As a marketer and web designer specializing in social media marketing, I have one rule that is never broken. No personal pictures of children. I would rather lose a client because I know that the web is a scary place filled with anonymity and people with no value for children. While parents protect their children from those hiding in the shadows of secrecy in real life, many parents unwittingly expose their children to thousands of sexual predators and molesters who are simply a click away.

If there is one message that I would love to give every parent who engages in social media or marketing for their business it would be: the web is not your friend!

Here are six NEVER DO things for social media and websites to protect your children:

1.  Never use pictures of your children as your profile picture. So many parents use pictures of their children instead of themselves as profile or avatar images. While I appreciate the need for parents to retain obscurity, think about the exposure of your children and their image to mass populations of people.

2.  Never put pictures of your children on your website or blog. Perhaps the most accessible way to gain pictures, a website or blog surrenders pictures with just a right click and SAVE AS. Posing a double threat, many website and blogs are directly traceable to a location by phone number or direct address.  Might as well place a google map on your child with a large YOU ARE HERE arrow.

3.  Never share pictures over social media.  Having seen people post a link to vacation pictures or family fun on Twitter or Facebook, the warning light bulb burns white hot upon the realization that thousands of unknown people exist in each account. Even in the strictest of social media sites that require you to validate your “friends,” people can sneak in to your connections. Further, when connections comment on your photos, your photos show up in the highlights of their connections! In certain social media, your pictures can be shared and re-tweeted to a whole new group of people without your knowledge.

4.  Never send pictures over email. If you send pictures of your children to company email addresses, then they go through a server administrated by people. As email can easily be viewed, saved, downloaded, and forwarded, grabbing these pictures of your children is not difficult. Most servers automatically scan downloads and attachments for viruses and generate reports to administrators.

5.  Never forget that someone does not have to touch your child to exploit them. When placing the pictures of your children in any online electronic format, never forget that you are exposing them to exploitation by one simple right click. In the thousands of people on the internet and in social media profiles, consider the chances that one of them is either a pedophile or sexual predator. The chances are very good!

6.  Never let innocence block your view of the truth. So many parents see their children with innocence rather than the potential for exploitation. Innocent pictures of children in the bath tub or playing in the backyard sprinkler are graphic to a sick mind. Although it might be painful to think in that manner, there are many consequences more painful than protecting your child by seeing the truth.

People often protect their financial information more stringently than their children because they feel safe in tucking their children into bed at night.

Not quite…in reality, it takes less than 10 seconds to right click on a picture and upload it to a new webpage. In those 10 seconds, a charming picture of a 7 year old girl in her new bathing suit splashing around in a pool can hit a child pornography website and be up for sale to thousands of pedophiles for a few dollars.

Sickening? Yes.

Are you ready for worse? Social media pages and websites often have exact locations connected to the parents’ profile. Even more directly, many social media profiles have websites that list as a location and phone number on the website or in a domain search. In less time than it takes to post that innocent picture to share with family and friends, a child molester can find the exact address of your child. When posting pictures of children, many parents post their names and ages with the picture.

Is there anything more persuasive for a child than a person who knows their parents name as well as their own? It is quite an advantage for sexual predator.

After watching a recent episode of Raising the Bar, it was very clear that my own experiences with parents reflects the comfortable naiveté of reality in how often people forget that the web is not their friend because we have grown up with the web as a part of our lives. I suggest this episode to every single person responsible for the well-being of children who uses the social media or the web as part of their connection with family, marketing for a business, or expansion of a social network.

Raising the Bar http://www.tnt.tv/dramavision/?oid=49111&eref=sharethisUrl.  

Remember: The web is not your friend!

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Although there is a large push to jump on the social media marketing bandwagon, most companies and business owners strike out into the great unknown of the online frontier without a social media marketing branding plan.  It might seem unnecessary to most business owners; however, the creation of an online branding strategy is one of the most vital steps to social media marketing success.  Just as each bubble of social media contact floats out into the webosphere toward an intended audience, a social media brand must be consistent for potential customers and business partners to see a strong message.

There are as many different online forums and networking sites in the online marketing arena as there are bees in a hive.  For the purpose of clarity, consider Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Biznik as prime examples.  In fact, these five steps to creating a consistent brand in social media marketing will apply the same way to every online promotional opportunity from electronic article publication to blogging:

1. Decide on a Niche Market.  No matter what audience you are seeking to address, identifying your niche audience is even more vital in social media marketing than in traditional marketing because there are millions more people to reach.  Many companies believe that drawing thousands of followers on Twitter or dozens of connections on LinkedIn equals high ROI (return on investment).  If 999 of the 1000 people who follow you on Twitter are women without children and you sell mommy products, then your conversion is actually VERY low.   Finding your niche audience will give you good coverage for your brand and lead to better conversions.

2. Consider a Face.  Much of social media marketing is about finding the right way to promote.  Whether you decide to use your company logo or your picture, remember that the icon or avatar will represent the “face” of your online efforts.  If it is important to have human recognition (for services, human recognition is imperative!), then consider finding a person that looks non-generic in race, economic type, and profession without being remote or sterile.

3. Persona Grata.  The welcome person should be prepared to tweet, post, and connect with a consistent tone and voice to distribute all company correspondences of online marketing.  By allowing one person to interact on each posting board and forum, the chances are better that the message and branding will stay the same in all social media venues.

4. Slogan-ate.  In virtually every social media forum, there is the opportunity to write a short blub about the company or person.  This is incredibly useful space that most people waste.  This is the place where people look when they are deciding if they want to connect with you and get to know you.  Using this space as your online business card or elevator speech is the best approach for developing interaction between social media platforms.

5. Promote and Measure.  By setting up separate promotions for each social media forum, you are able to kill two marketing birds with one stone!  You can do some quick A / B testing of several promotions to see which promotion out performs the other.  Plus, you can quickly measure results by the number of people who take you up on the offer.  Once you have decided which promotion has achieved more results, you should create slight variation of the same promotion to strength your brand recognition for each social media involvement and measure return on investment.
 
Many of the reasons that solopreneurs and companies market in an online atmosphere include the opportunity to gain exposure for their brand and the dissemination of branded marketing messages to a larger audience.  In both cases, increasing brand recognition and promoting a strong marketing message require a consistent brand for the audience to connect the dots into a series of marketing touches that increase sales potential.  By following the five steps, consistent branding in social media marketing will match the branding on the rest of your promotional materials.