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Making your digital footprints worthwhile

March 5, 2009

Facebook.com Screen Shot

Facebook’s Terms of Service sparked several heated conversations throughout the blogosphere and social media networks over the past week.  The Consumerist translated the lengthy ToS as Facebook’s way of saying it has the right to do as it pleases with each user’s data, even after he or she deletes the profile.

The law and ethics involved in Facebook’s ToS is another discussion for another day.  However, the controversy reminded me that each picture, wall comment, link, status, etc we post leaves a “digital footprint” in the sands of the World Wide Web.  The only difference is that digital footprints are far more permanent than the ones you leave at the beach.

As Brian Solis says, Facebook profiles are yet another way for public relations students and professionals to brand themselves.  I know many of my fellow PRKent students are gearing up for the summer internship search, and many PRKent seniors are preparing to transition into entry-level positions.

As employers and internship coordinators scope social media sites for juicy gossip on the perfect (or not-so-perfect) candidates, don’t you want to ensure your profile reflects an accurate “snapshot” of who you are?

We all know the first step to Facebook purity is to untag and/or remove unflattering pictures from drunken escapades, but what else can you do to protect your Web brand and identity?  I’ve mixed my ideas with the advice of pros to offer the following tips:

  • Follow the “Seven Seconds” rule.

My human communication professor and high school speech teacher both preached the seven second rule, which states that a person solidifies his or her overall impression of an individual within the first seven seconds of face-to-face contact.

Although Facebook isn’t a F2F medium, it does tell a story.  How do you want to tell yours?  Your profile should reflect your personal and professional personality.

  • Consistency is key.

I wouldn’t expect a profile to accurately reflect each rule of the AP Stylebook, but basic grammar rules should not be ignored.  Be consistent in format, and watch your grammar.  Try to use it’s/its, to/too/two and their/there/they’re in proper form throughout your profile and wall posts.

  • Untag quickly and wisely.

Believe me: Your best friend will eventually forgive you for the inappropriate pictures you untagged from her 21st birthday bash.  Tagged photos can show up in other’s news feeds hours after you untag them.  It’s hard to completely erase your photo footprints, but untagging is the first step.

  • Watch your language.

Alright, alright… so maybe this is just a personal pet peeve.  The “f” bomb doesn’t look flattering in print.  Please save the bombs for personal conversations.

  • Make your statuses worthwhile.

Try to mix up your Facebook statuses on occasion.  Consistent statuses that complain about your classes, your hectic work schedule and your boyfriend’s lack of judgment may not reflect positively on your reputation.

  • Edit your privacy settings.

Although your digital footprints cannot be completely protected, Facebook does offer some ways to keep your content from landing in everyone’s hands.  Check out this guide to privacy settings.

What advice do you have for protecting your “brand” on the Web?  Better yet, do you have any horror stories of people who let their Facebook profiles reflect negatively on their image?

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