Those of you that follow us on Twitter probably noticed a change a week or so ago. Overnight, someone hacked into our account and began making serious changes. They took down our backgrounds, profile, information, summaries, and of course began spamming our audience.
Twitter saw what was happening and quickly shut down the account. And then we started the process of trying to retrieve access to our account.
One week later, I’m happy to report we have it back under control, are quickly making our way through all the changes necessary to get it back to our “normal”. And of course are starting to use it for legitimate means once again.
Over night, by having someone hack in and take over our Twitter account, we lost:
- Over 60,000 followers that we communicated with on a daily basis
- 5 years of hard work and growth
And of course that’s just the numbers. In addition, we lost the potential of building relationships with these followers, the potential sales loss as people migrate from Twitter to our blog, the traffic created by sending dozens of links out every single week, and of course the opportunity of gaining new prospects that may not have heard of us yet.
As I’m out and about teaching about social media, the first thing I teach in any class, whether its on Twitter, Facebook, or social in general, is that with a free account, you are at their mercy. You don’t own anything. You don’t pay for anything. You have no say in the decision to turn your account off or change it in any manner they see fit.
Yet it can be very disheartening when you wake up to a “closure” announcement and you see all of that hard work down the drain.
Yes, we have Facebook accounts, Pinterest accounts, LinkedIn accounts, Google accounts and rankings, and so on. We get traffic from a ton of different places. But if still makes you sit up and take notice when 60,000+ accessible people are gone *poof* just like that.
Now imagine you are in the same situation. It might not be Twitter – instead your account might be Facebook or Pinterest or a Blogger or free WordPress account.
What if you woke up this morning to a notification that said “You’ve been hacked and we’ve turned your account off”.
There is no follow up – these free accounts aren’t built for customer service and client help. Sure, you can email them … good luck. You can turn to the help boards and search for solutions. Find things that “might” work, do them, and sit back and wait.
If 10 percent of your traffic is shut down, it may hurt a bit.
But what if it was 100 percent? What if all you had was that Facebook account and it was shut down forever?
Yes, we got our Twitter account back in a week. But we’ve read about how it can take weeks or even months. And of course in some cases, never – you simply have to start over.
So what did we learn from this (and what can you learn from it too)?
- Have your account set up with all security measures in place. Put in more than one email address if allowed, and make sure at least one of them is your regular email account you check frequently every day. Give your phone number for texting in case of emergency. Make sure you keep all contact information current and up to date – they may contact you when something happens as a “check”. (In our case, they did.)
- Be careful when using outside applications. Many sites these days allow you to login or create an account using your Twitter ID, giving you more flexibility and usage with your Twitter account outside of the actual Twitter.com site. Do you trust these sites? Will their security hold up over time? These can be prime candidates for wormholes, allowing malicious activity to jump into your account in the easiest way possible.
- Even if you don’t use a social account regularly, make sure your contact information is current and you check in with it once in awhile. You don’t want your account and your branding associated with spamming, rude messages, or belligerent information.
- Don’t rely on a free site as your only or primary online presence. Yes, we knew this and didn’t get stung by it. But we talk with people all the time that start out on a shoestring and assume a free account is enough. Only using one free account can be detrimental to your business, and even make it close down for good.
- Stay in touch with your followers and keep them up to date when things go wrong. We had many people contact us in a variety of ways letting us know what was happening. Many people unfollowed our Twitter account until we got the problem solved, then even asked to be contacted again when we were back up and running so they could refollow us. A strong following is worth its weight in gold not only for what they do for you when everything is working, but also for when it isn’t.