What’s the big story this week - Madonna falling off the stage during Brit awards. We all laughed I’m sure. There’s something negative in the human spirit that thrives on seeing celebrities get their comeuppance. This got me to thinking about why a simple undignified fall is big media news. If she fell down the steps in her home - did it happen if nobody saw it? The problem was that it happened to her on the world stage, beamed out on live television and then mercilessly replayed on YouTube and subsequently scorned on Facebook and Twitter. Once it happened there was no Stalinist erasing of the event.
This is also true for all users of social media. What’s cool played out in your own home or shared with a friend is not the same as sharing with the planet. People hungry to see you fall from grace will delight in every online faux pas. Also and most importantly, potential employers use Cyber-Vetting to research applicants based on their online activities and what they discover can be an eye-opener and a barrier to that job. All the different facets of you: your love of wild parties, your need to expose a little too much flesh or your unfiltered rants are all out there ready to be harvested. This is your Digital Footprint, the term used to describe the trail, traces or "footprints" that people leave online. Try it. Google your name followed by your home town. If you have a Facebook page or LinkedIn profile your name will probably come up on the first page. This is you, is the public perception a good one?
I mentor students at Edinburgh College and I regularly nag them on the dangers of not being in control of that footprint. One of the biggest mistakes is using the social media accounts that they created when they were 15. When as a teenager, your username was @PartyMan you weren’t thinking about your future career, now however, it is a big deal.
A few simple hints on managing your digital footprint:
- Create a sensible Username
- Think before you post. Think before you post…
- Don’t post things that you don't want others to know about you
- Don’t post things that you wouldn’t say to their face
- Be wary of sharing other people’s content, by implication you support their views
One of the recent trends is this issue of Personal Branding - a modern term that many think describes something so self-important and massively egotistical that it borders on delusional. However that thought aside. The notion that we can package ourselves and present a consistent positive impression to the world is a good one.
You may think that cultivating your image (Brand) would be easy but often people do not take this as seriously as they should. It requires considered thought and discipline, ensuring that all the elements are consistent and credible. How people perceive you can be important to future success but what’s the best way to manage this perception? In short, be yourself but just employ a reliable filter!
What people say behind your back is your standing in the community.