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?

Tangible Evidence: Your Blog Can Increase Your Profits

David Maister is an expert on the management of professional service firms. In his post Pricing Consulting Services he writes: has just released a new study Fees and Pricing Benchmark Report: Consulting Industry 2008. 645 respondents in the consulting industry completed the survey. Among the findings:

Firms that are well-known in their target markets receive higher fees, see their revenue grow, and earn higher profits than their lesser-known counterparts. Brand leaders were more likely to price their services at a higher level than their competitors in the market (42% of brand leaders were premium-price vs. 28% of lesser-known firms). And, they were more likely to actually get higher fees by up to 35%.

There are a LOT of ways to become “well known” to your target market.

  • You can spend money on advertising in various media that reach your target audience.
  • You can write articles for publication in magazines read by your target audience.
  • You can arrange to speak before groups of your target audience.
  • You can write a book to demonstrate your expertise to your target audience.

If you want to become well known to your target audience, I STRONGLY encourage you to engage in any and all of the above activities.

However, if your budget is screaming and your time is limited, then the best low cost, highly effective method of becoming “well known” to your target market is to launch a self hosted WordPress blog.

Becoming well known used to be thought of as an “ego” thing.  The report above demonstrates that becoming well known is necessary to affect the bottom line performance of your service based business.