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Digital Footprints: 10 Steps for Making the Most of One’s Professional Online Presence


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Students, Educators, and Professionals of all Stripes Can Learn, Share, Connect, and Enhance Their Professional Presence by Leveraging These Techniques

We often remind our students that they need be careful about what they post on line, and inform them of other steps to manage their online profile. This is very important advice. While it is easy to focus on the possible negative aspects of posting things online, there is also a very positive and useful angle to posting online. It can be a great way to learn, share, connect, develop a following, and possibly even position yourself as an expert in your field. This can also help lead to career opportunities and growth.

These steps and techniques can help you establish an impressive professional presence online.

1. Know Your Passion

It all starts with being deeply interested in a topic. What are you immersed in and can't learn enough about? Your job, your field, some new development in your profession? Of course, it does not have to be career-specific, it could also be a hobby or other interest. The bottom line is that you have to be passionate about it. If you are so into something that you become a bit of an expert on the subject, then there is probably an audience that will want to learn from you.

Of course, if you get too specific you will narrow your audience, so keep that in mind. For example, while some scientists develop expertise in a very specific type of plant, chemical process, geological formation, etc., this doesn't necessarily bring with it a large group of followers. You may need to step back and widen your area of interest/expertise. For example, if you are a amazingly informed about the Patagonian Wolf Flower, you might want to widen your horizon and learn about more types of Patagonian Flowers.

2. Set up a Google Alert

The next big step in developing a constantly expanding understanding of your area of interest is to read, read, read and keep learning. Thanks to the advent of the interwebs, there has never been more information available to us (albeit not all necessarily accurate information).

One great tool that can bring new information right to your In Box is a Google Alert. It only takes a few moments to set one up, and then you will get a short listing of relevant new content in your in box daily, weekly, or “as it happens” (your choice). And don't worry, you don't get a zillion results like you do when you search on Google, you just get a handful of result.

3. Find and Follow Relevant Hashtags and Experts on Twitter

Phil Komarny Twitter Self Paced Learning

Social media has numerous downsides, but it can also be a great source of professional connection and learning. Twitter is particularly useful for this since it works well for following hashtags (“#edtech”), people, and organizations.

4. Share Great Content

Now that you've got good content coming your way not only are you learning new things every day, you're likely to have content you can share with your following! If you don't have a following yet, well you've got to start somewhere and sharing great content is essential.

Of course, creating your own content is a vital step above simply sharing content from others, so look for opportunities to do so. As for types of content to create, that will vary depending on what your area of focus is. Some things lend themselves to visuals, which can work well on most platforms, as does video. Text content works well on Twitter and Facebook, but is more likely to get noticed with a good visual attached (Pixabay.com is one of many great places to find royalty-free imagery to help your content *pop*!).

5. Engage on Other Social Media Platforms That Make Sense for Your Area of Expertise

For example:

  • Instagram: This popular platform is the place to share visuals and get noticed.  Over 70% of Instagram's audience is under 34.
  • Facebook: While its popularity has declined a bit in recent years, it is still very widely used by a wide demographic range. All forms of content can work there – text, audio, video, images.
  • LinkedIn: The long running social network for professional engagements has recently become much more of a social media platform. If your audience is professionals, you can reach them there.
  • Snapchat: Hugely popular among younger folks. Note: you can't link to Snapchat content (unless something has changed that I am not aware of), so it is a rather contained format.

6. Use a Social Media Aggregator like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite for Efficiency

Now that you've got all these feeds coming in and want to share all that great content you're curating, it would be nice to make the process more efficient. Check out Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. These tools let you set up columns to ‘listen' to different hashtags and users that you follow, and also schedule tweets and shares! Tweetdeck focuses on Twitter use but Hootsuite works with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

With a tool like this, you can take 15 or 20 minutes and schedule posts across multiple platforms throughout the day while also easily perusing your content feeds from others. Super efficient.

7. Follow, Follow, Like, Like

Be sure to keep following and liking good content and sources you like. Social media sharing can be rather circular in that way. As the old Genesis song goes, “I will follow you if you follow me“.

8. Find Your Rhythm

It is important to be consistent. Figure out when works for you each day and set aside some time. Then stick with it.

9. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

If anyone reading this has a product or service that that wish to sell and is considering this from a social media marketing perspective, this is a very important point to consider. Media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk wrote a great book a few years back about this. The basic idea here is to avoid only sharing your stuff. A chorus of “look at me, look at me” quickly gets boring. Vaynerchuk's analogy is that the little bits you source from others and share are like the “jabs”, and then when you do post something about your product or service, that's the right hook. If you can get people to follow you because they learn from you, are amused or inspired by your content, and so on, then when you have something of your own to share it is more likely to be appreciated and clicked on.

10. Take Advantage of Opportunities as They Arise

Chances are that as you consume and share quality content that is relevant to your area of specialization, you will connect with like-minded professionals and enthusiasts who share your interests. If you do a good enough job of creating and sharing informative and insightful content about your topic area, this could lead to requests for new content, interviews, presentations, and more.

If someone asks you write a piece for their site, be open to it. If someone asks to interview you, go for it. This is a great way to build on your hard work. Write great guest content when the opportunity presents itself (you can also find opportunities to write guest content on your own). Prepare well for interviews. Create fun, informative presentations. The bottom line is: make the most of these opportunities when they arise. This in turn may even lead to paid opportunities to share your expertise (I got my first paid presenting gig around 2013 after the President of a technical college saw me present at a Campus Technology conference).

So there you have it. Start consuming, sharing, creating, and connecting. I hope you'll drop a comment and share your area of interest below, along with social media URLs, etc., and we'll see you online!



  1. Thanks Lily. I would add that with all of the unfortunate downsides of digital tech (loss of privacy, addictive nature of apps and social media, cyberbullying, misinformation, etc., etc.) we need to understand how to turn it to our favor!

  2. This is a really informative post and one that I do not think is spoken about enough. We all know that by being online, you automatically have an online presence but using this to your advantage in a professional capacity is vital in today’s society for optimal success.


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