Sunday, June 20, 2010

Building a Positive and Purposeful Digital Footprint

On Friday, I was a little shell shocked to find out all the ways that I leave a digital imprint without being entirely aware of the path I was leaving. Seeing as I had already Googled myself, I knew that I did not have a negative footprint. Heck, I even gave my research writing students a paper on how negative use of the internet and SNS (social networking sites) can impact their future. However, the one part I left out when teaching them or myself, is how a digital footprint can help them land that job or get into that university. So tonight I was looking at articles on building positive digital footprints.

The article Managing Your Digital Footprint discusses not only how to monitor your activities online by searching multiple search engines and using a variety of techniques (such as using one's address, phone number, email alias, etc) but also how to build a positive footsteps to help your career. This article suggests, building a professional web page, use forums such as to post information about yourself and your qualifications, post on industry web sites about your area of expertise, and practice discretion when blogging or posting on forums. The first three had never occurred to me. It almost makes formal resumes obsolete. I wonder how much longer companies will accept paper copies of a resume and job application. If these are the opportunities out there, students need to be made aware of this in high school in order to make sure they are given a level playing field. The last one, practicing discretion, however, is one that many people already practice before they send an email, yet seem to forget when posting on websites, blogs, and forums.

How to Build Your Digital Footprint in 8 Easy Steps was a blog I read that actually seemed a bit more practical. In his blog, Mitch Joel starts at the very beginning with having a strategy before foraying into the digital world. The next step talks about finding the right forum. The best forum is not always Facebook or Twitter. Joel talks about playing to your strengths. If your writing style is better as a blogger don't use Twitter. He also says that the channel you choose must match your strategy. Like the previous article, Joel suggests doing a digital dig into your personal digital footprint. The next step is to follow the leaders of your industry, whether it is a blog, podcast, video on youtube, etc. This should then be followed by adding your thoughts, your voice. This can be done by commenting on postings or as a contributor on industry sites. Step 6 should be to create your own platform for your voice in your own channel. The next step can be the most overwhelming ... stay aware. Keep up with the many different channels ... the old ones and the new ones. Lastly Joel states it is important to have fun.

Personally, I liked the 8 Easy Steps blog because it was more detailed for the novice. Besides how can you not like something that ends with "have fun". These are the tools we need to be teaching to high school students. While we can provide the dire warnings, it is crucial that we give them tools to build positive digital footprints that will open doors for them.

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