A digital footprint is a trail you leave behind you online as you visit websites, register for forums, participate in surveys, shop, and send emails for example. As you may have realized, others can gather some information about your habits or interests depending on what you are sharing and your level of privacy settings.
Your passive digital footprint consists of those websites you visit, your search history, and your IP address. These may or may not contain very personal information. You also maintain an active digital footprint consisting of all of the content you publish (emails, blogs, tweets, profiles, posts, etc.).
You can control the content of your digital footprint with the content you publish and continue to grow this according to your professional (and personal) interests. This content is the face you show to the digital world. There are several ways to build, grow, and shape the content in your digital footprint.
For example, Nancy is an electrical design engineer who dabbles in a local weekend Maker Space with 3D printing and enjoys photography. She uses online social media tools to showcase her design projects and professional expertise as well as her personal interests.
- Nancy starts with a LinkedIn profile to showcase her professional expertise and occasionally publishes a LinkedIn article on related topics.
- These online interactions lead Nancy to online groups and forums where she can discuss design, Maker Spaces, 3D printing, and photography to gain knowledge and share design expertise.
- Nancy utilizes social media to chat online with other designers and to schedule photography sessions with some of the people she has met in person and online.
- Nancy visually showcases her Maker projects through photographs, collages, and videos as well as other local Makers.
- She later creates a website to showcase all her photography projects and run a side photography business.
The example of Nancy and the tools she uses to build, grow and shape the content of her digital footprint is just one of many ways that you can to build, grow and shape of your digital footprint. There are many tools and resources to fit a variety of interests and time schedules. Start small and build momentum slowly as you build your expertise and content.
(Repurposed from my article in the FY16 Society of Women Engineers MAL Newsletter 4 May 2016)