In creating a plan to improve my digital footprint I looked at ways to not only craft a desirable personal image, but how to best manage the reputation of my business and professional persona as well. In researching tips and information on how one can best manage their digital footprint I found many similar recommendations amongst resources, but I also noticed some diversity in the suggestions based on what audience the recommendations were geared toward (young, old, personal, business, etc.). For this reason I took a customized approach toward what I felt was most important to me and my goals. My proposed steps toward leaving a lasting positive legacy online both personally and professionally are outlined below.
1. Get organized as far as what accounts I have out there and deactivate or delete what I don’t need or use anymore. For example I don’t use MySpace or Pandora anymore so why do I need to have those accounts open still. Deleting these will not only mean someone won’t be able to hack them and use them without me realizing it, but it should hopefully also leave less passive information out there for people to gather on me (Bell, 2012)
2. Setup tools to track and monitor my personal and professional information. Whether using Google Alerts to track my personal and business name (Bell, 2012), or custom RSS feeds which can be used to track keyword searches that may be related to me (Beal, 2006).
3. Research new advancements in monitoring mechanisms on at least an annual basis and implement or change my approach/tactics as available/needed. The internet is constantly evolving and this means no single tool will keep up with every social network, search engine, or channel of information (Angotti, 2011).
4. Create a better password management approach to keep my accounts secure. I am constantly using dozens of different passwords between my personal, business, and day job usage. It becomes a struggle to manage all the different passwords I have; especially with some business/work software or sites I use requiring changes every 2-3 months. I will be moving to use a password management tool such as LastPass which can help minimize frustration and keep my passwords safe (Bell, 2012).
5. Work to ensure my personal identity is separated from my business identity as much as possible. The first step I will take toward accomplishing this is to use my Facebook for strictly personal relationships and LinkedIn for all professional relationships (Girard, 2011).
6. Create an emergency brand management plan for my business. With my online business launching next year I have not yet given thought to how I would manage my reputation in the wake of a worst case scenario such as a major hacking attack or defamation of character from a competitor (Angotti, 2011). I will be establishing a backup plan that I can quickly reference in emergency should something go seriously awry.
7. Conduct outreach to potential customers for my business to create a positive image. This will include going to forums, user groups, or message boards where my prospective customer base might be congregating. I will try and become trusted through active participation and building relationships with vocal members in these places (Beal, 2006).
8. Consistently step back and take the time to view my online persona from an outsiders perspective by looking myself up on Google, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn and a few of the other sites to see what comes up (Girard, 2011). This will allow me to identify any behavior that a friend, family member, colleague, or perspective client/employer may look at poorly in case I have failed to “think before posting” (Pelgin, 2012).
9. Try and be ethical about my behavior online and not resort to any drastic, inappropriate, or illegal (black hat) methods to control or improve my online personal and professional reputation as this can come back to hurt me in the end (Morris, 2007).
10. Come up with a “digital estate plan”. I will be setting up instructions and a protocol for my fiancée and family to follow for when I eventually pass away. While not something most people think about the digital assets they have collected they need to be accounted for and a means for providing access to them (Kellogg, 2013).
Angotti, D. (2011, November 08). Proactive reputation management strategies. Retrieved from http://www.searchenginejournal.com/proactive-online-reputation-management/35871/
Beal, A. (2006, March 7). Free online reputation management beginner’s guide. Retrieved from http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2006/03/online-reputation-monitoring-beginners.html
Bell, M. (2012, February 03). Beware of privacy policies: Time to clean up your digital footprint. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/beware-of-privacy-policies-time-to-hide-your-digital-footprint/2012/01/31/gIQADI7PnQ_story.html
Girard, A. (2011, September 19). managing your digital footprint. Retrieved from http://www.ccaurora.edu/blogs/faculty-staff/art-design/managing-your-digital-footprint/
Kellogg, S. (2013, January). Managing your digital afterlife: Cyber footprint, ownership, and access . Retrieved from http://www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/resources/publications/washington_lawyer/january_2013/digital_afterlife.cfm
Morris, D. (2007, April 27). Top 10 strategies to improve your online reputation. Retrieved from http://www.distilled.net/blog/reputation-monitor/top-10-strategies-to-improve-your-online-reputation/
Pelgin, W. (2012, July). managing your digital footprint: think before you post. Retrieved from http://msisac.cisecurity.org/newsletters/2012-07.cfm