Especially if you were born in the nineties to present, your mom was probably (like mine) constantly reminding you to be careful what you post online. “Someday your boss will see this,” she’d say, shaking her head at your duck-faced selfies. “Nothing ever goes away on the internet!”
She’s not wrong. Managing your digital footprint as an individual is crucial. The internet never forgets, so ensuring the picture painted of you by the internet is a positive one is a task worth taking on. Remember that Black Mirror episode with the ratings based on the characters’ online presence? Yeah. Nobody wants that (in fact, I doubt anyone wants to be in any episode of Black Mirror, but that’s another story for another time).
It’s easy to get so caught up in maintaining a sparkling personal digital footprint that an equally-important one gets forgotten: your business’. Didn’t think businesses could have digital footprints? While they work a bit differently than those of individuals, businesses absolutely do.
What is a digital footprint in business?
Much like your personal digital footprint, that of your business is essentially the portrait of your business portrayed by all the various bits of information about it on the internet. However, while there are similarities between personal and business footprints (like social media postings and contact information), there are categories unique to the business world (like customer ratings, hours of operation, and corporate blog posts).
To sum it up in a tidy little box, your business’ digital footprint is every shred of information about it, your employees, you as the leader, and anyone or anything else that is connected to it. Sounds like a lot, right? It is.
Why is maintaining my digital footprint in business important?
Let’s go back to the duck-faced selfie example. Your mom was so worried about you posting that garbage (sorry) because she didn’t want the things you were posting then to affect you negatively in the future. Every single string of ones and zeros that exists in reference to your company tells the world something positive or negative about it.
Those negative reviews from before you really nailed customer delivery down? They’re out there. The pictures from your company-wide volunteering day at the soup kitchen? Yep, they count. The blog posts that intern who had no idea what she was doing wrote? You get the idea.
When you control your digital footprint, you control the narrative of how your company (and, let’s be honest, you by extension) are perceived by the public. Prospective clients, investors, journalists … they’re all Googling you. What they find when they do so can determine the fate of your hard work.
How do I take care of my digital footprint?
While it can seem like a daunting task, it really doesn’t have to be. Here are a couple of steps you can take to get your digital situation handled.
Plan for the footprint you want
To understand the best way to get where you want to go, you need to have a destination. Sit down and put together an outline of the digital footprint you want to create for your business. Include the values you want your brand to portray, the voice you’d like your media to have, and any other details that are important to you and your message as a company.
Do a thorough sweep of your company’s image
Google the living daylights out of yourself as a business, or to really kick it up a notch, use a keyword monitor like Brand24 to look for and collect every single time your business is mentioned online (this is also a great lead generation strategy, but that’s a whole new can of worms).
Once you know what’s out there, you can put a plan in place to deal with and course-correct it (if need be). The most important piece to maintaining a positive digital footprint is to avoid the ignorance-is-bliss mindset and actively deal with any good or bad upfront.
Deal with it all head-on
Now that you know what people are saying about you, it’s time to tackle it. Respond to reviews both positive and negative, like and share social media shout-outs, collect links where you’re referenced in the media for your own content, and take note of everything (yes, everything) you’re learning.
It’s easy to forget when running a business that even negative feedback is helpful. If you’re consistently hearing the same frustration, you can know that’s an area you need to focus on, which will improve your business as well as your customers’ experiences going forward.
Wash, rinse, repeat
Don’t just check in on your digital footprint once and forget about it. Have a plan in place to track and attack continually so your company’s image is never out of your control. It doesn’t matter if it’s once a week or once a quarter; put together a schedule and actually set aside the time to go through your digital footprint again, deal with any issues, and take notes for the future.
Have a security protocol in place
Using a password other than “Pa55w0rd” should be a given from a common-sense standpoint, but having a strong lock to guard the accounts that paint the portrait of your company in the public eye should be a top priority to protect your digital footprint.
Strong passwords on accounts like your social media, Google business page, and even your website can be the difference between having a handle on the message your company projects and getting hacked, leaving you with little to no control.
In addition, ensuring only the exact right people have access to your accounts is crucial. For example, that social media intern who didn’t realize he’d actually be expected to work and flounced out angrily a week in could, very easily, post embarrassing or even damaging content if his credentials aren’t revoked after he leaves. Having a system in place to make sure no one has access to accounts or sites they shouldn’t keep you safe from malicious attacks on your digital footprint.
A large part of the image of your company seen by the public is determined by what’s online. In many cases, the only footprint a company has is a digital one. Protecting and controlling that image is possible through a few careful steps, and the result is well worth it.