In our digital age, brands have to be more mindful of their online reputation than ever before. An integral factor of said reputation is a business’ digital footprint. The latter encompasses all the information available about the company on the internet – its products, services, social media accounts, online reviews, and employees.
About 97% of prospective customers read reviews before making a purchase, and about 59% of Gen Z prefer brands that align with their values. Therefore, coming across unprofessional behavior or negative information online can significantly damage a brand’s reputation and its relationship with existing and prospective customers.
The importance of running a footprint check for your business
Managing your online presence can help you create a positive brand image. More specifically, it will help you identify areas of improvement and proactively manage your presence on the internet. This is particularly important for small business owners or influencers whose businesses are closely linked to their personal image.
The following steps will help you assess your business' online footprint:
- Type the name of your business on search engines. Analyze the results, including news articles, reviews, and images, and look up negative content that requires your attention.
- Similarly to the above, scan your business’ social media accounts and address any negative comments or feedback promptly and politely.
- Check out reviews on industry-specific sites or popular sites like Glassdoor. Address any concerns or negative feedback professionally and apologetically.
- Use online reputation management solutions, such as Google Alerts or Social Mention to keep track of social media performance and any negative content associated with your business.
What about employees’ digital footprint?
Employees are an integral part of any business and a reflection of it. Many of them will directly interact with customers and become the faces of the product or service. An employee’s digital footprint will, inevitably, impact the brand’s online reputation. As social media and the wider internet blur the lines between personal and professional lives, we’ve seen many instances of workers being let go due to unsavory Twitter posts or inappropriate behavior captured on camera.
As a business owner or high-ranking manager, it’s important to educate employees on the significance of their digital footprint. Encourage them to share uplifting and positive content of the company and compensate them for their efforts. Some companies even implement strict social media compliance regulations to maintain a positive online presence.
General recommendations for managing your online footprint
To minimize their online footprint and safeguard their privacy, anyone (from employers to employees) can take the following precautions:
1. Think twice before posting.
Before posting on social media or public profiles, it’s crucial to meditate on how your words, videos, or photos will impact your personal and professional life. Avoid sharing content that may negatively affect your brand’s reputation. In addition, you should be mindful of disclosing any personally identifiable information that could make you a target of harassment, fraud, or identity theft.
2. Limit social media interactions
Keep your number of social media accounts to a minimum. If you actively use certain accounts, customize your privacy settings. Ideally, only close friends and family will be able to see and engage with your content.
3. Delete old email accounts and apps
Old email accounts enrich your digital footprint and leave behind a trail of data, which third parties can easily access and exploit. If a database containing that email address suffers a data breach, a cybercriminal can get a hold of your personal details, including name, phone number, financial data, and more. The same applies to old apps that you no longer use. Instead of leaving them dormant, delete them and minimize your online footprint.
4. Remove yourself from people search sites
People search sites collect personal information about people from multiple sources and compile it into a report that is sold to anyone willing to pay. Also known as people finder sites, tend to collect property records, driving records, criminal history, and current and previous addresses among other types of sensitive information. MyLife.com, NeighborWho, Fast People Search, and FastBackgroundCheck are well-known examples of these kinds of websites.
Fortunately, it is possible to remove yourself from people search sites. One option is to do it yourself by accessing one site at a time and filling out an opt-out request. Another option is utilizing Incogni – an automated data removal tool that can carry out this process on your behalf.
Members of a company – from CEOs to employees – play a major role in shaping its online footprint and brand reputation. Maintaining a stellar reputation online requires a complex approach, involving constant monitoring, awareness, and general steps for safeguarding sensitive information.