Our digital footprint is crucial to pay attention to as millennials. It’s somewhat intimidating knowing how much we are tracked online (!!). But, that online presence gives us the power to reach a multitude of people and possibilities that we just can’t get in person.
Understanding your digital footprint and doing your best to take control of it can unlock those possibilities.
First thing is first!
What is your digital footprint?
Your digital footprint is “the sum of your internet activity and all references to you on the world wide web.”
Remember, what you do online is permanent. Deleting something from the internet does not delete it from your digital footprint.
This is the case with facebook, google, and twitter, despite your privacy settings.
Why should you care about your digital footprint?
Consider who sees it:
- Employers. Don’t lose a job or internship because of something silly you have on the internet.
- Educators. If you’re a student, your teachers can definitely find you online, even if they don’t want to, and what they find might be what they end up associating you with in class.
- College Admissions. Colleges understand that their students represent the school. You bet they’re checking you out.
It has benefits:
- Networking. You can meet an infinite amount of people online that can help you in school, work, entrepreneurship, etc. and it can happen way more intentionally than the awkward, in-person networking events.
- Job Searching. This one’s a no-brainer. Show your dedication through online outreach.
- Keeping in touch with old friends (not all social media is evil, guys!)
- Using it as a platform to make extra money. Build a website and/or begin freelancing through digital outreach. Earn extra money!
First… some digital footprint ground rules:
- Be real and public
- Don’t hide behind the “privacy” of your profiles- everyone has a digital footprint, it looks weirder not to have one
- Don’t be a bully, stay accountable. Cyber bullying is a huge issue.
- Be kind
- Maintain accurate and factual information
- Stay consistent
- Be grammatically correct
Before you begin creating your digital empire, it’s important to understand where your current digital status is. Here are some tips on doing that.
Clean up your social media
Often, you’ll see online that a smart way to handle social media is to turn things on private mode and try to run and hide with your social platform. This is outdated advice that I totally disagree with for a couple of reasons:
- Privacy actually doesn’t help much. There are codes to hack around your privacy settings and this trend will only increase and strengthen as our society becomes more technologically advanced.
- Those who have privacy settings look increasingly like they are hiding something.
- Private= anonymous. It’s the anonymous nature of the internet that often causes cyberbullying. Stay transparent and accountable and be kind.
- With a clean and positive profile, you can actually use social media to network, find jobs, find extra income opportunities, and take advantage of that world wide web that you’ll totally miss out on if you have everything privatized.
I encourage you to do the opposite of privatizing your accounts. Make them beautiful, pay attention to them, and show yourself off! But first, make sure you have safe settings and a clean slate to starts from.
Here’s the step-by-step process to cleaning up your social media.
Social media is the most obvious and easiest to control platform for digital footprint management. But, of course, that’s probably not the only thing about you on the internet. You need to search for what else is out there.
Rather than simply typing your name into google, digital marketing expert, Grant Simmons, suggests searching yourself in quotes as it’ll up your search ratings. Find out what is out there about you and shaping your digital footprint. Then delete it or e-mail those who have the power to delete it and ask them to.
Keep track of accounts and delete
Old e-mail addresses or that Myspace account should try to be deleted. The world wide web is worldly and so wide it’s nearly impossible to completely control your digital footprint. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t control what you can. Have a record of the accounts you have and delete the ones you don’t use.
Keep a password tracker
Keep track of your passwords. It’s cumbersome and annoying and can seem pointless when resetting isn’t so difficult. But, it’s important for a couple reasons:
1- Remembering everywhere you have accounts is important (see above)
2- Resetting often might lower security
3- Your own sanity!
Create your digital footprint
Now that your profiles are clean and you’re more aware of what’s about you online, you can begin to leverage your digital footprint! Here’s how.
1- Make your social media spiffy
Have a good profile photo
- Ideally, you’re the only one in this photo
- High quality, clear and not pixelated
- Bonus- be doing something that is related to your profession!
Have accurate and informative information
- It may surprise you to hear that one of the largest reasons employers don’t hire for applications they see on social media was because the information was inconsistent with their resume. More so than drinking, etc.!
Keep it updated
- It might seem like having a profile that you barely use shows you’re not addicted to social media. I get that. But having profiles that look abandoned and outdated looks lazy and like you don’t care about what your online presence says about you. Stay updated.
2- Network with social media
Find your idea online contacts. They…
- Have complete, professional and polished profiles.
- Stay active frequently and engaged with others online.
- Have a lot of followers and/or a strong online presence
Join Groups + Discussions
LinkedIn + Facebook both have working, professional, etc., groups to engage in. You can simply search for a keyword or topic you’re looking to connect within and join the groups accordingly. Feel free to ask questions within those groups, but don’t forget to help out others with their questions, too!
Tips on Communicating
- Be authentic. You don’t want to simply meet a person, you want to engage with a person.
- Find a person’s preferred form of social media and stick with it. What are they most often on?
3- Build a personal website
A personal website (a website with the domain as your first and last name, NOT to be confused with a blog) is a necessity for millennials. It’s our generations 3D, digital and multidimensional resume. Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.
This is because our generation is full of multidimensional talent. We can’t be confined to one field of work or on one piece of paper, and that’s what makes our generation so powerful.
I love my personal website so much because it allows employers, future clients, and hopeful connections to personify me within just 30 seconds, rather than me hoping to stand out in a sea of papers and e-mails. On top of that, it’s something that I can consistently update. This is my favorite way to use my digital footprint to my advantage, rather than thinking of it as a scary liability.
Now that you’ve cleaned and created a strong, beautiful digital footprint for yourself, keep up with it. You don’t have to spend hours a week on it (and I don’t recommend doing so!). But, do perform occasional audits for information to make sure it’s still clean and professional. Devry University has created an infographic for easy reference on cleaning up your digital footprint. Do update your accounts with a new job, location or accomplishment. Do add your personal website to your resume and social media accounts. Build your digital empire.