The influencer world is full of highs and lows. There's the thrill of watching your follower account soar, but on the other hand, there's also the possibility of experiencing that gut-wrenching feeling when you realize that your social media has been hacked.
The constant threat of having your accounts or online identity stolen is one of the biggest risks of sharing your life with the interconnected world, especially for social media influencers and online brands. But fear not: there are ways to safeguard your online presence and protect your privacy.
We chatted with a handful of industry experts about legal risks for social media influencers, as well as data privacy for influencers. Whether you're just learning how to monetize your social media platforms, are an experienced digital nomad or are learning to navigate remote work, there are some rules to live by when it comes to digital security and privacy.
Here we’re sharing some of our experts' best solutions with you so that you can keep doing what you love while protecting yourself and your brand.
Determine Your Definition of Privacy
Everyone has a different interpretation of what they want to keep private or public. “While some content creators are reluctant to even show their face, others are willing to share every aspect of their life,” explains Kyle Dulay from Collabstr, an online tool to find and hire influencers.
There seems to be a broad spectrum between what people consider to be too private to show and perfectly acceptable in context. But in general, influencers share more of their life online than most people, which means having an engaged audience — an audience that interacts with you more than they would a traditional celebrity. That means setting healthy boundaries.
It's important to consider what your personal line or boundary is when it comes to sharing your life online. For some people, sharing every aspect of life on social media may carry too great a risk, while others might argue that it’s essential for growing your brand and enhancing engagement with your audience. Either way, “It’s best to keep privacy at the forefront of your mind when starting out as a content creator,” Dulay says.
Reveal as Little Personal Information as Possible
One of the more obvious ways you can protect your online privacy is to simply not give too much away. “Reveal as little identifying information about yourself as possible,” says Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate from Comparitech. “Influencers and content creators are small-scale celebrities, and celebrities often attract unwanted attention,” Bischoff warns.
While sharing your life on social media may be part of your brand or identity, there are still ways to reduce your personal information being unintentionally obtained by others. This generally involves trying to keep your influencer business separate from your personal accounts as much as possible.
Some of the ways that both Bischoff and Dulay suggest for reducing your personal information being found include:
Having a dedicated business email that is not tied to any social media accounts
Having a dedicated PayPal business account that is not linked to your personal banking
Not posting your specific location in real time on social media
Approaching people search sites and data brokers to request your personal information be removed
Use a Virtual Mailbox
Of course, you want to keep private information like your personal phone number and residential addresses secret. But some sites and newsletter services require a business address, which can be challenging when running an online business or working remotely as a digital nomad.
A virtual mailbox and mail scanning service can help you stay secure while also streamlining your online business. It provides you with a real street address you can share with banks or customers, and all mail sent to it is scanned and uploaded to a secure, private portal for you to review online.
Use Two-Factor Authentication on All Accounts
Losing access to your social media accounts is probably one of the worst situations you can imagine being in, but it happens more often than you might think. According to Google, more than 15 percent of internet users have reported experiencing either an email or social network account being hacked.
While data privacy for influencers is a big concern, so is losing an income source if your accounts are compromised. According to Lily Clark from Echelon Risk + Cyber, one of the main things that influencers can do to protect accounts is add two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication (MFA).
“Cracking passwords and finding passwords in breaches is easier than people realize, so that added layer of protection can prevent a lot of damage from threat actors,” she explains. This means setting up your social media accounts with multiple layers of authentication so that even if someone steals your password, there will be an extra level required before they gain complete access.
Most platforms like Instagram and Facebook have introduced this added security as options on your account. According to Microsoft, MFA can block up to 99.9 percent of account compromise attacks, so it’s worth adding to your social media and email.
Be Aware of Plagiarism and Duplicate Accounts
Plagiarism, intellectual property and copyright are other areas that often go undetected. Phishing, non-payment and extortion are the most common types of cyber-crime, but personal data breaches, identify theft and spoofing are most likely to impact influencers.
“Many content creators usually hop on the internet for ideas about certain topics. Some may not help but copy others’ content,” explains William Cannon, founder of Signaturely. This means that you need to be aware of any copycat accounts or anyone using your content without your consent.
Cannon suggests setting up Google Alerts. “It minimizes plagiarism by tracking the key phrases and titles of my content. It will send notifications to you once someone is copying the content online,” he explains. This way, you can keep a tab on anyone attempting to copy your work.
On social media, it’s also worth keeping an eye out for any copycat accounts that are trying to impersonate you. HypeAuditor’s study found that only around 59 percent of Instagram accounts in the U.S. are real people, with the remaining consisting of bots, fake accounts or duplicate accounts.
“Run occasional searches for duplicate accounts that imitate your own and report any you find,” Bischoff suggests. While it may seem like painstaking work, protecting your content is just as important when it comes to protecting your privacy.
Protect Online Privacy Every Day
Keeping your privacy safe online might seem like a full-time job, especially for influencers and anyone who shares a lot of their personal life online. However, there are some important solutions to protecting your accounts and personal information, such as setting up multi-factor authentication, reporting duplicate accounts and revealing very little personal data in your content.
Jenna Scatena is a writer and content strategist with a love for stories that have never been told before. More than a decade of working with prominent magazines and brands informs her approach to impactful storytelling. Her stories have reached more than 30 million readers, won multiple awards and been anthologized in books. Jenna's work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Marie Claire, The San Francisco, BBC and The Atlantic. She's the founder of the editorial consultancy, Lede Studio.