One of the areas of focus for me in my district this year is teaching teachers and students how to take control of their digital identity and turn it into something positive and something they can be proud of. Too often each year students find themselves in situations that could be easily avoided if they understood what a positive digital footprint is and how to manage it. The same thing with teachers. Many times I hear of teachers who flat out avoid any (or make a very strong attempt) to leave no trace on the web. While they might believe this strategy works, in essence it does not. School directories, webpages and others are online. Even kids use Rate My Teachers as a place to vent/praise about educators all over. (Meredith Stewart said it best: Astounds me when teachers/professors only digital presence is Rate My Teachers/Profs page. If you aren't controlling your footprint, others are. From Twitter)
What she says there is so very important. If you aren't controlling who you are online, some else is or will. And taking control of your digital footprint is something that is so easy to do. Who wants something like this to happen?
So, where do you start?
Google Yourself- Take a few moments and Google yourself. You might have a common name so use different variations. Add your middle name, location or something else that might provide some hits. I had the honor of speaking to a great group of educators this week at the New Literacy Institute at NC State University. One of the activities they were involved in was looking at their digital self and the first thing they did was Google themselves. It was fascinating to watch the reactions across the room as they found information about themselves they didn't know was online or information they they thought was private on Facebook or other social networks. You don't know if you don't Google. And this isn't a one shot deal. Google yourself often to make sure the information that is out there represents you in the way you want.
Establish A Brand- This sounds complicated but really it is easy as figuring out what name you use across all that you do on the web. My brand is my name (Steven W. Anderson) and my Twitter (@web20classroom). I use the middle initial in my name because my full name is pretty common (doctors, laywers, even an actor, and some not so nice folks). So in searches done on those 2 brands the information comes back to me. The point here is to start using the same identity across multiple services so solidify yourself. And try to use your actual name or a simple variation.
Get You A Space Of Your Own- You are going to need a place of your own to let people know who you are. I chose to use Twitter and a blog. These are places where you can further establish who you are, what you are about what what you want to say. Those are just two ways. It could be something simple like an About.me page. Again, your are further solidifying yourself on the web. What's great is you can control how much information you put out there and what information you put out there; all in an effort to control your identity.
Stay On Top Of Things- Google Alerts might just be the best way to keep track of things easily. You set up some keywords to search (so you would do the name you have been using to Google, your brand, blog, Twitter, etc), fill out how often you want to get the alerts, an email address and boom! any page on the web that mentions any of the data you submitted lands in your inbox so you can know who is saying what about you or your brand.
Those are just a few steps. What would you add? What has worked for you? And some comments below.