Friday, July 31, 2015

Stay Safe Online While Building Your Platform

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

As writers we know the importance of developing an online presence, but is there such a thing as putting too much information out there? 

How do we know when we've gone beyond platform building into an area that puts us and our families at risk?

The result of too much information online can range from the irritating to the dangerous. 

But it is possible to be smart and still have an online presence that will garner you the right kind of reader notice.

Here are some tips to help you stay out of trouble:

  • Have boundaries firmly established in your own mind—BEFORE something happens. That way, when someone get too familiar, you’ll be ready to do more than just feel vaguely uncomfortable. So often I talk to writers who have a cyber-stalker and they’re not even certain whether they should be concerned or not.
  • Trust your instincts. I cannot emphasize this one strongly enough. If someone makes you uncomfortable, act on your feelings.
  • Don’t friend/follow/or otherwise engage someone who isn’t willing to post a picture and/or give out reasonable information.
  • Don’t use an social media networks and/or settings where you check in at places. There is no good reason or someone to know where you are generally. If you’re at a conference or a big event, you can let people know you’re there if you choose, but don’t leave your safety to a computer program.
  • Turn OFF your location settings for your phone, digital camera, ereader and tablet. Otherwise, any picture you take with those devices could have an imbedded code that gives the latitude and longitude of where the picture was taken. This is especially true if you post pictures of children (your own or even grandkids). Don’t make it easy for a predator to map out your location.

What should you do when something makes you uncomfortable?

The biggest thing is do NOT be tempted to be polite when you’re worried. This is similar to following your instincts in that we often push down our uncomfortable feelings for the sake of being polite. If someone is tweeting to you, sending you repeated Facebook messages, or contacting you in any way that makes you uncomfortable, don’t ignore your feelings.

  • First, confront the person making you uncomfortable and request they respect your boundaries.
  • If they don’t adhere to your guidelines, immediately block them from the social media networks where they are contacting you.
  • Finally, report them to the social media network(s) where the infraction occurred.

This isn’t something you should fool around with, but it’s also something you shouldn’t be worried about. Taking these steps will keep you safe and give you the boundaries you need to stay safe online.

What steps do you take to stay safe? Have you ever felt uncomfortable by a contact? If so what did you do?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

How much information is safe for an author to share online? Tips from @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Stay safe while building an online presence - #SocialMedia expert @EdieMelson shares tips (Click to Tweet)


  1. Hi Edie, I have checked in at places with my friends and family. Should I have a separate page for my Speaking/Teaching/Writing platform?
    What I do to be safe,especially on Facebook... when I receive a friend request from someone I don't recognize, I go to their page to see who their friends are. I make sure that they have an established timeline (more than 3 post) If they are friend with just a few people that is a red flag. Also if someone PM's me and I don't know them I ask how they know me. This has scared a few off. This is great information. thank you for posting.

    1. Cherrilynn, It doesn't matter if you have a separate page for FB or not, I don't really recommend checking in somewhere. The only time I've done it is if I want to publicize a bookstore. As far as whether you have a separate page for business, I recommend you view this post:

      Also, those are good thoughts about how legit a profile is when you're sent a friend request, but I NEVER go by mutual friends unless I have over 100 in common. None of us can catch all the spammers. I only look at the profile to judge

      Finally, if someone I don't know sends me a direct message on FB after I accept their friend request, I don't bother to respond. I immediately unfriend them or block them. That's the best way to tell they're a spammer.

      Great thoughts, thanks for sharing! Blessings, E

  2. Edie: Thank you for this information. We can never be too careful.

  3. Edie, good advice. At first, I accepted all the friend requests I received--hey, they're potential readers. Why else would they want to follow me? But my naivete eventually gave way to pragmatism. If I can't read their "about" and I don't recognize the name, I delete the request. I may miss a few readers, but I feel safer this way. As for giving out my location--never, unless there's a really good reason. Thanks for posting.

  4. Hi Edie, Where do you find the place in Facebook that gives your location and how to you turn it off? I looked under Settings and couldn't find it. Thanks for your wise advice.

    1. Marilyn, FB no longer has a place for you to turn of locations on your computer. But you can disable the location setting on the app on your phone or tablet. Thanks & Blessings, E

  5. Edie, didn't you write a blog post that tells how to turn off location settings? I keep forgetting to do that, but I know I should. Thanks for this advice.

  6. I had two (or possibly one acting like two) young men who started flirting with me. My picture tells everyone I'm well past youth. He (they) continued so I told them I'm not rich. He continued. Nothing to do but block them. I blocked one and the other disappeared. Did they think I have dementia and would welcome someone younger than my grandchildren? Con man if I ever saw one. Sad if anybody was taken in by him. Loneliness can get pretty awful.

  7. I use a pen name that is the persona I use on line ("real" me has her own FB page and Lela is a friend, but that's as close as we get). I don't lie about myself, but I refuse to answer some questions. I am very reluctant to post photos of myself and try to do it so it's veiled -- back lit, half of my face covered, etc. These days, technology makes it possible to take a photo online and run a scan and find out who that person really is and then to easily find their residential address, phone number, etc. So, I personally don't object to "friends" online who don't post their photos. That's a good security measure, actually.