Super Fan or Cyber Stalker? How You Can Tell the Difference and When to Draw the Line


As a member of the media, you’re probably a local celebrity.

You’ve built a solid following – readers, listeners, and/or viewers. Fans are following you on social media, and you may possess a verified Twitter account.

Your personal brand is falling into place, and you regularly engage your audience on social channels.

They, in turn, retweet your stuff, like and comment on your Facebook wall, Instagram photos, and YouTube videos and posts. You’ve nurtured a new level of admirers – super fans.

But if everything is kosher, what’s that little voice inside your head that sometimes wonders whether this or that fan may have crossed the line? Are these really fans or stalkers?

“A stalker seeks and demands one-on-one attention, an exclusive experience and close level of intimacy with the celebrity as a friend, even family,” explains Albert Goldson, executive director of Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC, a New York-based global advisory firm that provides international investment, political and security risk assessment.

A super fan, on the other hand, has no problem engaging the celebrity with a group like a fan club, Goldson says.

Where to Draw the Line

For Adryenn Ashley, a social media influencer and red-carpet-walking movie/TV producer, the trick is to keep your super fans happy, but not allow others to mistake them for true friends.

cyber haters quoteLimit your conversations. Ashley’s rule of thumb is a maximum of two engagements per day and no more than three times a week.

“As a public figure you don’t get to choose your audience,” she says. “It is by its very nature, public and open to any and all who want to come watch and with the easy availability of social media, engage as well.”

But be careful.

Goldson says one problem you may have is a clever stalker embedded within a super fan club or a super fan who “crosses the line” and goes rogue.

Dissuade potential stalkers by focusing all communications on your profession and the industry.

That may be difficult, especially when you’re busy building your personal brand; social media best practices dictate a certain level of engagement with your audience.

The Art of Balance

Goldson says one of his preferred social engagement methods actually involves reaching out to groups than individuals. Think a public communication via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and never email (whether personal or one established to communicate to super-fans).

Also, eliminate anything about your personal life no matter how mundane it may seem.

Stalkers will latch onto any shred of personal information to establish a connection and use it as a psychological anchor to gain closer access, Goldson says.

And if you tweet something fans don’t agree with?

Healthy debate is never a bad thing.

Ashley says her fans know they can disagree with her and even argue and try to change her mind, but all debate must be healthy and based in logic and reason.

She remembers one incident when a reader took issue with her use of the word “whackadoodle,” which Ashley said was the only word that could describe what she was discussing.

“She promptly left dozens of tweets to other influencers saying that I made fun of the mentally ill,” Ashley says. “The backlash was extreme, and I had to stand in the fire and hold my own. But that’s what you have to do as a public figure. Own your words. Be willing to change your mind/position if the situation warrants it, but never be bullied into it. It’s our job to stand for the voiceless and draw attention to topics that matter.”

Establish Zero Tolerance

Still, sometimes passion takes over, and the haters will come out of the woodwork enmasse to try and take you down, Ashley says.

Goldson warns they also can establish multiple online identities so if you identify one or block their cyber communications, they’ll reemerge elsewhere.

“The only way to identify this is to note similar language and style patterns in the communications,” he says.

Ashley has a zero tolerance rule.

“My blocky finger comes out whenever someone sends me a naked picture, has nothing but hate on their page, makes threats (those go straight to the FBI), or they are abusive to my audience,” she says.

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Jessica Alas is Multicultural Audience Director at PR Newswire. Follow her at @alasjessica

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