Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 5, 2009 7:31 PM

How To Build Your Digital Footprint In 8 Easy Steps

"Where do I start?" More often than not, that is the first question many business professionals have when it comes to dipping their toes into the digital channels. They simply have no idea how to begin... and then what to do after that.

Here are 8 easy steps to build your Digital Footprint:

1. Create a strategy. Far too often, people will hop on to Facebook with no set plan other than, "trying it out." There's nothing wrong with trying out any of the many digital channels, but it doesn't take long to jot down what you want to accomplish (and, more importantly, why you want to accomplish it) first - before filling out any online social networking profiles. If you uncover the strategy after you have already started, you may wind up having a couple of online profiles and spaces that really don't match your strategy. If someone comes by and sees those initial forays (that you have since abandoned), it might not be the ideal first digital impression of you.

2. Choose the type of content channels and online social networks that match your strategy. All too often we see people on Twitter who would be that much more interesting if they were Blogging. There are people doing things with text that might be better suited for creating images. It's best to focus on creating and publishing the type of content you are most comfortable with, and that you would enjoy creating the most. The amazing thing about these channels is that anyone can publish. The sad thing is, that some people forget that it's not just text. You can create audio, video and images as well (and many combinations).

3. Digital Footprint Audit. There are tons of free tools that enable you to listen and see what is being said about you, your company, your products and services. Google News AlertsTechnorati, Twitter Search, and even doing some quick, generic searches on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft can give you the overall temperature of who is saying what. In order to best manage these many tools, you should consider grabbing all of these feeds and unifying them in one singular space. Something like Google Reader or Netvibes is a great place to start.

4. Follow First. Without question, there is somebody (probably many people) already out there using all of these channels. From videos on YouTube to Blogs and Podcasts. Find out who your industry considers to be the top "voices" in the many online channels. Subscribe to their content in your reader and make it a point to read, listen and watch the content at some point everyday. By following those that are already respected, you will be better positioned to see where you can add your voice - both in their environments and on your own.

5. Add your voice. In a world where everyone can (and should) publish their thoughts, you might find it more interesting to either become a frequent commentator on the more popular spaces, or offer to become a contributor to some of the many multi-authored places online (this includes things like industry association Blogs or trade-specific publications). By adding your voice in places that are highly trafficked you can build your presence (and Google Juice) without the stress of maintaining your own. Places like The Huffington Post are prime example of non-industry specific online outlets that are highly trafficked, highly indexed by the search engines and will give you incredible visibility to new people.

6. Start your own, but have a plan. Your overall strategy (step number one) will become your lighthouse. As you fall deeper down the rabbit hole, you'll always be able to fall back on your strategy to ensure that you are on course, but once you choose to publish your own thoughts on your own platform, you might have an easier time if you create some kind of plan to get started. Think about what goals you want your channel to accomplish, how often you will need to publish, how you will tweak the content as your community grows and what will happen if you were to stop publishing? A plan (even one that includes specific dates for when you should publish content) will help you focus, and it will also get you in the habit of contributing and publishing.

7. Stay active and aware. It's not just about your space, and it's not just about following and commenting in the other spaces. It's about being aware. From Twitter to FriendFeed, there are many new types of publishing platforms being created all of the time. It's easy to sign-up for all of them and then to forget about them. Some of the channels may not even make any sense to you at the beginning (how many people do you know that still don't understand what Twitter is, or why anyone would care about that type of content?). It's also easy to forget about some of the channels that are not mentioned as frequently as the ones that are currently the topic du jour. Be aware of the new and older voices and platforms that are around and the new ones that are coming out.

8. Have fun. One of the primary reasons why people abandon either their own spaces or the ones they used to actively contribute to is because they were no longer having fun with it. It became a job. The trick is to always turn your job into work that you are passionate about. If you start out with the notion that you have to create, comment and participate because it's your job and that is what is expected of you, it's going to get ugly fast. There are so many channels out there. Find the ones you really enjoy and create the type of content that gives you the most pleasure. Find your muse.

What are some of the other ways people can dive in and start to explore how to build their own digital footprint? 

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Meloyul
    Meloyul

    This article couldn't be available at a better time for me as I'm researching and thinking of a way to put up a blog and define it's mission. You confirmed a lot of my thoughts about this subject. Thanks for putting this up; very inspiring!

    Reply
  • Posted by Chris Barnes
    Mitch Joel

    I'm in the midst of this process myself and recommend drawing a map of the possibilities (hint: start with a big piece of paper). I found that a visual helps me better understand my choices, how they overlap, what best fits my strategy, and where I need to spend the most time.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jim Crocker
    Mitch Joel

    Develop a 'username' strategy. Company name? Your name? Joke name? Usernames on everything from Flickr to Twitter to blog post comments are what create the digital footprint. Picking and using the one that achieves your goals is important and the impact is not always obvious when you first sign up.

    Reply
    • Posted by Chris Miller
      Mitch Joel

      Well said, a person's user name even becomes it's own brand if done consistently and carries with a person beyond company - so as a business owner decide how to play it.

      It's easy to find and secure your chosen user name fast... Two such tools are: http://www.spokeo.com and http://namechk.com/

      I like the freedom of being able to keep my own personal brand (aka user name) but speak on behalf of the company I'm working for (or client).

      Reply
  • Posted by Rasul Sha'ir
    Mitch Joel

    Man! Great post Mitch! I just did a 2 part series entitled 10 absolutely, necessary brand considerations and my #8 (what's your strategy reflected your #1. Very cool. Love reading your stuff man.

    Reply
  • Posted by Yahav Isak
    Yahav Isak

    Excellent post Mitch!
    I would just add Flexibility. In this ever changing environment, make sure your strategy allow for change and adaptation to new trends and technologies.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ryan Moede
    Mitch Joel

    Great stuff, Mitch. Postadvertising provided a great case study of a business built using many of these tools and approaches to building relationships with their customers: http://www.postadvertising.com/post/2009/03/4/Martell-Homes-Tomorrows-Model-Today.aspx

    Reply
  • Posted by Joseph Rueter
    Mitch Joel

    Fantastic. In my experience once it's all out there it's nice to consolidate it. The power of having it all in one place and sharing it with others is astounding. What if people didn't need to google for you. What if you just gave them the best results.

    I started doing this for myself and people around me wanted it too. So, I co-founded http://www.extendr.com to make my digital footprint easy to share and flexible. Check it out. Maybe it's something of interest to you too. Maybe not. Cheers.

    Reply
  • Posted by Amy
    Mitch Joel

    A bit late to the party, but this is a terrific, concise roadmap for beginners like me, not just in terms of having fun, but also for someone like me who's trying to create a presence for a new business or, in my case, the nonprofit I work for - not just to market or to fundraise, but also to publicize the issues we address. Thanks. Much appreciated.

    Reply
  • I have just finished reading your book Mitch and I have to say your insight into digital marketing is phenomenal. I have taken a ton of your strategies and begun to use them as the framework for what I hope to be a successful venture into the world of marketing.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Thank you Mitch. As a fifty-something old school dinosaur trying to navigate this new online world, your book and blog has been really helpful.

    Reply
  • Posted by Bruce Brooks
    Mitch Joel

    Very helpful. After reading Six Pixels this aids us in getting started.

    Reply
  • Posted by wojtek Hoch
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch
    Good article, having those point will surely help. This is a great starting point. I also think that focus and consistency are the two main attributes to successful strategy.

    Reply
  • Posted by Nathalie Blais
    Mitch Joel

    I'm so proud a fellow Montrealer can claim the brilliance behind "Six Pixels of Separation". Your posts provide a great deal of value in both a professional and social context.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Loved the article and couldn't have found it at a better time. I totally agree with your points about developing a strategy and linked from my blog to your post for a demonstration that I'm not the ONLY one using the phrase Your Digital Footprints to describe something positive. After buying my domain name I found more people using the phrase to describe a trail that a thief or someone collecting marketing data could follow of your internet usage to use against you or for solicitation purposes.

    Reply
  • Posted by KOJO BONTI- AMOAKO
    Mitch Joel

    Excellent ......

    Reply
  • Posted by Pete Visintin
    Pete Visintin

    For me getting started involved starting several unsuccessful blogs. They were unsuccessful because I didn't really know what I was passionate about and wanted to write about. It takes a little time and some failures to find your content stride, but you will know it when you do. Then the fun part begins. Thanks for sharing Mitch.

    Reply
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