Am I A Digital Ostrich Burying My Head in the Sand?

A wise person once said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  These words have played in the mind of many a person preparing for a big job interview.  Before meeting the prospective employer, time is spent rehearsing answers to potential questions, practicing the ideal hand-shake, finding the perfect outfit, and checking all potential routes to the interview.  Finally, with one last glance in the mirror the hopeful employee sets off.  In the digital age, this scenario has changed.  Our “first impression” is no longer made when we step into a room.  With the exponential growth of the internet, our “first impression” is now made through our web presence and digital footprint.  The article “Most Companies Use Social Media For Recruiting, Says Survey” by John Paul Titlow reinforces the importance of our digital image, especially when applying for a new job.  So how do we evaluate and improve our digital footprint?

A quick Google search of “digital footprint” brings up a multitude of sites.  Scanning through the titles I see that I can learn the definition of “digital footprint” from a site such as Wikipedia.  Not all that helpful.  Instead, two other sites sound useful:  “Optimize Your Online Digital Footprint” and “How to Build Your Digital Footprint in 8 Easy Steps”.  Hmm … could be interesting.  A quick scan of these two articles shows that they are primarily focused on helping businesses gain attention and customers.  Can they help me as an educator?  Prior to this course my immediate reaction would be a resounding “NO!”  Have I changed?  Well, I read both articles, so that is a start.  The first article offers little that I find useful.  It is more of a teaser for a book.  What it does offer is quick insights into LinkedIn explaining how to effectively use the headline.  However, it is the second article that has me thinking.

Before delving too far into the article “How to Build Your Digital Footprint in 8 Easy Steps”, I want to get a sense of the author.  Has he proven himself effective in utilizing digital resources?  Mitch Joel has been named “Canada’s Most Influential Male in Social Media”.  His company site says:  “When Google wanted to explain online marketing to the top brands in the world, they brought Mitch Joel to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. Marketing Magazine dubbed him the “Rock Star of Digital Marketing” and called him, “one of North America’s leading digital visionaries.” In 2006 he was named one of the most influential authorities on Blog Marketing in the world.”  So it seems Joel can speak with authority on digital footprints and using the internet to promote a positive image.

By Royan Lee

His article appealed to me because it advocates a controlled approach to becoming visible on the web.  His first step to building a digital footprint is to develop a strategy.  Think before you publish.  Think about the image you want to portray to your online audience both now and in the future.  Then evaluate the best vehicle for presenting your message.  We know that things last forever on the internet, so if we start blogging or tweeting or facebooking without a clear vision of what we hope to accomplish or the image we hope to portray these early aborted efforts may still be found by others in the future, creating a false first impression which will be hard to undo.  This is important for a business seeking to attract customers, but it is also relevant to an educator.  In the USA Today article “Your online reputation can hurt your job search”, Kim Komando talks about how employers are using social networking sites to evaluate your character.  School superintendents are no different.  Besides character and personality, they may also evaluate a person’s educational philosophy through reading their blog or other postings.   So as an international educator our online image is important.  Thus blogs, facebook posts and tweets need to be thoughtfully considered.  Similarly, Jeff Utecht has been advocating that we as educators control our digital information.  I am beginning to see the sense in this.  I had to smile because Joel also says that “everyone can (and should) publish their thoughts”, mirroring what we have been learning in class about contributing to the resources available on the web, and becoming an active part of the global community.  Thus we reach the pinnacle of Bloom’s new taxonomy and create content rather than just analyzing and synthesizing the information of others.

As we are introduced to new tools in this course, peoples’ reactions fluctuate violently from total fear and withdrawal to being ready to jump in head first with no forethought of the consequences.  Unfortunately for me, the fear factor tends to win the battle.  However, Joel’s advice appears logical and is once again encouraging me to be a thoughtful contributor to the digital world at large.  In the article he says that if you want to be visible and influential in your field on the internet, spend some time researching.  He describes it as “Follow First”.  Find out what and where others are commenting.  This has been reinforced in our course as we use netvibes to follow blogs of people writing about our sphere of interest.  It also applies to following people on Twitter, actively following those who have valuable insights to share that are relevant to us.  Time is too precious to spend wading through immaterial ramblings.  I have not signed up for my Twitter account yet, but perhaps it is time to take the plunge.  Knowing the importance of my digital footprint, it is now time to start actively shaping that image.  Become a thoughtful, purposeful contributor!


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