As a physician, an educator, and an EdTech student it is impossible to not be on the web. Everything we do on the web leaves a digital footprint (those little traces of where you’ve been and what you’ve done) that is indelible. It is important to build a positive online reputation for several reasons including public trust, employment and advancement opportunities, building a brand, and serving as a role model to colleagues and students.
While I do browse a couple of sports and political websites, stream some movies, and buy from Amazon, my visible online presence is mainly of a professional nature. I have developed a few websites and YouTube videos for educational purposes. I use social media for professional development and rarely for social purposes. I have always had a goal of portraying a certain image online. This requires purposeful development and active surveillance which will be the focus of this post.
There is a lot written on this topic all over the web so I will focus on what I mainly do and some new things I learned in researching this topic. So here are Terry’s Tips:
- Define yourself. Decide on the image you want to portray to the world and build that image.
- You’ll have to decide on a username. It should be descriptive of you and your talents. If you have a common name, like John Smith, consider adding something descriptive to it (for example JohnSmithEdTech). Whatever name you pick, use it consistently on all your sites. My main identity is as a teacher of EBM principles so my online name is EBMTeacher.
- Use an appropriate photo. Dress professionally and choose a photo with a high pixel count. Remember you only have one chance to make a first impression.
- Develop an informative but brief profile description. Highlight your skills and interests (The Ohio State University Career Services Office, n.d.).
- Choose the online tools that best match your strategy to define yourself. You should develop a strategy that will maximize your professional presence online. What content will you put on the web? Who is it for? You will need to decide if a website or blog is best for some of your content. Can some content be disseminated by Twitter or other social media? Here again, be purposeful and consistent so your consumers know where to find you and what to expect (Joel, 2009). I use Twitter to share quick ideas and resources. I use my blog to tease out more complex ideas and opinions. I use YouTube to teach EBM concepts to learners. I use SlideShare to share my PowerPoints. I also include a page on my website to share open learning materials that I develop.
- Limit what you do and post online. Do you really need to tell or show everyone on Facebook or Twitter where you’re going, what you’re eating or what you bought? Do you really need to take yet another selfie and post it on Instagram? NO! No one cares…trust me…they really don’t. So don’t put a lot of nonsense out there that can shed a less than positive light on you. Remember even if you just send your friends the selfie how do you know they won’t post it somewhere? You can’t control what others do with information about you. You, though, can control what you put out there. So take control (and stay in control).
- Have separate personal and professional social media accounts. But remember, just because you have personal accounts these still reflect upon your professional image because they will be found by search engines. You still have to think before you post.
- Follow first. Subscribe to or follow thought leaders or the top “voices” in your field for a little while before adding your voice. This will give you a sense of their style, what they share, and how they share it. You can learn what professionalism looks like online. You can also then figure out what you can add to the discussion. If you can add unique opinions or information you will build your professional brand (Joel, 2009).
- Regularly monitor yourself. You need to regularly monitor what you are posting and what gets posted or shared about you. Do a Google search with various variants of your name and with your name in quotes. You can also set up alerts with Google to notify you when something is posted about you on the web. There are professional services that can be hired to help repair damage to your online reputation. If you find negative posts about you, respond back to set the record straight (Hengstler, p. 119, 2011).
- Monitor your professional network for inappropriate postings. Your professional image is also affected by the company you keep. Actively monitor your connections and remove individuals who post questionable content, even if they ae a source of good information. If you find an individual you follow is posting inappropriate materials contact them and tell them you are removing them from your network and tell them why (Hengstler, p. 122, 2011).
- Maintain professional boundaries. You don’t need to friend or follow everyone that asks or follows you. This is especially important for educators and physicians. I get requests all the time from patients to be friends on Facebook. I decline them. The power dynamics of student-teacher and doctor-patient relationships are not equal. You have to keep your personal and professional lives separate as much as possible. You don’t want children or disgruntled patients posting negative comments on your own site. I would think most school systems and hospital systems have policies against this and you can politely tell your students or patients that this would be against school or hospital policy (Hengstler, p. 122, 2011).
- Buy yourself. What I mean is buy your domain name (yourname.com). Don’t let someone else own your domain name as they could build a website and post whatever they want to. Domain names are fairly cheap through a variety of services like GoDaddy.com (no affiliation) (Digital Citizenship Adventures, n.d.).
- Promote yourself. Include your website, Twitter username, etc. on title slides of presentations, in signature blocks of emails, on business cards, etc. This will bring greater exposure and klout (Edminston, 2014).
These are just a few of my thoughts on maintaining a positive online reputation. There are lots of other ideas out there and products you could use. The key is that it requires planning, persistence, and vigilance but it will pay off in the end.
Digital Citizenship Adventures. (n.d.). Managing your digital footprint. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/digcitizenshipadventures/managing-your-digital-footprint
Edminston, D. (2014). Creating a personal competitive advantage by developing a professional online presence. Marketing Education Review, 24(1), 21–24.
Hengstler, J. (2011). Managing your digital footprint: ostriches v. eagles. In S. Hirtz & K. Kelly (Eds.), Education for a Digital World 2.0(2nd ed.) (Vol. 1, Part One: Emerging technologies and practices). Open School/Crown Publications: Queen’s Printer for British Columbia. Retrieved from https://www2.viu.ca/education/faculty_publications/hengstler/EducationforDigitalWorld2.0_1_jh89.pdf
Joel, M. (2009, March 5). How to build your digital footprint in 8 easy steps. Retrieved from http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/how-to-build-your-digital-footprint-in-8-easy-steps/
The Ohio State University, Career Services Office. (n.d.). Building your professional online presence. Retrieved from https://asccareerservices.osu.edu/sites/asccareerservices.osu.edu/files/Building%20a%20Professional%20Online%20Presence.pdf