Photo by Nathan McBride

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, events you have attended—everything you do now leaves a digital footprint. Google yourself and see what appears. Once you start looking, the number of footprints you’ve created can be quite alarming!

But what can you do? Digital is the future and it’s important to understand it. There are some obvious benefits to having a digital footprint, and looking for a job or researching a potential employee aren’t the only benefits of having an online personal.

So, should we even worry about it if digital has become so ubiquitous? Truthfully, I don’t know, but I am leaning towards caution. I think there are a few simple things we can do to manage our profiles and digital footprints better so that the information we find about ourselves is the information we wanted to share.

Be private or public, but always be sensible

I’ve met a few people who don’t have an online presence whatsoever. Having very little or no digital footprint is quite unusual and, perhaps, a rarefied status to be protected. (If you’re reading this, you obviously don’t fall into this category.

However, the majority of those I come across are quite public, yet careful about what they say. In essence, they adopt somewhat of a cultivated PR image, and this can work very well, especially if you maintain authenticity.

The real danger is when you post without being careful about the content and its message. Often, the HR leaders I interact with know the importance of their online image, and so there is a clear delineation between their personal profiles and their professional ones. But be careful. Organisations are increasingly holding their leaders accountable for even their personal profiles if they feel it can cast a negative image on the business. Be mindful of your privacy settings and check them often.

Don’t spread yourself too thin

It can be exciting and quite fun to be active on social media. There’s definitely a lot of different platforms to choose from. Fancy a hand at writing? There’s everything from Wordpress and Medium to LinkedIn articles and countless online publications looking for a unique perspective.

If images are more your thing, then there’s Instagram where a well-placed tag can have the most impact on viewership. Succinct? Twitter (despite the new changes). There’s Vimeo for videos, and Facebook is a nice catchall. So, there’s a lot to choose from. But each of these platforms have a speciality and simply reposting the same content isn’t the most effective way to engage your audience.

Pick a certain number of platforms and manage them properly. Decide the frequency and content of your posts. If you’re in a high-profile position or you don’t enjoy the intricacies of planning social media postings, seek assistance or have someone do it for you.

To tag or not to tag

I’m a believer in tags. It just helps me reach my intended audience more directly. But tagging, dare I say it, is an art form. You can be tagged by others, which can highlight your networking / connectivity skills (if that’s what you want), but being tagged in the wrong posts can go against your online strategy and have embarrassing consequences. I recommend changing your settings so if anyone tags you, you must manually accept it before it goes live. This will help you retain tighter control over your image.

But note, even when you’re not tagging or being tagged, you’re still leaving a digital footprint on the web and social media.

Authenticity is the name of the game

The key, I’ve found, is authenticity. If you try to be something you’re not, it won’t work. Sure, you might get a few likes and comments in the beginning, but in the long run, your followers won’t stick with you.

Being authentic isn’t easy because authenticity is often linked with vulnerability. I don’t believe you need to discuss your personal life to have a social media profile, but I do think you need to be passionate about what you do choose to discuss. If wellness is important to you, simply following on the coattails of the latest thematic fad probably won’t work, especially if it’s not wellness.

Just be you.

The more you use social media, the more comfortable you’ll get with it. Regularly search your digital footprint to check for outdated information that no longer aligns with your current profile. Always consider the content you upload to be permanent. Video or press events picked up on the internet can remain indefinitely. The best way to ensure you are happy with what is published is to get involved with the editing or proofing.

Whether you’re one who aims for total authenticity or someone who has a more controlled approach to your digital profile, it’s importance to exercise good judgment and be vigilant. Most of these platforms change their settings and preferences quite frequently, and so being aware of these changes will be instrumental in maintaining the type of profile that you want.