Kylie Jenner, daughter of America’s reality-show royalty, recently graced the cover of Forbes, which declared her the youngest self-made billionaire in the world. Her makeup line, of which she is the sole owner, is valued at $800 million and counting.
The article contends that Jenner’s success is largely the work of an intensive and continuous social media presence. On Instagram alone, she has 111 million followers who — either ironically or genuinely — observe her every pout, baby photo, and of course, new lip kit release. It is by far her primary avenue for connecting with consumers and increasing her brand’s popularity, and by extension, her personal wealth.
Social Media’s Growing Role in Increasing Personal Wealth
We often advise public figures and executives — or anyone who hopes to protect themselves and their assets — to limit their social media presence. We discuss how to make accounts private, avoid unnecessary location services and generally keep bad actors from interfering with one’s real life by exploiting one’s digital vulnerabilities.
But as Jenner’s story reflects, many individuals actually need social media for their careers. It is a spokesperson’s public presence that both validates an otherwise obscure brand to potential consumers – and also makes it easier for malicious individuals to plan some sort of attack.
In early 2018, Complex identified the most successful social media stars who use the platform for their personal wealth. Kayla Itsine’s workout routines, which she shares on social media, earn her $17 million a year. Many have found success on YouTube as gamers; Mark Fischbach, who records himself playing video games as he provides commentary, earns $12.5 million a year.
While these figures use social media as their primary method of making money, many in the corporate world use these platforms to reach out to their base as well. Elon Musk has over 22 million followers on Twitter and consistently shares his otherworldly enterprises through social media. Tim Cook has 11 million Twitter followers and has admitted to using his company’s devices a little too much. Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest person in the world, regularly posts on Instagram and Twitter.
Be Proactive and Learn about Your Social Media Exposure
Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate damage caused by targeted attacks or other nefarious activities, even while on social media. The proof is that even the most public figures are able — with the help of security programs, of course — to maintain their personal safety and privacy. When the ultimate social media personality-turned-mogul Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in Paris, investigators found that it wasn’t her online presence that gave the assailants access, but likely an insider who had intimate knowledge of her whereabouts. Her Snapchats and Instagram stories did chronicle her travels. But they were created in such a way that they actually didn’t serve as helpful for her soon-to-be attackers.
Here are some of the best ways to strike the right balance of using social media to your advantage while maintaining your safety and security.
5 Tips to Mitigate Social Media Risks
- Watch what’s in the bio.
Any social media user knows their profile’s bio could make or break a brand. It needs to be clever, cute and informative. What it doesn’t need is to specify too much personal information, such as a specific location — it will likely be obvious if you live in New York City and post about it, but perhaps don’t rattle on about Park Avenue or a specific neighborhood — and other sensitive information. Even naming children or when you graduated college can allow someone with malicious intent to track you down or use the information for social engineering.
- Time your posts and make them ambiguous.
It’s often our inclination to post about something before or when we are physically there, whether it be a restaurant, an important company outing or meeting in an uncommon location or a personal vacation. Even if this outing is a private event, it’s always wiser to post about a location after you’ve left it. Posting about it live identifies your exact location and can either tell others where you are not (e.g., at home) or allow them to find you more easily.
There’s actually a purpose to the bathroom selfie – unless it’s a particularly distinctive “boudoir,” no one is going to know where you are! Creating the illusion of being busy and out-and-about is often just as effective as specifically noting where you are.
- Have a plan.
The Marque, which is essentially a fancy LinkedIn personally curated for you and your CEO status, alleges that if you don’t pay for social media, you become the product. Jim Waldo of Harvard University calls this “surveillance capitalism” and believes that when individuals become products for online consumption, we lose control of our identity, and by extension, power over our lives.
The Marque subsequently charges 1,000 pounds per year for its service. This type of elite social media platform is not particularly useful for those using social media for financial gain — particularly since they are exclusive and limited in terms of audience — but keeping a tight grip on your data housed on social media is a good idea for others.
If you post one thing on Instagram and another on LinkedIn, a third party could use the separate information – in two different digital locations – to piece together more information than you intended. Consistency across platforms, or having specific agendas for each that don’t compromise your security, is recommended. This goes for long-dormant social media profiles that are no longer used but available on the internet like a time capsule; delete any that don’t serve a purpose. Loose ends, when it comes to social media, are never good.
- Monitor what other people are posting, too.
In an increasingly interconnected world, social media can be a valuable tool for reaching out to customers and potential clients, even for corporate leaders who would otherwise stay under the radar. If a public profile is best for your business, check up on how others are interacting with it and your brand. We find that many individuals with harmful intentions refrain from making direct threats and instead voice their discontent on a personal social media platform.
The same logic applies to the social media profiles for family members. We don’t often think to consider the posts of those closest to us, even when we’re tagged in the photo or mentioned in a comment. This is particularly true for children, who may be more inclined to share personal information freely on their profiles about family vacations or the like. Some family members may even promote their own businesses by posting about their own activities – that may involve or feature their more famous relative. This extraneous information could again lead to unwelcome individuals to make contact – perhaps in person – using all the information readily available on a wide array of connected platforms.
In addition to corresponding with loved ones about their privacy settings, we suggest regularly monitoring open source information, particularly on social media, in order to identify concerning content. A third-party provider can supply these services. Our Threat + Violence Risk Management practice conducts either regular or as-needed open source audits and investigations for a variety of businesses and individuals – especially those in the public eye and with high net worth – by using state-of-the-art tools and an experienced perspective to determine those most likely to pose a threat. A prevention-oriented approach, rather than a reactionary one, is a best practice. In addition to peace of mind while interacting online, it can keep you, your business, your employees and those close to you safer and more secure.