Whether you like it or not, you already have a digital footprint that you can’t fully control. People are talking about you; dissecting you; and making decisions about you every day of the week.
You don’t even have to be online to have a digital footprint – people and businesses that don’t have an active web presence are being talked about. By their customers; their clients; their past and futures. So if all this talk is going on and you’re late to the party, isn’t it already too late?
But it is time to define your digital footprint so you can at least help guide what you’d like to be found. In this first part of a series, I’m going to look at how you can define a strong footprint. Upcoming posts will look at tools you can use, how to connect strongly, how to react and converse with negative footprints, and more.
Who Are You?
There are a ton of ways for you to define your digital footprint, but let’s face it – unless you know who you are and who you want to be known as, any kind of defining could turn out worthless. If you don’t have a strong signal of you, everything else is just guesswork. So how do you make a strong you?
- Be consistent. Wherever you are online, make sure you’re not confusing anyone. While the likes of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Squidoo and other popular networking sites appeal to a different audience, that doesn’t mean you have to be completely different on them. Adapt to the community; make the conversation fit the space; but keep a sense of you while doing it. Is it a business approach you take? A more personal one? A mix of the two? Find a voice and run with that.
- Claim your space. Think of a glass of scotch or bourbon. Pour it neat and it’s a strong colour. Add water, and it’s not just the taste that’s diluted – the colour is too. Think of your digital footprint as the scotch, and networks where you’re active as the water. If possible, try and grab the same username on each profile you’re active on. If this isn’t possible, it can be better going for a derivative as opposed to numbers – so, @danny_brown on Twitter as opposed to @dannybrown18275. This will keep your name strong and prevent it from being diluted.
- Be recognizable. As much as what you say and how you say it will help define your footprint, the way you look will help define how you’re viewed. It’s true – first impressions do count. Use an avatar that states who you are – personable and fun if a personal account, business-like but approachable if a professional account. A good choice is an informal head shot or a clear, smiling face. You could use a brand icon, but why not show the human face with a small brand banner across the bottom instead? Either way, being easily recognizable on first viewing is something to aim for.
- Start walking. If you want to create any kind of footprint, digital or otherwise, you need to do one simple thing – start walking. Online, that just means start talking. Talk to people; talk with people; join discussions; post a blog comment; write a blog post (there are a few options available if you don’t like the idea of a full on blog, which I’ll look at next time). No-one will know you’re around unless you walk up and say “Hi” – so walk on up and introduce yourself. Set yourself a clear direction and start that journey; just don’t be afraid to ask for directions along the way.
These are just the early steps that you can take toward defining and identifying your digital footprint – but they’re important ones nonetheless. Get the early steps right, and the rest of the path might become just that little bit easier to navigate.
In the next post, we’ll look at what tools are available to help you plant your footprint and maintain it, and the platforms that may be more beneficial to you than others.
In the meantime, what have I missed? What would you recommend when it comes to setting up your digital footprint?