Are You Practicing Safe Social Media?

**This post is geared at writers, but it’s for anyone and everyone who explores and uses social media.

Okay, writers, we’ve read/heard/seen a lot of information about building our fan base via the internet and the wonderful social media sites that regularly eat up hours of our day.

(Really, what did we do before Facebook?)

Social media is important.

We have to connect. We have to interact. We build a base not only to sell books, but to be a light in a dark world.

Yet it’s that darkness in the world that presents a problem.

Some people are weird. As much as we want to love and trust everyone, it’s a sad state of affairs that we can’t. YOU CAN’T.

Because of that, it is so so so important that as we connect with our readers/fan base/followers, we make a conscious effort to protect ourselves.

Some of this might seem like common sense, but as I troll the internet, I’m often surprised by what I see/read. Shocked, really.

I’m all about opening up, being real, and letting my readers and followers get to know me, but there is a line that not only separates vital info from TMI, but also protection from public knowledge.

Tips for Staying Safe While Building a Fan Base:

1. Choose your friends wisely.

I do believe you should be open, real and respond to anyone who reaches out to you by commenting on your blog, etc., but be careful about letting strangers in on private info. A major way to do this is to keep your professional social media interaction and personal interaction separate. Facebook, for example–an author page allows you to control what information your followers see, without giving them access to photos of your kids, other family members, etc., or any private statuses you don’t want people you don’t know seeing.

If you don’t know ’em, don’t accept a friend request on your personal page.

**In an effort to have a better professional connection with my readers and followers, I launched my official Facebook page this week. You can connect and chat with me there by clicking on the link to the right of this post.

2. Protect your kids.

Now some of you may think I’m extreme about this, but I do not purposely post pictures of my kids or use their names on my blog (go ahead, check around) or on Twitter. I have lots and lots of followers whom I love and appreciate, but I love my kids more. (Sorry, lovely followers.) So I’ll tell you about my kiddos, but until they are older, I’m probably not going to let you see them. It’s not you I don’t trust– it’s the one crazy weirdo who might see a pic of my kids and get all…weird. I’m a Momma-bear that way. I wish more parents thought about those kinds of things before posting tons of pics and information about their kids online. The choice is yours–right now I choose to protect my kids this way. I might change my mind down the road, but for now, I’m going to put them in a virtual bubble if I can.

3. Do not, for any reason, list your home address on any of your profiles.

This includes Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, your blog or anything else. It’s already too easy for some creep to find you as it is.

It seems like common sense, but we want to trust. We want to say, “Yes! Reach out and touch me!” But you really don’t want everyone reaching out to touch you. You don’t.

4. Same goes for your phone number. Do no list it online.

I am always SMH (shaking my head, yeah I’ve been wanting to use that little acronym for a while) when I see that my friends on Facebook have their phone numbers listed. Some think, Well if you’re friends with me on FB, it’s okay if you have my number. Do not overestimate the privacy and firewalls and such of FB. Anything can be hacked these days.

If you put your number out there, realize it’s out there to the world.

5. Be careful about your contact info.

If you feel it necessary to list an address and phone number for readers to contact you, get a PO box or a throw-away cell phone that cannot be traced to your location. Some people also choose to have separate email addresses–one for personal emails and one for professional.

6. Don’t “check in”.

Do you really want people knowing where you are all the time, especially when you aren’t home? Again, I’m SMH when I see “so-and-so is at _____ with John Smith.” Now everyone knows where you are and with whom, and most of all, that you aren’t home. It’s like advertising that you’re going on vacation. It’s a BAD idea. Don’t overestimate your protection when you think only your “friends” are seeing it. Mostly because some of these people who are “friends” really aren’t.

7. Be careful what you Tweet.

Again, use some common sense. Be careful about using family members’ names, locations, and your plans for being out of town. It’s just not a good idea–especially because anyone can access your account and follow you on Twitter.

8. Make sure your privacy settings are correct.

Be certain to check the privacy settings on each and every social media site that you are a part of. Make sure people are seeing only what you want them to see. I highly suggest that you make your personal Facebook page private (so that NON-friends can’t see all of it), especially if it contains information about people you love that you don’t want everyone in the world having access to. Same goes for any other site which contains information you want to protect.

When updating statuses, make sure you have them set based on who you want to see them. On Facebook, for example, you can set each and every status either to public, friends, friends of friends, or a custom list of people. Be aware of this and make good use of it.

9. A dash of common sense goes a long way.

Use caution when interacting via social media. You don’t have to be suspicious or scared of everyone, but you shouldn’t blanket trust, either. It’s a sad state that we have to be cautious, but that’s the world we live in. When in doubt, DON’T post it. Be aware. Be careful.

We shine in the dark, and we shine brightest when we are wise. Color me cautious, but I’d much rather be safe than sorry.

For more fantastic information on how to stay safe online, check out this post from Kristen Lamb. Really, really good info for anyone who uses any kind of social media/email, etc.

Share with me: What other ways can you suggest of people being cautious with Social Media?


Filed under Parenting, Writing

15 responses to “Are You Practicing Safe Social Media?

  1. jessicarpatch

    I bet stalkers have put on pounds in the last five years. No more getting out of the car, burning gas to follow you, digging through your trash, climbing ladders to spy on you. All you have to do is click on facebook and it does it all for you.

    I constantly tell my daughter, do not EVER post where you are or where you are going. Post where you’ve been when you’re back. It’s scary dangerous. I never do the location thing. And even if someone wasn’t stalking me, I have college kids who’ll sure enough come roll my house with toilet paper when they see I’m away!

    Great post!

    • Jess- I’m a stickler about that one too. And seeing as how I used to teach high school and my hubby teaches middle school, we have had students show up at our house plenty of times before. If they really want to find out where I am, there are other means than me posting it.

  2. cynthiaherron

    Jenny, I had a bit of a frightening/odd situation to crop up a year or so. As authors who want to share the love of Christ, we want to be open and friendly, but we must also use good common sense. These were excellent reminders!

  3. Hmmm, this gives me a lot to think about. Thanks for such an honest look. I definitely don’t accept friend requests from people I don’t know and I follow most of these, but I’m guilty of the check in one. And great tips for protecting your kids. I’ll definitely keep that in mind once I have some! 🙂

  4. prudencemacleod

    This is all good advice, Jennifer and we should all heed it. Check-ins? Seriously? Ok guys, I’m not home now so you can back the truck up to the door and clean out the house. Oh my.

  5. Amy Leigh Simpson

    Oh so very wise and practical, Jenny. Thanks for the suggestions 🙂

  6. Excellent tips, Jenny! I’m uber-protective of my kids too, so I totally get this.

  7. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 05-31-2012 « The Author Chronicles

  8. Gabrielle Meyer

    Thanks for your tips and ideas. When I started my Facebook page a few years ago I was only friends with people I know personally. Now that I am using it to make connections with other authors, I have a lot of new friends I don’t know, but I still use Facebook as before. My blog is another I didn’t consider when starting out – I have information about my children all over the place there. I think I’ll go and edit the heck out of my blog right now! I want to be proactive instead of reactive. Thanks.

    • Gabrielle,

      I’m glad these tips have helped! You can always start a new Facebook page that’s an “official” page where people have to like you instead of friend request you, then it’s open to everyone, and you can keep your personal page personal and direct people you’ve never met to the official page. Good luck!

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