Social Networking sites can be scary places. When the world is connected, anything can happen, and it can happen quickly too.
That’s why I’m here to talk to you today. These days, anyone can fall victim to a social networking faux pas, and from hacks and leaks to rules and regulations, there’s always something that could go wrong and damage your reputation.
As authors, your reputations is vital – after all, it’s what helps to sell your books to potential readers. And so today, I’m going to offer up my ten top tips for protecting yourselves when using social networking sites. Let’s do this!
#1: Have a disaster plan
This sounds more intense than it actually is. At a basic level, you need to know what you’re going to do if something goes wrong. This might be as simple as evaluating your options and looking at how you can communicate people, via e-mail lists, social networking sites and on your website.
#2: Use a secure password
A good password will consist of a string of random letters and numbers. I’d suggest going for a minimum of ten characters, mixing lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols. Memorise this password and don’t share it with anyone to make it more difficult for anyone to gain unauthorised access to your account.
#3: Check before you post
Always obey the ‘grandma rule’ – check what you’re saying before you say it and make sure that you’d feel comfortable if your grandma (or a potential employer) was to see it. Also, before you jump on the bandwagon and use a trending hashtag, double check to see how other people are using it. Don’t be like Celeb Boutique.
#4: Don’t automate
Automation sucks, so don’t do it. If you have to, you can pre-set a post here and there, but never automate direct messages. People hate it, myself included. Some people even make a point of unfollowing people who post automated messages.
#5: Always use your real name
Believe it or not, I’ve seen authors posting reviews for their own books under a fake name. If you get caught out, it makes you look untrustworthy. And besides, it’s your professional identity on the line. As a side note, if you write under a pseudonym, then feel free to use your pseudonym – when it comes to your books, that effectively is your real name.
#6: Be careful when clicking links
A lot of viruses spread via shortened links and automated direct messages (remember those?). If you’re ever unsure of whether a link is legitimate, don’t click it – ask the sender to confirm that it’s safe for you to click. Do this even if the link was shared by a friend or a family member – you can never be too careful.
#7: Password protect devices and don’t leave PCs unattended
An insecure device can open you up to all sorts of privacy concerns. If you leave your phone unattended, for example, then if there’s no passcode then it’ll be easy for anyone to pick it up and post a bogus update. Even ‘fraping’, which some people see just as harmless fun, can damage your reputation as both an author and a human being.
#8: Be careful when granting access to applications
Sure, it’s tempting to take the ‘Which Game of Thrones character are you?’ quizzes and to use third-party applications for Twitter and other sites, but it’s important to exercise caution. Double check what priveledges you’re granting to these apps, and carry out regular audits. If you’re no longer using an app, revoke its access.
#9: Be yourself
There used to be a saying: “On the internet, no-one knows you’re a dog.” In some ways, that still holds true – if you’re ever heard of catfishing, or if you’ve watched the popular TV show with Nev Schulman, then you’ll know that not every internet user is as they seem. Don’t be tempted to make stuff up to make yourself look good – people will find out, and when they do, you’ll lose your credibility. It’s much better, more fun and much easier just to be yourself, so do it.
#10: Keep software up-to-date
This includes both antivirus and firewall software and the operating system and browser that you use. Hell, it even includes the WordPress installation on your website. Any outdated software is a potential security risk, so update it as often as possible to help to protect yourself from potential hacks and leaks.
So there you have it – now you have my top tips to stay safe online, and the good news is, they work well whether you’re an author or not. But now it’s over to you – what do you do to safeguard your social networking profiles? Let me know with a comment!
— Dane Cobain is a social media marketer and author from High Wycombe, UK. His releases include No Rest for the Wicked (supernatural thriller), Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home (poetry), Former.ly: The Rise and Fall of a Social Network (literary fiction) and Social Paranoia: How Consumers and Brands Can Stay Safe in a Connected World (non-fiction). Follow @DaneCobain on Twitter or find out more: www.danecobain.com/books