A favorite phrase in the online community is “digital footprint.” For people whose natural habitat isn’t the dim glow of a computer and the rapid click of a keyboard, however, it may be a bit confusing knowing what a digital footprint is, and more importantly, how to create one.
What IS a Digital Footprint?
A digital footprint is, quite simply, your space online. Just as you create footprints on a beach by walking on sand, you create footprints online by leaving an information trail. Your digital footprint is comprised of websites, online registrations, profiles and content shared in spaces like social media and comments. People create a “picture” of you based on this content. Whether you choose to take control of that picture or have someone else create your picture (e.g. through online reviews, fake profiles, etc.) is up to you. However, especially in real estate where buyers and sellers are actively using the internet to do their research, knowing and controlling your digital footprint works in your favor. First impressions in real estate used to be made when someone walked into the office, or met you at an open house. Now, first impressions are often made online, and often without your knowledge. With that in mind, it’s best to create and control your own digital footprint.
How to Create a Digital Footprint
Chances are good that you’ve already created a digital footprint. Whether you have an email account, cloud storage, an Amazon wish list or a social media profile (LinkedIn counts!), all of these are steps toward having a digital footprint. If you’ve never been online before, the first step would be to Google your name. If you have a popular name, Google “your name + your area“, or “your name + real estate” to see what comes up. Why is this the first step? In November 2013, 12.1 billion searches were conducted on Google in the United States. (Source) Wouldn’t you like to know what Google says about you?
The next step is to create a basic profile online or, if you’ve already done so, to ensure that your profile and desired contact information is as up-to-date as possible. You can create very quick online resumes on sites like About.me, but one of the highest-ranking sites for search engines is LinkedIn. If you do choose to create a quick profile on About.me or on your own agent website, another way to help people (and search engines) find you is to buy your name as a domain name (ex: TaraChristianson.com) and forward it to the website. (This will also prevent people from misappropriating your name somewhere down the line!)
You may have seen people’s names and faces next to different posts when you’ve done a Google search.
If you’re interested in having a Google profile, you will have to set up a Google account. You can follow instructions for a Gmail account here and here, or find out more about Google Plus here. (And if you’re interested in learning about how to use Google Plus for real estate, you can learn more here.) To get your picture next to a post like above, you will need a Google Plus profile. If you want to link a Google Plus profile to your website or blog, you (or your developer) can follow the instructions here.
Finally, remember that everything you do online is pretty much there forever. Think before you respond to negative comments online; think about the kind of impression you want to make on people who you’ve never met before you post, tweet or upload your next photo. Just as you wouldn’t want to walk around in the wrong-size shoe, you don’t want to leave footprints that don’t reflect yourself online. You never get a second chance to create a first impression! Even if you’re not online that often, you can use monitors like Google Alerts to “watch” the web for you, and let you know how and when your name pops up online. Remember, you can let the web work as an extension of yourself and your real estate business – when used properly, your digital footprint can amplify the efforts (aka “footprints”) you leave in your professional life!