When you first start putting yourself out there online, you probably aren’t thinking you need to have NSA level security plans in place. To be honest, most people who are making their primary income aren’t all that concerned with security until something goes wrong. That is not a place you want to be. If you’ve been working your way up the food chain to become an influencer in your niche, it’s important to consider the security of four key areas of your life and business.
Let’s start with the most fundamental level of security awareness – your personal security. You don’t want random stalkers to be able to call you up, drop by your house, or harass you while you’re with friends (or at your day job if you still have one!).
Yes, this happens. In fact, it happens so much that one of the most popular influencers on YouTube made a video addressing the issue.
At the most basic level, you want to make sure your phone number and address are unlisted and not connected with any of your social media accounts. Use a VOIP number and a PO Box for all business listings to help mitigate the chances you’ll be easily found. This may seem like a lot of effort initially, but when you have 100k followers and aren’t getting texts in the middle of the night from people who feel like they’ve known you forever, you’ll be happy you took the time.
Now, let’s think about digital security. All passwords should be created with a password generator or be so random that it would be almost impossible for you to memorize. The standard recommendation is to use a combination of symbols, upper and lowercase letters, and numbers. If you want to take it to the next level, use a password generator. That’s right, don’t make it your favorite shade of lipstick, sports hero, or the name of your first crush.
Since one password will be difficult to remember if you’ve done it correctly, and you’ll need significantly more than one to create an online persona, you will also want to invest in an encrypted password manager. According to CNET, some of the top services include LastPass, 1Password, and Dashlane.
At first, most content creation will likely happen organically. However, as you build followers you will likely need to create a content calendar to produce enough material to continue to increase your numbers and promote engagement with your existing followers. Using a service like Asana, Trello, or TeamUp to manage your calendar and keep yourself and your team on schedule can be invaluable in creating a consistent production routine that will provide the security you need to grow your personal brand. Which is great, but you need more.
You’ll eventually need to actually produce the content you’ve planned out. When creating content, many people like to go to their favorite coffee shop, university commons, library, or anywhere else that gets them around other people. Unfortunately, public WiFi is a security nightmare whether you’re on your phone, tablet, or laptop. If you’re going to be using public WiFi, you need to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Using a VPN will make it harder for people to hack you when you’re accessing public WiFi. But you may want to consider using something similar when you’re home if you want to completely obscure the internet breadcrumbs that could allow people to find you.
The next issue you need to consider when developing your processes is how you broadcast to your community. All of the major platforms allow you to broadcast live which has a number of unique security challenges to overcome. If you usually record yourself in front of a green screen, your office, or other static location we’ll assume you’ve already scrubbed it of personally identifiable information such as a diploma on the wall. When you are out and about, however, it can be more challenging. Walking to your vehicle after scoring an impressive deal, you may inadvertently show a street name, license plate, or membership card attached to your keychain. To those who are highly motivated to make contact with you, steal your identity, or just cause mischief, these are all pieces of information they can leverage. While no one wants to be seen as paranoid, it is important that you become vigilant in the information you are handing over to complete strangers when you begin recording.
You are probably thinking you don’t need to worry about your integrity, you’ve got that covered, right? But what about the people you’re working with? If you are outsourcing any of your content you’ll need to be sure that the people you contract with have similar ideals and principles or you could suddenly find yourself with personal information, techniques, and your intellectual property in the hands of someone who has no issues using what they’ve gathered to further their own gains.
To that end, be sure you are working with reputable companies. Does anyone want to pay exorbitant taxes? Of course not. But you also don’t want to be five years into your business and find yourself face-to-face with an IRS audit because someone saved you a little more than was legal just to make you happy and keep your business in the short term.
Similarly, don’t plagiarize, pirate software, use other creator’s work, or use images and other digital assets that are protected by Copywrite without paying for it. You may save money and even get away with it in the short term but eventually, someone will notice. When they do, you may face fines and legal action. Even worse, you’ll find your reputation damaged. Since you are building a business based on your reputation, that could be the most devastating consequence.
If you are acting in integrity and only working with those who do the same, you will have every reason to love the law. Especially when (not if, because it will happen at some point) your work is stolen.
Did you know, the government says, “Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” That means as soon as you write it, say it, record it, create it, or otherwise put it up for other people to see it and engage with it – it’s your intellectual property. Most people think they need to jump through serious legal hoops to qualify for protection, but you don’t. However, you may need to prove your content is yours at some point so keep digital copies of your work on an external hard drive or secure cloud drive if you want maximum protection.
In fact, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was signed into law in 1998, makes it easy(ish) to get people to take down your work. If they won’t take it down then you can send a DMCA notice to their ISP, WebHost, or the platform on which they posted to get it removed by the company directly. If that sounds like great news but not within your wheelhouse, don’t worry. A business lawyer or online service can help you navigate the paperwork.
Becoming an influencer can turn from being a dream career into a nightmare with just one security breach. While it’s impossible to plan for every potentiality, implementing even a few of the above measures incrementally will help keep you and your business safe.
Money Bloggersby Tony Newton March 30, 2020