Plucked from a recent headline on a national news website: “Rich kids are oversharing on social media – are yours?” The story went on to detail true life examples of wealthy youth using social media to boast about luxury private jet travel, $100,000 bar tabs and the use of #ferrari, #mansion and #hamptons Twitter hash-tags. These cases surely got due attention from their parents, but they also clearly illustrate how high-net-worth individuals and their families are in the crosshairs of a new generation of risks created by social media that can quickly harm a family’s reputation.
Equally as confounding are the security issues social media participation presents. With GPS locators on cell phones and sites like Foursquare, social media immediately lets the world – and the underworld – know the whereabouts of these youth 24/7/365.
A few years back, web security meant passwords, firewalls and anti-virus software. Today, a secure Internet presence is defined by an individual’s ability to influence what the web says about them and their family. For instance, if you are wealthy, do you want others – business partners, friends, employees etc. – to know that your children are flying on private jets and racking up $100,000 bar bills?
Indeed, wealthy individuals and their families face online reputation challenges because they are high profile, easy targets. And in many ways, they often have the most to lose since they are tasked with protecting what is often a hard-fought family legacy.
Historically, and certainly today, the wealthy have always been the subject of wanted (and unwanted) media attention, but with social media the stakes are much higher in that anyone can play the part of publisher. This includes unknowing youth who might, even mistakenly, miss-use that power to broadcast their actions and whereabouts. In addition, media coverage used to come and go quickly and would only live-on in archives or dated press clippings. Not so today as web content, including social media, is readily accessible and easy to revive and proliferate on an ongoing basis.
Wealthy families need to manage these risks and establish clear boundaries with their children and, to an extent, their children’s friends. Unless they manage these risks, they will leave themselves vulnerable to damaging effects on their family, friendships, business associates and on their own personal lives as well.
The building blocks of online reputation management include:
- Ongoing risk evaluation and education
- Targeted campaigns to remedy problems as they arise
- The creation of family contracts on privacy management
- A pre-defined crisis response plan that can guide a family when a true crisis hits
The task of managing online reputation for high profile individuals can be daunting, but worthwhile. Management of a family’s cyber presence is the foundation upon which the family’s legacy may rest for generations.
Online reputation risk must be managed proactively, not reactively, as it is nearly impossible to put the proverbial “cat back into the bag.” Once the damage has been done, it’s done. To be sure, it’s a lesson that families of some jet-setting youth recently learned in spades.
Patricia M. Soldano is chair of GenSpring Family Office’s western region which includes Phoenix. To learn more, visit www.genspring.com.