Your Digital Footprints…

Do you give much thought to the digital footprint you’re leaving?  Unlike footprints left in the sand, your digital footprint can be notoriously difficult to alter.

There’s a song I learned in Sunday School long, long ago…

“Oh, be careful little feet, where you go. Oh, be careful little feet, where you go.. There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love, So be careful little feet, where you go.”

Ah – those were the days.  Back then, I only had to worry about an omniscient and omnipresent God  hearing what I said, seeing what I saw and watching where my feet took me.

Contrast that with today when anyone with access to the internet can be granted an unprecedented level of omniscience – at least when it comes to observing digital interactions.  Online we’re constantly being judged by what we write! The blog posts I write, the comments I leave on other blogs not to mention the information contained in various online profiles are available for ALL to see.  Combined, those interactions are creating a digital footprint that can’t be easily erased or altered.

Internet access + basic computer skills = a level of  omniscience previously unknown to mankind!

The new Web 2.0 is providing a level of transparency which is unprecedented and is making social networking very similar to showing up naked to a cocktail party.

If there’s one term that you must keep in mind when you decide to engage in Social Marketing, it would have to be TRANSPARENCY!

Remember, launching a social marketing campaign is like showing up naked to a cocktail party. If you haven’t been hitting the gym, EVERYONE is going to know as soon as you enter the room. Oh, and if you’re a pre-op transvestite… well THAT fact is going to be obvious as well.

Now it’s more important than ever to be authentic in your interactions!

In What Every Business Owner Must Know About Web 2.0, I share that bloggers are the ULTIMATE power customers. If you don’t believe it – read about Cath Lawsons recent hosting experience and see if it doesn’t color your perception of her previous web host. If you’re a business owner, then it’s essential that you know what people are saying about your business.  The “new web” not only allows your customers to engage in more open conversations – it also allows you to monitor and join those conversations.   Your customers are helping to create your business’ digital footprint.

However, while customers are definitely helping to create your business’ digital footprint – it’s possible that  the one doing the most damage to your online reputation (a.k.a. “digital footprint”)- could well be YOU!

“We have met the enemy and he is us,” Walt Kelly in Pogo

Last Friday, I was having a conversation with a beloved long time client.  We met virtually in 1999 and have worked closely together over the years.  Over the past decade, this client’s profile has risen significantly, and that meteoric rise has been reflected in her fees.  While in 1999 she was an upstart in this “new” world called the internet, she’s now a highly sought after keynote speaker and consultant.

Last week I got an email from her, inquiring what I knew about a blog that had nominated her as one of the 50 “best” in her field.  The award was a classic linkbait post.  In this case, the blogger was attempting to curry attention and inbound links by creating his own award and  nominating the “top” performers in the field in this post.  It seemed the criteria for nomination was to be listed in the first few pages of Google in a search for a particular keyword term.

Unfortunately, my client was not amused by the company of practitioners nominated by the blogger.

One of the things I ADORE about this client is her wickedly sharp wit.  (There’s a reason she’s a sought after keynote speaker.)  In this situation, my client could have chosen to “ignore” the nomination or she could have done as many other “nominees” and thanked the blog owner for the “honor”.  However, she chose a different path – that of direct confrontation via the comment section of the blog.

She sent me via email the comment she left and it was positively sardonic.  I love her for that.  The blog owner replied defensively and the battle had begun. My client was winding up to take another swing and sent me a preview of the reply.  In a battle of wits – the blog owner was definitely unarmed and blissfully unaware of this fact.  My client was about to let loose with a salvo that would illustrate this clearly.

When she contacted me originally – I had suggested she politely thank the blog owner for the award or ignore it.  As she wound up for another round, and again asked my advice,  I took a more “direct” approach.  I told her, “When you stir shit – it stinks!  STOP STIRRING!!!”

See, there is a tactic of shameless self promotion where a blogger is encouraged to try to make enemies and therefore increase blog traffic and name recognition as a result.

In the case above, the upstart blogger had a lot to gain from positining himself as my client’s “enemy” – and my client had nothing to gain from such a pairing.  She’s well known within her industry and he is not.  It is my professional opinion that she doesn’t need to provide him with a “leg up” by engaging in this battle.   Quite honestly, her responses were entertaining enough to provide significant value to his blog.

We had a conversation about this on Friday and she thanked me for reminding her about the digital footprints she was leaving as she ventured into the strange new land of Web 2.0.

Have you ever “pulled back” and not commented on a blog post for fear of the impact upon your digital footprint?  Have you ever edited blog posts or comments with your digital footprint in mind?  How do you keep your personal digital footprint distinct from your professional digital footprint?


  1. I’m more mindful of the digital footprints now that I’m posting under my real name. Back in the early days, anonymity was more prevalent, and perhaps it still is in certain circles. It seems to me that if we want authenticity, transparency goes with it. So, discretion is the better part of valor! Thanks, Kathy.

    Betsy Wuebkers last blog post..PLAY OFFENSE WITH YOUR LIFE’S WORK

  2. Hi Kathy. I don’t comment on other posts because I just don’t have anything to add. I do try to be careful when writing comments and posts though… but there comes a time when too much filtering kills the real you. Blatant personal attacks are not welcome on my blog and I don’t hand them out either.

    Davinas last blog post..New Blog: Loving Pulse Turns Shades Of Crimson

  3. Oops, sorry… I used the wrong url above. That’s my old blog.

    Davinas last blog post..Self Help Me

  4. While I understand the concept of “digital footprint,” it’s not something I’ve ever considered in depth. I don’t really have an on-line business, but, if I did, I don’t think there would be a difference between my business digital footprint and my private one, except perhaps, in content. That being said, I do edit blog posts or refrain from posting taking into consideration how I might come across in the moment.

    I guess, like anything else, it somewhat depends on your personality. If you are a laid back person like me who seldom stirs the pot, then your foot-print is probably not going to have much stink to it. However, if you are an aggressive, on the go all the time type person, chances are that you might have some stinky issues left behind out there on the web.

    Mike Goads last blog post..Yellowstone National Park…. and a cool video, too!

  5. as difficult as it may be sometimes. i keep my mouth shut. i’m more likely to share things on other people’s blogs than my own. people who know me know where to find my blog and a lot of people know me… so i have to be careful to keep my nose clean. i don’t talk about people i know personally either..i know people at my job read my blog as well…so when in doubt, leave it out.

    NaTuRaLs last blog post..Fat and Happy?

  6. Kathy, we at have been using the notion of a web footprint too. We built a service to help people consolidate their stuff online.

    If you stop by to take a look we’d be pleased to hear your thoughts. Cheers. — Joseph

  7. Hi Kathy,

    My daughter works for the U. S. Government and has made me painfully aware of digital footprints. She won’t even comment on my blog. Either of them.

    When I comment on a blog I try to be positive but when I feel like I have to address an issue with which I really have strong feelings or opinions, I choose my words very carefully. The real me is kind of like the client you mentioned, I have no problem with confrontation but over the years I have learned that not every battle is worth fighting.

    Valeries last blog post..Monday Morning Prayer – January 19, 2009

  8. I enjoyed reading your story and you did well by your client. A speaker has a very public profile and since she is hired by corporations she is wise to be a bit more cautious. As for my footprint, I am who I am, said Popeye. I’m pretty much the same guy you read on my blog both professionally and personally. So if we are authentic to the core I say let it be and be who you are.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Works last blog post..Time and Money

  9. I have had to as you say “pull back” from this same kind of back and forth with a blogger. And at some point I just realized one, it is too easy to write something back and forth when you never have to face the person personally and two, it does leave that footprint as you say. It is hard sometimes to shut my mouth though. Thanks for the great post.

    Sandys last blog post..How to Correctly Enter a Forum

  10. Tom – you make a great point. Everyone needs to be aware of their digital footprint and what might be right for me might not be right for you. Valerie’s daughter can’t afford to have one – while my client has to carefully monitor hers. After all, my client selling “herself” to corporate types who wear suits and think Twitter is a type of fabric. Meanwhile, your clients are those who want to escape that life – and you can afford a more “forceful” impression!

    Sandy – welcome!

    Joeseph – I’m impressed with extendr so far!

    Valerie- you are a wise, wise woman!

    Davina- write your book!

  11. We were just talking about this in our office, in regards to hiring people. What people put out on the internet, can either stop them from getting work, or even get them terminated. More and more employers are doing research on their potential employees to see what their “real character is”, things they won’t find in a thirty minute interview. Your digital footprint is part of your presentation, your communication. “The meaning of the communication is response you get, regardless of the intent.”

    Dennis Scherers last blog post..Bank intern busted by Facebook

  12. Dennis-
    Great information! Seems those snarky blog comments can come back to bite you in the arse later!!!

  13. Thanks for the welcome, and I know a teacher who when she was a bit younger started a MySpace in college and put up some party pictures from college.

    Years later she was called into her principals office with the superintendant of schools, she was almost terminated and went through a lot of grief to keep her job over something that had happened while she was college. Bad News That MySpace can be.

    Sandys last blog post..Get Out of the Information Loop! You Heard me Right!

  14. Hi Kathy. LOL. Thanks for the encouragement. I want to write that book… really, I do… but it’s quite difficult being in that “space” when I’m in the “I need $$$ to pay the rent, now” mode.

    Davinas last blog post..How Curious Moments Add Value

  15. You’re right — the Internet never forgets!

    Sometimes I feel like it’s a censor: Because anything I say can (and might) be dredged up someday, I can’t be too controversial or insulting.

    On the other hand, that leads to blandness! Controversy means you’re saying something interesting.

    To resolve this, I’ve decided to always speak my mind no matter who might see. If that bothers some people which leads to my not being able to work with them someday, well I suppose I don’t want to work with people who are so easily offended!

    (I don’t want everyone to AGREE, I’m just not interested in coddling people who are OFFENDED.)

    Jason Cohens last blog post..Starting up while employed: Admit it

  16. Jason,

    I think as long as you’re being “authentic” you’re good to go. It’s when you create controversy for the SAKE of creating controversy that you get into trouble. Being “authentic” is probably one of the most radical stances you can take online!


  1. […] Hendershop-Hurd wrote an article about our digital footprints.  Contrast that with today when anyone with access to the internet can be granted an […]