share industry news and find new connections?
  • You use a scheduling tool such as Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts to maintain a regular social presence or will you post organically as you find interesting material?
  • You use tools such as Empire Avenue, Kred and Klout to monitor your efforts and guide your progress?

5. Define your success:
What will success look like to you?
  • Making lots of online connections that become in real life (IRL) connections?
  • Enhancing your current job/career?
  • Getting a better job?
Whatever you settle on set some future calendar reminders to look back at what you’ve done. Then decide which efforts are worth continuing and which should be dropped.

Remember your personal brand is an evolving, living thing. The only thing you can do "wrong" is to ignore it and let it change, or worse: stagnate, while you remain blissfully unaware…

Does this help? Will you use social media and a plan to boost your personal brand? I’d love to hear back from you.

Related posts:
Quality SM connections for personal branding
Blogging for personal branding