Your Digital Footprint 0.1 - Why You Should Manage It

It’s a whole new world, baby. Once upon a time, politicians, entertainers and athletes could get away with a fair amount of silly behavior with no record of it.

There was no such thing as a digital footprint, capturing every event in your life into the indissoluble time capsule called the internet.

With the birth of the online world, however, came an entire new way of being remembered and, more relevantly, an entirely different way of being evaluated now.

Did you know that most employers are more interested in what they find out about prospect employees on Google over what their resume says?

I wasn’t kidding; it really is a whole, new world.

In this series of blogs, I’m going to show you how to use your digital footprint to your advantage: how to manage it when it needs managing and then how to create leverage with it in your personal and professional life.

Tell Me About This “Digital Footprint”

Technically, digital footprint is the information that exists on the Internet about you as a result of your online activity. With the emergence of social media, however, your digital footprint includes captured moments from your offline activity, too.

It’s like a public ledger that records all of your digital comings and goings.

Just 3% of self-searchers report that they make a regular habit of managing their digital presence and 22% say they search using their name “every once in a while.” Three-quarters of self-searchers (74%) have checked up on their digital footprint only once or twice.

Shockingly, as many as 60% of internet users say they are not worried about how much information is available about them online.

It’s a problem to be out-of-touch with the persona you’re creating online because the more data you contribute to the internet (via social media, websites, blogs, podcasts, etc.) the more knowable you become.

So it’s not establishing your digital footprint that’s the tricky part; it’s managing it.

What are people learning about you? What kind of person are they learning to know?

In case you’re not convinced yet, here’s a shortlist of startling facts about digital footprints:

• What you do online will never be deleted. You can do a lot to hide this information, but you can never completely delete it.

• Everything you do is stored in a remote area that you may never have know about.

• If you visit a website, the website usually looks at what websites you were on before and after you looked at theirs.

• Anything you search on Google can be looked up.

• 65% of internet users see the internet as the most trusted source of information about people and companies.

• Every computer has a number that is traceable.

• About 38% of all college applicants are negatively affected when colleges looked at their footprint.

• 75% of US adults that Googled themselves said their search results were not positive.

• 75% of companies have formal policies that require their recruiters to do online research when screening candidates for a position.

  70% of HR departments and 50% of executive recruiters have rejected perfectly qualified candidates from a job search based on information they found online.

• If someone says something about you online it goes on your digital footprint, whether it’s negative or positive.

Digital Footprint = New Credit Score

In one of my favorite books, The Reputation Economy, Michael Fertik outlines a principle that we should all strongly consider when it comes to our online reputation. He says that your digital footprint is a kind of new credit score.

His theory?

“Everything you do online today will be recorded, stored, and analyzed to determine your reputation score which will be updated instantly and used to predict your behavior. This will then have huge consequences for your career business and every other aspect of your life.” - Michael Fertik

Your online presence is a vital part of both your professional and personal image. Negative comments, reviews, unorthodox pictures, and more can leave scars on your reputation no matter how long ago it was posted or said.

What Should I Be Aware Of?

Pew Research found that 66% of all bad reviews and personal harassment occurs online via social media and apps.

When you post something on the internet, it’s out there forever. Deleting online content often only removes it from public view, while it continues to be stored in archives and databases forever.

Even deleting your account isn’t a guarantee that your content will be deleted. It may still be accessible through other means.

My intention isn’t to frighten you with this data or inspire youto seek out a compound to live in.

It’s to create awareness to the magnitude of this issue and offer practical ways you can manage the image you present of yourself online, while using it to build your brand and business.

You can begin by managing what you post of yourself online. Think about the photos you put on websites and social media. Most of these are findable via search engines.

Consider the reviews other people might be leaving you or your business on apps such as Yelp! and consider what certain reviews might make you appear to be, as well.

Be careful about location tagging. If you’re tagging yourself at a less-than-reputable party or in a less-than-desirable geographical area, both of these things can affect your brand and personal image.

In the next blog, I’ll be going much more in-depth on how to manage your digital footprint and make building your brand much easier.