Category Archives: Social Networking For Writers

7 Social Media Scams: Writers Beware! | Web Design Relief

Social media is a great way for writers to build their author platforms and connect with fans, readers, literary agents, and editors. But beware: It also puts your personal information and privacy at risk. A recent survey found that 22% of Internet users reported being hacked at least once.

At Web Design Relief, we understand the importance of following best practices and protecting yourself against common social media scams. Here’s how to stay safe and reduce your odds of becoming a victim.

Common Social Media Scams—Don’t Be Fooled

Profile Hijacking

Profile hijackers take over a victim’s account but keep the profile and images. Then they use the hijacked information to create other accounts. Once the hackers secure a connection with family and friends of the victim, they use scam tactics to try to get money. The hijacker, who is now posing as the hijacked victim, will reach out with fake emergencies that need fast cash. Don’t fall for the scam: I’m on vacation and lost my wallet. Can you wire money or send cash? Another version states: I’m out of town. Can you buy a gift card for my niece’s/nephew’s birthday gift for me? Be suspicious of anyone asking you for money on social media.

Lottery Schemes

Friends, if you receive a notice on social media that you have won a new car, or a diamond ring, or a bag of cash, please investigate before you start celebrating. If you have to pay, it’s not a prize. Lottery scams are becoming more and more cunning each day. What they all have in common is that you are asked to purchase something or send money in order to retrieve your big prize. Be alert. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Here are signs you should run the other way if you have been notified that you are the big winner:

  • You are asked to pay for something
  • You are required to wire money
  • You must first deposit a check that will be sent to you


Catfishing is less about fishing (unless you are fishing for compliments) and more about phony romancing. Catfish create fake online profiles and then seduce victims into fictitious relationships. Once they gain your trust, they work on gaining gifts and your money. Interesting fact: 64% of catfish are women. Don’t get caught by catfish no matter how many shiny lures they wave in front of you!

URL-Shortening Cons

URL shorteners are a convenient way to make a longer URL fit into a limited amount of space. However, they can also mask malicious sites that drop spyware into a user’s computer without the victim ever realizing. If you have concerns about clicking on a link, there are sites such as CheckShortURL that will allow you to see the original link before you click on it.

Chain Messages Hoaxes

Chain mail messages have been around forever—but they’ve never been more dangerous. Though they are no longer written on paper and sent via snail mail, chain mail scams are still prevalent on social media. Cybercriminals threaten that something will happen to users’ data if they don’t forward the message to friends. Or that an account has been cloned and certain steps need to be taken in order to secure it. One of the steps is informing all your friends of this, which ultimately hands over all your contacts to the hacker. Snapchat and Facebook both have been affected by chain-letter scams. Avoid this by immediately deleting any and all chain mail messages.

Online Quizzes

Who doesn’t love an online quiz—they’re harmless and fun, right? Wrong. The Better Business Bureau cautions that many quizzes are designed to mine your computer’s data. Everything from addresses to debit purchases and bank statements. Cybercriminals embed links in quizzes to gain access to personal information stored on your computer. Once these criminals have what they need, they employ other scams such as profile hacking and catfishing to steal your money and/or furtively subscribe you to monthly services billed to your credit card. If you can’t resist a quiz, make sure it comes from a reliable source.

Here’s a fill-in-the-blank quiz for you from Web Design Relief:

If it seems too good to be true, _____ _____.

Money Flipping

Money flipping is not new, but scammers are perfecting new ways to do it. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are notorious for users advertising ways to turn a few hundred dollars into a few thousand. They show the happy faces of investors enjoying their profits while basking in the sun on their yachts. It’s simple: All you do is send a prepaid debit card number and pin to a certain email or number so the investor will have access to load money. But fraud experts warn that the only people making money off this deal are the scammers who collect the information and go shopping.

Especially For Writers: Avoid These Publishing Scams

There are new scams surfacing every day. Writers, in particular, are vulnerable to publishing scams, especially those involved with self-publishing. Some vanity publishers have earned a reputation for charging exorbitant fees. And there are hybrid printers who charge smaller fees but increase royalties to supposedly offset your cost. For book writers pursuing traditional publishing, there are literary agents who might make you think twice about entrusting them with your work. Find out how to spot a bad literary agent.

For more tips on how to stay safe while on social media, check out our guide: Safety Tips for Social-Networking Writers.


Question: What social media scams have you encountered?

How To Defuse The Negativity Of Trolls On Social Media | Web Design Relief

Once upon a time, trolls only existed in fairy tales, lurking under bridges and feeding on unwary travelers. Today they lurk on the Internet and feed on the conflict they create on social media.

No online community is safe from the risk of being attacked by trolls. Web Design Relief knows the dangers and difficulties of dealing with Internet trolls, and we’ve gathered some tips and suggestions on how to defuse negativity on social media.

Effectively Neutralize Trolls On Your Social Media

Identify what type of troll you’re dealing with. Trolls get their jollies by getting a rise out of you or your followers. Their intention is to humiliate or ridicule a targeted victim. They want to tarnish reputations and discredit businesses. But, it’s a mistake to believe that all trolls are teenage boys with too much time on their hands. While it’s true that most trolls are male, studies have shown that they are not always who we think they are:

  • Trolls don’t necessarily work alone. Some of them are part of well-organized groups.
  • They aren’t always uneducated. In fact, many are well-educated individuals, some with advanced degrees.
  • Most importantly, trolls are not all harmless.

Use agreeable phrases to reduce tension. Polite gestures such as thank you, I get your point, here’s what we have in common, and/or I see my mistake might de-escalate the situation or lead your attacker to believe you are not easily provoked. Of course, this doesn’t work in all situations. Your reluctance to take the bait may come across as being vulnerable and weak. Some trolls may not be challenged enough to continue. Others will think you might be easy prey. Another thing to consider when placating a troll is that you must be careful not to ostracize your followers or disappoint your friends in the process.

Respond with facts. Let’s face it: Trolls do not fight fair. They like to use disparaging off-topic comments to start fires in your social media feeds. If a troll accuses you of spreading lies or misinformation, you can handle it one of two ways. Either admit you were mistaken (if indeed you were) and apologize (believe it or not, folks, information does vary online) OR respond calmly with facts. Hose down inflammatory comments by identifying the resources that led to your conclusion. Show examples if possible. A good offense is the best defense. And don’t forget what we’ve said about using positive remarks to defuse negativity. Something as simple as I see how you came to that conclusion but this is what I found might help neutralize an attack.

Counter with humor. Treat trolls like comedians treat hecklers. Either disregard them and move on or respond with something that makes light of their virtual assault BUT not in a derogatory manner or personal attack (trolls hate competition). If enough followers chime in, the troll may feel outnumbered and throw in the towel. But a word of caution if you attempt to use humor to subdue trolls: Sometimes, this can backfire—especially if the troll feels embarrassed or ill-equipped to handle your humorous attempt to diffuse the situation. Keep in mind, Internet bullies do not like to be bullied or mocked.

Do not feed the trolls. You know those warnings about not feeding the bears, alligators, or your moochy cousin Albert? If you toss them some popcorn, you will be forever associated with food. Trolls aren’t much different in this respect except the food that nourishes them is negative human emotion. Show them one scrap, one teeny tiny morsel of anything remotely related to fear, pain, guilt, or insecurity—and they will know exactly where to go to be fed. No matter how hungry trolls are for controversy, feed them only positive comments or ignore them completely, and you will likely starve them out. Recognize the hunger signs early on and don’t be baited.

Block and report. Most social media sites have moderators who monitor discussions and intervene when someone is being toxic or a certain post is headed in the wrong direction. If a commenter continues to display inappropriate social media etiquette, the moderator can use the block/report feature to ban the person or people being discourteous.

Unless you appoint a moderator on your personal blog or website, you will be the one doing the blocking. If you are overly concerned about how people will respond to something you post, an option that might prove beneficial is to pre-approve comments before they go live. These safety features were created for a reason. But use them in moderation. Not every rude or disagreeable person is a troll. Some of them are just rude, disagreeable people.

However, there may be times when online harassment crosses the line. Hate mail, death and rape threats, and threatening comments toward family and pets are not uncommon tactics used by trolls on the Internet. These threats should not be taken lightly. Remember, not all trolls are harmless—some have proven to be very dangerous. If a situation escalates and you feel threatened, here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

Alert family and friends to the situation. This isn’t just for support. If people around you know what’s going on, they will be less likely to inadvertently divulge your personal information to strangers pretending to be friends.

Save screenshots of the harassment and/or threats. This will help if you are forced to involve law enforcement (see below). There are ways to unveil anonymous trolls.

Avoid posting your whereabouts or daily routine on social media. Data location apps were designed to help you discover new things, but keep in mind, they also make it easy for people to discover you and your precise location.

Disable the geotagging features on your smartphone. Metadata is like bread crumbs for stalkers. It will lead them right to you. Think it’s safe to take a quick photo of yourself using your cell phone camera to upload on social media? Think again, Hansel and Gretel. There is so much metadata recorded in a digital picture, it’s like a map and you are the red star right in the center of it. Be smart about your smartphone.

If it gets really scary, involve the police. They have departments specifically created to assist with cyberbullying. Depending on the severity, you may also want to fill out the Internet Crime Complaint form known as the IC3 on the FBI site.

You can also report cyberbullying on the Cyberbullying Research Center’s Report Page.

While the Internet might sometimes seem like a scary place with trolls lurking in every dark corner, taking these few basic precautions will help keep them at bay. And remember, there are lots of nice, friendly, interested people on the Internet and social media who simply want to follow you and your writing!


Question: Have you had to deal with an Internet troll? What steps did you take to deal with the situation?

10 Social Media Book Marketing Strategies Writers Should Avoid | Web Design Relief

These days, the life of an author is often divided between writing books and online marketing on social media. But do you know what kinds of posts and book promotions are unwelcome—or even prohibited— on social media platforms? At Web Design Relief, we know that even innocent efforts to attract new fans and friends may run afoul of the powers that be. And if your accounts are suspended, blocked, or banned, you’ll be cut off from your most powerful online marketing tools. Here’s how to play it safe when promoting your book on social media.

Social Media Book Marketing Strategies That Writers Should Avoid

Using Disallowed Strategies In Social Media Contests

A contest is a great way to create excitement about your book. And while it may be tempting to require your fans or followers to “tag their friends” or “share this post” as a way to submit a contest entry into your book giveaway, this option is expressly forbidden according to Facebook Promotion Guidelines.

Joining Too Many Groups On Facebook

There are thousands of public and private groups on Facebook that cater to book lovers of every genre. As an author, these are great places to do some online marketing by connecting with avid readers. However, if you join too many Facebook groups in a short period of time, Facebook is likely to red-flag you as a potential spammer. Best advice: Don’t join more than a few groups a day.

Sending Too Many Friend Requests

You want to build a big community, so it’s natural you’ll request new friends. However, if you send out too many friend requests in a short amount of time on Facebook or Instagram, these platforms may flag you as a possible bot. Rather than sending all your friend requests at once, do a few every day to avoid having your accounts blocked or suspended.

Furthermore, to avoid being labeled a book marketing spammer, it’s best to send requests to people with whom you already share friends, groups, or interests. If too many of your friend requests are rejected, those individuals may mark your requests as “spam.”

Posting Too Often And Too Quickly

As an author, you’re told to post multiple times a day and respond as quickly as possible to anyone who comments in order to keep your followers engaged. But if you upload the same exact post to multiple places within minutes, Facebook and Instagram will recognize this behavior as similar to that of a spam-bot. The platforms are likely to squash such activity with a suspension or a shadow ban.

Post frequently, and answer fast, but make sure to leave at least a few minutes between shares and posts so you don’t mimic the behavior of a software macro.

Automating Your Posting

There are many programs available that offer to help you automate your book marketing strategy on Pinterest and Instagram, but buyer beware: At the time of this article, both of these platforms prohibit the use of automated systems. Data scrapers are also banned from Instagram and Pinterest, so you’ll just have to gather the links or images you need for your next blog post yourself.

Facebook will allow you to schedule multiple posts in advance, and you can schedule Tweets on Twitter using programs like Hootsuite without any issues.

Putting Links In The Wrong Place In Pinterest

Pinterest has very specific rules as to where you can put the link associated with the picture you’re posting on your board. Click “edit” on a posted picture and insert the link in the box labeled “link.” You can be suspended or banned for putting your link anywhere else in the metadata.

Posting Violent Or Gory Content

Attention, authors writing serial killer or noir thriller novels! Community standards vary in terminology across social media platforms, but content that is perceived to incite violence, such as terrorist activity, hate speech, criminal activity, and cruel or insensitive content that’s directed to particular victims or classes of victims, etc., is prohibited. Most platforms also strive to stop and pull down images of graphic violence, including gory surgical procedures, and ban or suspend the accounts of those who post it.

Posting Pornographic Content

Attention, writers of erotica! You won’t be banned for sharing a photo of the naked sculpture of Michelangelo’s David, or for sharing a post that includes non-sexual nudity for educational or medical purposes, but remember to be mindful of the community standards of each platform when it comes to what is considered lewd or pornographic content. Most platforms will ban users who post prohibited content such as:

  • Child nudity or any sexually exploitive photos of children
  • Sexual violence
  • Nude or pornographic posts that target people with the intention of degrading or shaming them
  • Posts of private pictures for the purpose of harassment

Posting Copyrighted Content

Don’t pull random photos or graphics from the Internet to create your posts. While authors may gasp in horror at the suggestion that they would ever copy someone else’s intellectual property, copyright infringement happens often online—particularly when it comes to graphics and photos. Make sure the images you post are yours, that you’ve attributed them if necessary, and you have the right to use them. Limit your photos to those found on sites offering royalty-free images like Shutterstock. Multiple violations won’t only get you in trouble with the copyright owners, but they might land you in Facebook Jail or get you banned from Pinterest or suspended from Twitter.

Posting Hacked Materials

Twitter specifically prohibits posting hacked information that would expose personal identity content, trade secrets, or anything that might put people in danger. You’re not allowed to post a link to hacked materials, either.

If you do run afoul of social media platform rules, they’ll usually send a warning or, at worst, briefly suspend the account before taking more drastic action. Avoid this fate by protecting your accounts, and all the hard work you’ve done to grow them, by being aware of community standards and avoiding spam-like behaviors. In the end, the best way to avoid the Facebook Sheriff is to tailor your posts for high engagement by focusing on what makes you and your work unique and wonderful.

Question: What is your favorite social media platform and how do you use it?

6 Ways To Use Your Author Website As A Networking Tool | Web Design Relief

You made the right decision and created an author website. Excellent! Now when readers, editors, or literary agents google you, your author website will act as your online business card. But the experts at Web Design Relief have a warning: Don’t let your author website just sit there like a static, online poster with your… Continue Reading

This 5-Second Rule For Social Media Saves Writers Lots Of Embarrassment | Web Design Relief

As a writer, your social media followers and fans hold you to higher standards of grammar mastery. So when you are posting on a social network like Facebook or Twitter, it’s important to make sure your updates are error-free. At Web Design Relief, we know that in addition to being a writer, sometimes you have… Continue Reading

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