Developing and maintaining a reputable brand online is important, especially on social networks. It’s easy in today’s digital age to view our activity online as private. So everything we post, we feel like we’re talking to ourselves, right? But we’re not. Everything that we put online is traceable FOREVER. Yes, it’s true that you can do things to cover some of your online indiscretions up, but you can never get rid of them completely. So, why is this important. One of my fellow iMedia grad students spoke about this very subject yesterday at the Social Media Future’s Academy in conjunction with the Future Web conference in Raleigh. The event was organized to bring awareness to local high school students about social media and its power as a tool in their lives. Cathy Freeman served as a guest speaker about the subject I’m talking about here: managing your digital footprint. She spoke to a group of about 40 students about the popular social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter and how to leverage their power for good. She encouraged students to think before they post and remember who might be watching. She told them about how more college admissions officers and potential future employers are looking at these social media sites when looking at candidates. She also talked about how in their parents’ generation, reputation might have been compromised with “writing on the bathroom wall,” or “a note passed in the hall”, but now it’s a lot easier for someone to damage your reputation, or for that matter, for you to damage your own.
I think this conversation is so important, for everyone, both young and old. The Internet is a powerful thing. And the power that we have because of it is amazing. Anyone can contribute to the conversation, that’s something that’s never before been okay. So I believe we must take advantage of it. But that doesn’t mean go crazy. It’s true that everything we put on Facebook has potentially negative consequences later. This means don’t use profanity, don’t bad-mouth other people, etc. These things seem like common sense when you think about the fact that you ARE putting information out there voluntarily for the world to see. But that’s the key, you must remind yourself that it is for the world to see, social media tools are not the same as the journal you keep in your bedside drawer. Remember that.