Social Media Etiquette: Why Your Digital Footprint Matters


What is a digital footprint? As we use the Internet, digital footprints are the information we leave behind as a result of online activity. Your digital footprint can be searched, shared, and seen by a very large, invisible audience. Most importantly, like actual footprints, your digital footprint is part of you always.

According to the Facebook company newsroom website, in December 2006, there were 12 million active users; over the next 10 years, that grew to 1.86 billion monthly active users. Facebook is just one platform among many, including Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. The internet isn’t just for sending emails anymore; every day individuals use it to create businesses, look for potential employees, and so much more. The way we communicate has been forever changed by social media, and there’s no going back.

One of the largest digital footprints we have is on social media; every status update, like, share, retweet, comment, snapchat, and picture is part of our record. With mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, it’s easier than ever to let everyone know what we’re thinking, where we’ve been, where we’re going, and even what we had for dinner. In this era of ‘share everything’, we should consider, more than ever, what our digital footprint says about us. Here are some common etiquette practices we should consider:

  1. Be respectful: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your clients, co-workers, clergy, and most importantly, your mother to see or read. Sometimes, we’re so quick to post a comment or reply that later you find yourself regretting, and then deleting.
  2. Be nice: The golden rules of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ have nearly disappeared in the digital onslaught of ‘now, Now, NOW’; be kind and remember, even though you can’t be seen, for the most part, your digital voice can be heard loud and clear. Positivity and encouragement will go a long way.
  3. Personal and Professional Profiles: When possible, try to keep your personal and professional profiles separate. If you decide to have only a personal profile, keep in mind, your personal online personality could affect your professional reputation and that of your employer.
  4. Take a time out: Before you post, think to yourself, is this something I truly want to share, is it reactive, am I venting, and am I okay with EVERYONE seeing this? Another thing to consider is the information appropriate for this platform or should it be communicated in a different way.

Every platform is extremely careful with their privacy settings, but, in the end, the information we choose to share is subject to scrutiny. As professionals, common sense practices should be the norm…now, share this with everyone you know!