How do I increase my brand awareness without compromising privacy?
By day I am an internet marketer. My job is to increase brand awareness and drive conversions for the companies and clients I work with. If those prospective companies and clients can’t find me, then I don’t get hired. To wit, I am constantly trying to “get my name out there”, expand my digital footprint, and propagate my services to an ever growing audience.
At night I study information security and advocate for privacy. I am currently studying to get my CompTIA Security+ certification. Someday I hope to get my CEH(Certified Ethical Hacker) certificate. These certs are no joke, and they often take months, if not years, to complete.
I’m not one to complain about time. Sure, I stay busy, but I try to stay aware of how I’m spending my time and spend it wisely. The only way that we are truly all equal is that we all have the same amount of hours in each day. The problem I have is that my career(marketing) and my interests(privacy/security) put me in a catch-22.
On the one hand, I want to increase my exposure and make it easier for people to find me so I can get work. On the other hand, I want to limit the amount of personal information I put out on the web, for fear that I’d be unwittingly providing ammunition to some hacker for a potential social engineering attack, or handing over too much of my data to big tech companies that I don’t trust like Google or Facebook. Ironically I also use Google and Facebook as a marketer almost everyday and I’ll freely admit that some days it seems the fight is hopeless. Our big tech brother has so many means of tracking us, and attackers grow more sophisticated by the day.
So what measures do I take to protect myself online while trying to grow my personal brand?
VPNs come with a wide range of benefits including encrypting your traffic, enabling access to content that may be blocked in your geographic area, and protecting your information from malicious actors on your network. If you travel a lot and rely on wifi networks that you don’t control and haven’t secured yourself, a VPN is a must.
I use a VPN called “Private Internet Access”. They provide great service and don’t keep logs. The price is great and I trust them a lot more than my internet service provider at home. Whenever I’m on the road, PIA keeps me safe. If you don’t already have a VPN, I highly recommend PIA. Click here to sign up for Private Internet Access.
Google tracks everything you do. Every site you visit, every document you upload to drive, every email you send with Gmail – Google can access it all. Call me a tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist but I just don’t trust an organization with that much power over my personal life. Unfortunately, Google has also built a large suit of effective products and among those products is Chrome – Google’s internet browser. At the time of this writing a majority of internet users rely on chrome for most of their websurfing.
I’ve switched to using a different browser called “Brave”. I’ve found it’s helpful if you’re trying to separate yourself from all of Google’s tracking and advertising algorithms. As someone who relies on Google Analytics to measure website traffic, you might think that I’d discourage using browsers that block tracking code. But if you’ve ever built a target audience for Google Ads or worse – Facebook, you know the scary amount of information that these companies keep and collect about you. You can download Brave here.
For those of you that rely on Chrome – don’t worry! Brave is built on the Chromium engine. This is the same engine that powers Chrome, so all of your browser extensions and bookmarks can easily be brought over and will work just fine.
Brave also offers a type of crypto currency called Basic Attention Token(BAT) but it doesn’t have much value outside of the application(yet). This alone would not be enough to compel me to use the browser and you can still opt-in for enough programs through Brave that the point of the ad blockers would be moot.
For private emails I use ProtonMail. You can sign up for an account here. It’s easier than using PGP to encrypt and then share your public key, and then decrypt all your emails. It’s got the encryption baked right in. That’s a lot better than Google who can access your Gmail and read it at the drop of a hat.
Signal is also a great messaging app if you need that level of protection. Potentially you can use it to replace texting if you’re worried about privacy there. Personally I don’t care to go that far yet, but I could see that becoming a possibility in the future, so I still have Signal app on my phone. Download Signal from App Store or Play Store.
Telegram Over Twitter
Twitter is dying a slow death with user share decreasing every year since SnapChat arrived on the scene. Now TikTok is stealing a percentage of their user’s time, along with Instagram. The users that remain have to watch what they tweet as the platform’s incessantly shifting policies and foray into politics has seen a lot of prominent users leave or get banned.
Personally I don’t mess around with Twitter. It never seemed that appealing to me, and it never seemed as helpful to growing my client accounts as Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.
Nevertheless, the popular Twitter alternative “Telegram”(whether it was ever meant to be that or not) is gaining followers. Telegram accounts can be locked down more easily than Twitter accounts. They offer a level of privacy that is almost controversial.
Using Telegram you can grow entire channels and groups out of sight of big tech’s ever-watching eye. As a channel admin you control admittance to the group and who sees which posts. I’ve noticed Discord being used in much the same way, but Telegram requires a little less technical knowhow. You can get Telegram on the App Store or Google Play Store.
I feel Discord and Telegram are both worth mentioning as I see huge potential for them as marketing tools offering more privacy in the future.
Being Scrupulous with Social Media
I’m very cautious about what I post on the internet. In fact I rarely post to Instagram anymore about my personal life for a few reasons: A) I just don’t see the need in broadcasting my personal life events out there to everyone. I find it boring to read about other people, so I assume they’d be bored reading about my life, unless they were trying to compare themselves to me(which is an unhealthy behavior and one that in my opinion, has lead to the decline of Facebook over the years) or as I stated above, they are trying to gather information about me with malicious intentions. In which case I’m not just going to serve it up to them on the silver platter of social media.
I don’t post to Facebook and I don’t really even have an account with them. I mean, I have an account, but you have to have an account to run Facebook Ads and administrate pages and groups. I purposely keep it stripped of photos and personal details though. I strictly use it as a management tool for my clients. My life has improved dramatically since I cut Facebook out of the picture.
Be careful with what you post to social media. You may want to be an Instagram model, but you’d be surprised how much information stalkers, hackers, and scammers can garner from your 3714 selfies and duck face photos. I recommend trying to post more purpose driven content. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this post? What actions do I want my audience to take after seeing this?”.
Those are a few tips that I use to protect my info online, but the real professionals will probably tell you I’m not going far enough. If you’re not into marketing or growing your personal brand, then you might want to check out this article from J.M. Porup over at CSO. It goes a lot deeper into the privacy aspect and has a lot of great pointers for protecting your information online.