Being aware of your company’s digital footprint is not just a fun fact to share with fellow board members; it’s a crucial piece of information that you can use to improve your overall sales, performance, and in particular, branding.
Dictionary.com defines a digital footprint as a, “unique set of digital activities, actions, and communications that leave a data trace on the Internet or on a computer or other digital device and can identify the particular user or device.”
Active vs Passive
Unlike a passive digital footprint, where data is collected without a business owner knowing the details, an active digital footprint is created when personal information is released by a user in order to share information about themselves that they can monitor through means of social media and websites.
In order to improve your branding and customer engagement, you need to have an active digital footprint. And you should act on that right away!
The Importance of a Footprint
In an article on Financial Post, Reema Duggal, president of Oakville (a firm that helps small businesses launch digital channels), suggests that the absence of a digital presence in today’s internet-driven world, is like marketing suicide. “If you don’t have one, people aren’t sure you’re a real company,” said Duggal.
Additionally, just because you’re not an active member of the world-wide web, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t already talking about your brand online. Having an active digital footprint will allow you to take control of your brand’s public perception and make your company’s footsteps more visible. The more visible you are, the higher the chances for customer interaction.
Steven Cody, co-founder of Peppercomm, told Inc.com that a company’s digital footprint should not be seen as a marketing thing, but rather, a business necessity. He listed customers, recruits, prospects, and target audiences as people that could potentially search online to find out more about your services and key principles.
5 Tips to a Better Footprint
Take note of the following tips to help you leave a valuable digital footprint behind:
1. Open with a Question
Start by asking, “Who am I/Who are we?” A digital footprint should mirror your brand’s ideals and should reflect your customers’ concerns. So therefore, your personal web space should act as a portal to your world.
You should also try to highlight your personal passions (if you’re a small business owner that talks directly to clients, etc.), so users can get an idea of the “real” person behind the professional guise. This may seem counter-intuitive when trying to express professionalism, but it is almost expected that social media users, in particular, will be introduced to personal skills and interests of a person or company. You may end up sharing a common interest with a potential client if they, for example, visit your LinkedIn page and find you’re passionate about classic cars. This could be a great source of conversation if they’re also fans of the same topic; you could end up building some serious rapport.
Remember to update your bio, achievements, and other important information regularly. There’s nothing worse than reading a profile which still talks about your company’s highly publicized opening in the summer of ’97.
In a study conducted by Deluxe, where over 500 small business owners were surveyed about their digital marketing practices, 70% of small business owners spent less than one hour a week on website maintenance. You may get away with such little time investment for a while, but soon enough, as your company grows (and with it, its achievements and details) you’ll need to spend a significant amount of active time on updating your domain.
2. Track the Time
To identify if you are being perceived the way you would like to be when people search for your brand, you should conduct an audit of your digital footprint. To help you achieve this, you could enlist the help of a PR or social media firm that can help you determine what works and what doesn’t.
You could also set a target number for your digital footprint, e.g. how many retweets or Facebook likes you would like to receive within a specific time frame or the amount of website visits you want.
Be sure to chase quality over quantity. If you reach 1,000 likes, but only 100 are from prospects, then you’ll need to adjust your content to speak to your desired audience rather than everyone.
3. Connect with the Media
A great way to get yourself in the digital spotlight is by connecting with a reporter or article writer on Twitter or LinkedIn. You could follow that person on Twitter and single out the industry-relevant articles that they’ve written and then strategically retweet them to your target audience, along with an appropriate caption.
Reporters are often looking to pen interesting stories, and if you attract their attention in an engaging manner, don’t be surprised if you’re asked for an interview. The interview will then create a snowball effect of attention. Not only will your article be published, but you can retweet it and post it on all of your social media channels.
4. Get Posting on Social Media
The Deluxe study reported that only 51% of small business owners posted to social media once a month, or less. Although that’s an alarmingly low figure, you must be sure that you’re on the right side of that percentage. It may seem obvious, but you’ll only be able to create a digital footprint if you take your first step; that means actively posting on your website and social media channels. And that too should be more than just once a month.
If you consider yourself inactive online, make a weekly habit of writing blogs and articles or uploading industry relevant content on your Facebook page. This should eventually become a daily practice.
5. Measure Your Progress
Although the expectations may differ from company to company, you need to decide what your bottom line is and then evaluate whether you’ve reached that target each month. That doesn’t just mean a specific number of tweets or posts in a month; it should be your overall digital footprint performance. Once you have those figures, you can adjust your actions accordingly.
With such a large amount of channels for you to launch your digital journey, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. In an interview with San Francisco Small Business Week, Matt Crowley, Senior Vice President for YP Marketing Solutions, reiterates that no matter the channel you chose to communicate online, “The key is to create a user experience that keeps your business relevant and engages customers in any environment.”
When you do set out to create your own digital footprint, just remember that it’s more important to make each step count rather than to count each step.