A tale of two travelers
Michael, a popular athlete, got married on a beautiful spring day a few years ago. He and his bride posted their rehearsal dinner and wedding photos on Facebook. They also shared their excitement in leaving town for a week on their honeymoon. They posted few pictures on their honeymoon, but they were shocked and distressed to return home and discover an empty house. Someone had stolen everything.
Emma was a young journalist living with her husband in Colorado. The pair enjoyed hiking and traveling, and made a habit of sharing their travel photos and trip information on Facebook. After one long weekend away, they returned to find they had been robbed.
How did this happen? Both of these couples lived in safe neighborhoods and had great friends.
Be careful what you share
Although names have been changed to ensure confidentiality, both stories are true. Both stories demonstrate the power of social media in our lives, and both stories teach a costly lesson: be careful what you share. While we may have great friends who would never rob us, the nature and reach of social media means that just about anyone can see what you are posting despite your privacy settings. A status update announcing your upcoming camping trip or theme park visit tells your friends you’re excited about your vacation plans. The same status update tells potential thieves something quite different: your home is vacant. Maybe your friends post about your upcoming trip, too. Your family shares photos that you posted to their network. Your kids announce on Twitter that they’ll be gone over spring break. Pretty soon everyone knows.
Yes, you can still share your pictures on social media! A big part of my online presence involves travel photography. But why make it easier for potential predators to take advantage of you? Take proactive steps to minimize the chance that strangers will bother your home while you’re gone.
Share your pictures AFTER you return
Nothing says you have to post pictures on Facebook during your trip. Keep snapping photos, journaling, and editing while on your trip—just post when you get home. You can easily create fun Animoto videos (with music!) from your pictures, or use PicMonkey to add filters and fun text overlays.
Create a SECRET Facebook group
I like to post pictures during my trips because it gives a more real-time feel to the social status updates. My family and friends enjoy seeing where my husband and I are while we’re gone. To accomplish this, I create a secret Facebook group and add family and a few select friends. This prevents anyone from sharing my pictures or status updates outside of the group.
Note that there are open, private, and secret groups on Facebook. Your goal is to create a secret group—that way, only the people you invite will be able to see it. If you create a private group titled, “Our Family Trip to Disneyworld,” people you may not know can see it as a suggestion if one of their friends is in it. Pretty soon you’ll have friends and strangers alike wanting to join your group meant for just family and close friends.
Create your secret group by clicking the “+Create Group” button on the left side navigation menu under the “Groups” heading. The following menu will allow you to choose a group name, add group members, and select the privacy level. You will have the option to make it open, private, or secret. You must have at least one other person in order to create a group, so add your traveling partner and any others you wish to include. You can upload a group cover photo, but you can also just let Facebook create a cover photo that includes the profile pictures of the members of your group. Add an initial post to explain what the group is about and why the group is secret.
Once you’ve created your group, start uploading mobile pictures and writing posts as you travel. This is a great way to preserve at-the-moment thoughts and memories. Facebook will record the time and location of your mobile posts, which is also helpful in creating your travelogue.
Write status updates on your regular feed, but set to “Only Me”
Want another option? Write status updates on Facebook in your normal feed, but set the privacy of each entry to “Only Me.” This setting enables you to keep a private, at-the-moment travelogue on your regular profile. You can release the updates days or even weeks later. The critical step? Always remember to select the “Only Me” option on your mobile device and laptop.
Enjoy your trip and take LOTS of pictures. Professional photographers know that it takes thousands of photos to get a few winners. You don’t need professional-grade equipment to take great vacation photos. Get close (closer than you think) to the action, take candid shots, and stop putting the main subject of the picture in the middle of the frame. I include a lot of tips for using your smartphone to take great pictures in my book, Social Media Mastery. Bon voyage!