Think Before You Post: Your Digital Footprint Lives Forever

It's safe to say that 10 years ago no one knew what a digital footprint was, or that everyone who is online has one. Today, of course, it's a very different story, and like many emerging technologies, there are potentially and previously unknown positive and negative results from using the technology — in this case sharing your life online with friends, family, and the world.

The upside?
You create and control the online image or persona that you present to the world.

The downside?
You create and control the online image or persona that you present to the world.

In a recent Mashable article, 1 in 4 Young Adults Regret Social Media Posts, Survey Says:

 Legal-information website conducted a "demographically balanced" survey among 1,000 American adults, asking them questions about their behavior surrounding Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and other popular social platforms. Among younger adults aged 18 to 34, 29% said they have posted a photo, comment or other personal information they fear could compromise their current or future job prospects.

It's not an irrational fear.

An article on, Current and potential employers are looking at your social media pages, points out:

A survey of more than 2000 hiring managers and HR professionals conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder in February of 2012 found that 37% or nearly two in five employers check social media when looking at a potential employee. An additional 11% stated they would like to begin using social media to screen new employees. 

If you google "people who've lost their jobs due to social media mistakes", you'll see quite a few examples, such as:
  • In March 2009, a 22 year old thoughtlessly tweeted about a job offer from Cisco.
    "Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weight the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work."
    Cisco employees saw her tweet, and shared it with her hiring manager. The job offer was withdrawn. Her tweet, and the entire story, went viral.
  • Matt Watson lost his job at All City Coffee in Washington, DC after he was outed as the voice behind the sarcastic and snarky comments on the blog The Bitter Barista.
  • There have been multiple reports of teachers in conservative school districts who have lost their jobs after posting "private" photos of themselves on Facebook drinking alcohol,  smoking, or posing in revealing lingerie.
As the millennials move into positions of power, everyone will be more digital-savvy and the stigma of a less-than-stellar digital footprint will begin to fade. But until that time, and because the Internet is forever and nothing is truly "private", here are three easy rules to keep yourself out of trouble:
  1. If in doubt, don't post it. This goes for your Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos, reddit or tumblr accounts, and comments on articles and blogs.
  2. If you would be embarrassed if your grandmother or second-line manager saw it, don't post it.
  3. Enable the Facebook photo tagging permission so that your "friends" can't tag you without your approval.
The good news? You control your digital footprint, and can put your best foot forward, digitally speaking.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden/

Trend Spotting: Instagram & the U.S. Government

You just never know when the first whiff of a trend is going to reach out and grab you to say, "Hey, pay attention to me!"

I was scanning through my feeds tonight, and realized that I'd just seen the third article in a week about United States government agencies now on Instagram.

I know, your first thought was, "Instagram, really?"

You mean the popular social/photo sharing application started by two Stanford University graduates and purchased by Facebook a little over a year ago for a cool billion dollars? The free iPhone and Android application used by 130 million users a month who've shared 16 billion photos, at a rate of 45 million photos a day, and which garner 1 billion likes a day?

Our federal government at the forefront of social media?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

The first item I saw about the White House featuring President Obama, really didn't surprise me, and I retweeted it without much thought.  I wrote a blog post late last year, How Social Networking Won an Election and Paid for Cancer Treatment, about the unbelievably social-savvy team working on President Obama's re-election team. 

 And the article from Mashable about the Department of the Interior joining Instagram actually delighted me — a new opportunity to view stunning photos —  636 at last count. (This is from someone who is notoriously lacking in the photo taking skills arena, according to her teenager.)

Just one row of stunningly gorgeous photos from the Department of the Interior's Instagram account. And they're all this beautiful!

But tonight, the article from Forbes about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extending the reach of The TSA Blog TSA Week in Review feature by opening an Instagram account and sharing photos of confiscated items — now that one both made me pay attention and frightened me. Fireworks, loaded guns, a belt buckle knife. Seriously, what were these people thinking?

Instagram photo of a belt buckle knife confiscated by the TSA.

Of course, now I'm intrigued. It turns out that NASA has been on Instagram long enough to attract 345,000 followers. The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources only has 66 followers, but I'm sure they'll catch up. The U.S. Air Force has 1287 followers. I'm stopping now — I could easily stay up until 3 am googling, finding and following these accounts.

When you step back and take a look, this trend makes sense. Check out the website. It's enabled with social sharing buttons, and has hundreds of free apps. (When I'm done with this blog post, I'm definitely going to check out CIA Mobile.) Many agencies have Twitter accounts.

If you want to reach out to and connect with people — prospects, customers, constituents, students, friends, volunteers, advocates — you need to go where they are. As the U.S. government has clearly figured out.