In the business world of the 21st Century there are not too many business owners (and staff) who don’t have a social media account of some description.
Think LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, Reddit, Quora, Telegram, WeChat, Viber and Tumblr, to name just a few.
Social media profiles highlight individual social characteristics with the aim of sharing information and making connection with existing clients, reaching your ideal target market, and/or future referrers.
Social media is increasingly being used by practitioners to provide ‘behind the scenes’ experiences, sharing of personal values and life experiences. The aim is to increase follower numbers, build brand awareness and generate leads or inquiries.
What does your digital profile reveal about you?
By ‘digital profile’ we don’t mean just what a Google search reveals. What does your digital footprint, or your electronic shadow (the trail of information that is left behind each time you use digital technology) reveal?
Information that you may be sharing via your electronic shadow includes, who you follow online; what organisations, interests or hobbies you are involved in; and what sites, pages and content you have written/contributed to/liked/commented on/been tagged in/shared. What do other online users say about you, or your business or service?
Why is this important?
- Your digital reputation is created by what you do online, as well as what others may post about you. When did you last do an audit? Information you post online can enable hackers, scammers and other malicious actors (including your business competition!) to build a profile about you.
Those seemingly harmless Facebook posts that ask you to comment with the name of your favourite pet, details of your first job or your favourite holiday destination are building a digital profile about you. That data might be used in a number of ways – potential password guesses (I know you use XYZ as your practice management system since you are constantly spruiking its usefulness on social media – did you know automation tools enable hackers to test password combinations rapidly), digital identity theft resulting in identity fraud, cloning, impersonation; financial losses and reputational issues.
- Security. We hear a lot about cyber security these days but we also need to be aware of our personal security.
We’re aware of a practitioner who received a threat to harm against their child from another party in litigation proceedings. The practitioner’s child featured on their social media accounts and that party knew what school the child attended.
There is an Australian Federal Police guide available with information on how to protect your child online.
- Professional conduct. A New South Wales practitioner criticised COVID public health orders on social media and found himself having to respond to charges by the Law Society of NSW that he had engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct. Subsequently the law society suspended his practising certificate for 12 months.1
- Ethical obligations. Inadvertently breaching confidentiality by posting a photo of your office with a computer screen or hardcopy file in the background with client or security2 details or posting a win outside of court without the client’s informed consent are a couple of examples of breaching those obligations.
- Disadvantaging client representation. Other practitioners might perceive certain personality traits from your social media posts that they might use to their client’s advantage.
Managing your digital profile
Consider the purpose of your social media accounts – if it is to connect and socialise with family and friends, check your account settings, review who can connect with you and who can see your posts, and what others can see when friends or family post about you or tag you in photos.
If your social media account is for business purposes, do you need separate accounts – a private account to connect with family and friends and a business account for professional interaction? Critically evaluate whether information on your business profile actually promotes your purpose. The pictures of your child might be endearing but are you unnecessarily putting them in harm’s way? Do they really add value to your business?
Social media is here to stay – just be cautious about what you share and the potential ramifications3 of placing that information in a public forum.
- Exercise caution with social media quizzes, polls and questions requiring you to reveal personal (particularly historical) information. It might seem like a bit of harmless fun, but your personal details are being warehoused.
- Don’t include sensitive information in your public social media profile bio, for example, your date of birth.
- Carefully check images before posting – are you inadvertently sharing your location, your home or confidential information?
- Enable multifactor authentication on all of your social media accounts. This may provide some protection from malicious actors seeking to steal your credentials and hold your profile to ransom.
- As with emails, be careful clicking on links.
- Only download apps from reputable sources (that is, Google Play or the Apple App Store), not direct from social media posts.
- Curate your followers. 1500 bot accounts aren’t going to drive more business to your practice, vanity metrics may just increase your risk of being scammed.
- Be aware of brand impersonations.
Want to talk to an expert about your digital profile? Our solicitors have years of experience running their own practices and are able to provide guidance, discuss current trends affecting small firms or touch base on pertinent issues that you may be concerned about. Submit your EOI today!
1 Buckley v Council of the Law Society of New South Wales  NSWCATOD 197.
2 Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency photo, January 2018.
3 Comcare v Banerji  HCA 23.