What Is Your Digital Footprint?

Professors, researchers and scientists like you decide to start managing your online presence for many reasons.

Managing your online presence in academia is all about these three things:

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  1. You have to know what’s out there about you for people to find.
  2. You need to know where people are looking for information about you and your work.
  3. Where to focus your energy to meet your goals.

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1. Know what’s out there about you

A woman sits in front of her laptop drinking a cup of coffee. On the laptop screen is a browser window with Google Search pulled up.

You need to know what’s already out there about you. For some of you, that’s quite a bit of information. Start with search engines like Google. If you Google yourself, you may see things like

  • Your faculty profile
  • Your articles and publications
  • Mentions in news articles
  • University-related blog posts and website pages
  • Society newsletters
  • Event listings

You may also see things like your public social media accounts.

And your personal website if you have one.

You may also see none of these things. Some people don’t have an online presence.

Someone Googling your name is looking for info about you. They may be looking for different types of information, but in general people want basic things like a

  • short bio
  • photo of you
  • brief description of what you do
  • and, contact info

Colleagues and people in your field may be looking for more specialized information like your

  • publications
  • speaking engagements

But in general, people are looking for a bit about you. And they’re willing to spend time to find it.

The 1st step is finding out what people can learn about you already by Googling yourself.

2. Where are people looking for info about you?

A man in a black and white wide striped suit holds a magnifying glass in front of his face close to the camera. The effect makes his face look much larger in the glass than it actually is. The man is wearing bright blue glasses.

The 1st place most people will look for info about you is Google. But it’s not the only place. People like your colleagues, students, and other researchers may look at your faculty profile to learn more.

Some people are looking for you on LinkedIn, or on a research-specific networking site. Others want to connect with your conversations on Twitter.

Ask yourself these questions to determine where your potential audience is spending time.

  • Who in the past 6 months may have needed to look me up?
  • Am I anticipating anyone new who needs to learn about me in the near future (i.e. hiring managers)?
  • Where do my friends/colleagues spend their time online?
  • How do people in my field usually stay up-to-date on new research?
  • How are other people in my field managing their online presence? Do they have websites? Social media accounts? Research-based networking profiles?

Thinking through these questions does not mean you need to take action on each of these things. But being aware of the answers does set you up to make a more informed choice of where to focus your energy.

3. Social media, websites, and more

Hands holding a tablet with a personal website on the screen, specifically a publications page with articles

Online content that helps share who you are and what you do is the best way to manage your online presence. Your digital footprint is most easily controlled with a personal website. You can also share content on like social media.

Content that you share might include

  • text
  • images
  • GIFs
  • video
  • links

With social media you can post content whenever you want, like when you have a new article or publication. But a personal academic website is the best way to control your digital footprint long-term.

You can also share more permanent content like an article on LinkedIn, a blog post for your department, or a video on your university’s YouTube account. There are many options to choose from.

Start here! My free training walks you through where to focus your energy 1st.

Virtual. Self-paced. Choose your own adventure.

Free online presence workshop

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Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer LLC to help professors build a strong online presence for their research, teaching, and leadership. Jennifer’s goal is to help people feel confident sharing their work with the world.

Jennifer’s personal website

The Academic Designer LLC