Understanding the digital footprint you leave behind you has become an important part of reputation management.
Digital Footprints Leave a Trail
A digital footprint is the trail that is created online that relates to you, your organization or business. It is created by many elements that come together when someone decides to search for you or for a topic that you are connected to. A web user may decide to search for places to eat in St. John’s when planning a trip. A number of results are served up and one of them may be your restaurant business. In fact, if you own a restaurant in St. John’s and your business is not served up upon a relevant search, there may be something seriously missing in your digital footprint!
Keep An Eye On It!
Savvy tourism regions analyze their digital footprints to try to better understand what a prospective visitor finds about them online. Do trip planners see the information that will encourage a visit to their region? Is the information relevant and complete? Does the image that emerges support the brand values that the destination espouse? Digital marketers are tasked to mystery shop through the lens of a customer to hold up a mirror to a region or industry and reflect the digital footprint back to them.
Control What You Can
On the one hand digital footprints consist of content that a business controls, including websites, social media and controlled listings (often paid) on other sites. These listings often include membership listings on industry organization sites. For the tourism industry, for example, this may be a listing on Tripadvisor or a regional tourism organization’s website. It may be a listing on the local municipality’s website.
Damage Control Where You Can’t
Digital footprints, however, are also created from user-created content and organizations have little control over it. Customer reviews, ratings, referrals, recommendations, responses to social media, sharing of social content and blog posts are just some of these particles that add to the digital footprint. The fact that this is ‘uncontrolled” can be nerve wracking. The pinnacle of the nightmare is user-generated content that goes viral (“There is a fly in my soup!”). It is important to remember that the business’s response is a part of the digital footprint – the timeliness, tone, relevance and action promised – this is where out-of-control becomes damage-controlled.
It’s Not All Bad
Conversely, there is the bliss when the opposite happens: a ravingly positive review, a recommendation or… yes… even a spontaneous celebrity endorsement! Conscientious businesses are on high alert and actively respond to online activity, such as reviews (good or bad). Knowing that “someone is always watching” has definitely had a positive impact on service levels and damage control.
Design for a Positive Footprint
In a world with so much user-generated content, savvy organizations have tricks up their sleeves to encourage positive user-generated content designers, for instance, now take “instagrammability” into account when planning indoor and outdoor spaces. Creating “instagrammable moments” encourage users to pull out their phone cameras and post their unique memorable moments.
Monitoring and Managing to Improve
Managing a digital footprint has become increasingly complex. More so, a digital footprint can reveal a lot. Recent digital footprint studies done by White Punt Consulting revealed opportunities to improve regional collaboration for a more cohesive footprint, opportunities for training and coaching, and a review of what a customer may expect that is missing from a digital footprint. Digital Footprint Analysis has become as important for your digital health as your annual checkup by your physician!