Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
February 2, 2011 9:55 PM

Your Digital Footprint Is Muddy

You may have the best of intentions, but pay close attention to the digital footprints that you leave behind. They can often be muddy.

True story: someone recently reached out to me for favor. In all truth, this would benefit them much more than it would me, but they are a good acquaintance, and I have a hard time saying no. We agree to a meeting. That person doesn't show. I email them to see what happened. No response. It's no (literal) skin off of my back as I wasn't all that interested in helping out in the first place. Then, a month later, they reconnect and tell me how the month has been insanely busy, but never apologizing for the back and forth prior to the meeting and for ditching it in the end.

Here's what they didn't realize...

We're connected. I follow them on Twitter. I follow them on Facebook. We're connected. So, while this person is "busy" all month, I'm able to see a four-week-plus digital footprint that includes a bunch of twitpic moments and Foursquare check-ins that weren't exactly screaming, "I don't have a moment to breathe!" Sure, they could have changed their mind about asking a favor. Sure, they could have decided that it wasn't worth the time. Sure, a large majority of people lack the basic social skills of good manners and kindness, but still... it' clear as day what, exactly, is going on here.

Senior executives have shared similar stories. 

A senior marketing executive recounted to me a story of a very well-known individual in the Social Media space and how their engagement unraveled because of the very channels they were hired to help the company with. As strategy decks and tactics were delayed, complicated with errors and deadlines moved with apologies, this senior executive was watching the principal in the organization (and the lead on their project) as they tweeted their life (and good times) for all to see. The company's final statement about dismissing this Social Media agency? "It was apparent by their use of Social Media that they had no time for the work they were being paid to do for clients." 


The physical world and the digital world are intrinsically connected. So, if you're tweeting while on a conference call, be aware that the people you're supposed to be engaged with on the call may very well be watching you as you tweet (or read those tweets later in the day). I've, personally, been in multiple situations where an individual said they could not do something because they were busy (or something) but could then be found tweeting away or updating their status on Facebook. The more content we create the more breadcrumbs of our lives exist for all to see and trace.

I wonder how many people truly stop to think about their digital footprint... and the imprint it makes on their professional life... and their reputation.

By Mitch Joel