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I just completed my LinkedIn profile the other day, thanks to #QuarantineLife, after many years of struggling to find the time to do so. I can’t say for certain that I am a great expert on this topic. However, because a friend asked me to give her advice on how to create a digital footprint, I decided to share based on my experience, and that of others as well.
Curating a digital footprint is not only necessary in this day and age, but it’s an effective way of helping people better understand who you are, what your value, and offering is as a personal brand or business. I would encourage you to use this downtime we are all experiencing to apply these few tips, and look out for more so that you can improve your digital footprint going forward.
I identify as a Xennial, we’re a generation between Gen-X, and Millennials. It means while we were on the tail end of enjoying analogue devices, we’re also at the forefront of being among the first to step into the digital world.
When the internet came along in a big way, in the late 90s and early 2000s, we found ourselves opening email addresses in dingy cyber cafes in the estates; and because there was no sense of security in this new world, we hid behind pseudonyms. At some point I was Purple-Candy-Craze before I was Violcanic, and later Viola’s Iris. Please don’t ask. Thanks.
Nowadays, you don’t have to wrack your brain to come up with a digital brand name. Using your name is in vogue, and saves you lots of rebranding effort later in your life, and career. Remember that the Internet always remembers, so help it remember a good strong brand by controlling how it recalls your digital footprint details over time.
For example, I am certainly not the first Wambui to walk the earth, and I wasn’t the first one to open digital accounts. Coming up with Wambui JL was a simple way of combining all my names, while at the same time leaving some mystery as to what my two other names are, especially for people who don’t know me. As with all new brands, it took a while to get used to, but as the years flew by, I have people who now refer to me simply as JL.
Here are some great tips on creating a name for your personal brand:
Own your name: Even if your name is as common as Mary Wambui or Juma Mwandawiro, Alice Syombua or Ochieng Odhiambo, use your names as they are, or find creative ways to combine them.
Bio/Profile Description: Ensure that you use these tips to create a great bio:
– Don’t be shy. Brag about your accomplishments.
– Use the 3rd person even though you are writing about yourself.
– Share something personal.
– Sprinkle a little tasteful humor – just a little.
– Ensure you cross-link your business website and what you do there e.g. Founder of XYZ Ltd or Senior Brand Manager for ABC Ltd. Tip: A great way to have all your links in one place is by using Linktree.
Be Consistent: Ensure your name and bio/profile description are exactly the same everywhere across all platforms.
Shared by: Al Kags, Open Data Expert and veteran online brand guru.
Use Good Images: You don’t have to get your images professionally done (if you can, please do); but using good, quality, clear images say a lot about your personal brand. Also, using the same images across the board helps people identify you easily.
The tip might sound pre-the-dot.com-bubble but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Websites have been around, have been very useful for years, and are a great way of growing your digital footprint.
A small reminder that I share with my clients: Someone else other than you owns all the platforms out there; and just because you have an account, doesn’t make you an owner of the account and/or the content you put out. If the owners decide to up and delete the Facebooks, the Whatsapps, the Twitters, and the Tik Toks, they can do just that, and you won’t have a leg to stand on against such a decision. It’s their platform; it’s their decision.
I’d assume that you would want this much control over your content since you have spent hours, days, and weeks putting together. Build your own website where you can aggregate the content you then later place on other platforms. Also, when it comes to copyright, he/she who posts first online, owns the copyright. Therefore, be careful about where you first post your content (read terms and conditions) depending on what you want to achieve with that content.
When I work with clients to create brand names, or when I am working on my own, my first port-of-call after thinking up a name is Godaddy.com. I search for the brand name availability as a domain, before deciding on its viability. There is no point of settling on a name then not being able to own the domain associated with it.
For local domains, I use Webspace where you can get dot-co-dot-ke and dot-africa as well. Once I know I can get the domain I search for the same or similar across different social media pages. In the event of a business name, you’d want to do a similar name search on eCitizen (Kenya) and registering the name before buying domains and getting on social media.
In 2020, you should be interested, if not already fully immersed in understanding, Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Simply put, it’s a way of increasing the chances of your personal brand being found on search apps such as Google; for free.
Apart from brandishing your brand name across selected platforms you also want to use tags. Tags are invisible labels that you can repeatedly input into your word and image content, on your website or social media platforms, to help search engines find your content. It makes your brand more accessible when someone searches for the keywords that make up your tags.
An example would be, #wambuijl which I can be sure you’ll find most, if not all the content, I have put out in the last 2-3 years. There is more on SEO, but from my point of view it is about leaving enough breadcrumbs to help make up the larger loaf that makes up your digital footprint.
As I continue to reveal my age, before the Facebook-age of social media, there was Hi5, Friendster, also MySpace and many message boards that we spent our days sharing our opinions on. However, something about Facebook changed the game, as it was in some way easier to sign up, understand, and use. It was like an all round better version of what we had before. I joined the platform in 2007, when it was novel, personal and enjoyable.
Right before the whole Cambridge Analytica fiasco, something shifted; Facebook was no longer a nice place to be. By the time Kenyan’s double-election of 2017 came about, I was done with the space. It had too much angst and negativity. But because I used it to manage client pages, I had to stick around. As of a few weeks ago I deleted my brand page from Facebook, and I am slowly working on deleting my profile entirely.
Here is the point of view of someone who left Facebook many years back and lived to tell the tale:
In my case, the content I was seeing on Facebook was not in line with my lifestyle. If anything it felt like spam mail. In terms of business, Facebook is no longer the only online platform to reach a wide audience.
The platforms I am on now speak to different parts of my personality and I use them to speak to a particular audience. Instagram is very social, relaxed and I allow my playful side to shine. I never take myself too seriously on it and the stuff I post. It also allows me to ‘interact’ with friends and family.
My LinkedIn is purely for the professional side of me. It’s where I build my ‘work’ persona, so the messaging there is anything that will enhance my work brand
Long story short, you cannot keep up with everything. We have many options on what platforms to use but the basics remain, know your audience, find out what platforms they are on, and create content they can relate to.Shared by: Maureen Odera, a gender practitioner, and the founder of Lelo Speaks
I agree with Maureen, there is no shortage of digital platforms that we can interact and socialize on, and you don’t have to be on a platform just because it’s there. Platforms now have values that we have to eventually decide if we are aligned to or against. You are free to decide where you’d like to launch, and grow your brand.I’d advise you choose a place you enjoy being in, where the content you decide to create has the most impact on the audience you want to speak to.
Now, that you have a name, a couple of platforms to work on, the next step is to work on your vision for what you want to achieve. Wait. Stop. I am not saying you write some long business model, with financial projections. I just think it’s important that you have an idea of where you are going with everything in regards to growing your digital footprint.
Someone recently told me that “People Follow Vision”. Once we are clear about who we are, what we are generally going to talk about and what value we are adding to the world, we shine like a light on a table for everyone to see. You won’t have a shortfall of people who share in your content.
I deliberately follow people and brands on social media based on where I am in life and the kind of content they share. Over time, we come to rely on certain people for their opinion on certain things; this provides comfort, and a channel to engage deeply with the person, and that topic.
I only got to know Maggie Gitu a.k.a. MaggietheMezzo, an opera-singing, certified sex therapist, at the end of 2019, via her Twitter posts. I find her content to be deep, funny, crazy, thought-provoking while championing for loving life, mental, and sexual health all at once. Gotta love it! I don’t know her from Eve, but the content she was putting out was exactly my cup of tea with two sugars, and I got interested in knowing the person behind that kind of thinking.
Great, well-thought out, and relevant content will do the same for your brand in the improvement of your digital footprint. It’ll be like an interesting introduction for people who get to know you. The content you share allows people to know what kind of person you are, and what you value.
It makes no sense to have a hammer if you’ll use it to paint a wall. When you don’t know or understand a tool, you won’t use it effectively. The same applies to all digital spaces, they are created for certain purposes, and their algorithms push that agenda. You want to not only know of the wave, but also understand how it works, so that you can ride it to the highest peak.
You’d rather understand one platform and understand it 99% than being on many platforms and understanding them 10%. To that end, once you pick a platform, continually learn about the ideal days & times to post; suitable content, popular tags and other requirements that will make your post and account have greater reach, and impact.
In my recent example, I worked on following all LinkedIn prompts to fill all the fields available to complete my profile. It’s improved the views on my profile, especially from people I don’t know but that have interesting professional backgrounds, thus expanding my digital network.
It is important to note that I didn’t say “post” or “share” consistently but rather create content consistently. We are all Creatives, who are designed to create. We’re always coming up with ideas, gadgets, solutions, jokes, advice videos, and experiences whether online or offline.
Creation of content should not be done just for the likes and follows. Create content more for the sole purpose of creating something worth your while and effort. Create content that shows people who you truly are, and what you stand for in this world. In the 80-20 rule, consider creation of content as the 80% and sharing the 20% of the work.
When it comes to posting/sharing I have been a victim of my own ambition. I tend to give myself stringent targets and schedules, which might seem grueling on the outside but it helps me significantly by ensuring I don’t procrastinate and lose interest. The other side of that is burnout, which takes me time to recover from. So do set goals for creating and sharing content but being cognizant to take breaks, so that you don’t burn out.
Personally, I have found that there are two seasons in content creation; there is the time you will only have the energy and inspiration to create the content. In this period, go with the flow; don’t worry so much about the sharing bit. Then there are seasons where the tap of inspiration runs dry, and you have creative blocks galore. In this season, post from the content stockpile that you built up. Learn to understand and enjoy each phase.
I have been a natural haired girl since 2000, right after I graduated (cleared) high school. However, what I would call the “healthy” natural hair movement in Kenya landed in a big way in 2012/13 and it was an exciting wave to join and ride. Ladies from all walks of life, different interests, life views all came together to build a lifelong community of natural haired sisters.
It started somewhat innocuously via a hair group on Facebook called Tricia’s Naturals and at the middle to tail end of the wave, I launched Hairpolitan Lifestyle to curate the movement as it grew bigger. I would not have achieved this without subscribing, belonging and contributing to the community on an almost daily basis. I could never have met the people who became friends, who we interviewed, or worked with to document the movement at its height. Belonging to a tribe is everything about social media, otherwise it ends up being a place to feed our narcissistic selves rather than to learn, grow and belong.
To be honest, I had totally forgotten about finding a tribe, until I chatted a friend and he reminded me that it is indeed the heart of thriving in the digital world. Here are his thoughts on how to make the best of a social media platform:
My favorite thing about the internet is finding people I vybe with. When it started, I was truly excited about Instagram, I felt it was the first social media that was fully geared towards photographers; because we could post images as the main content. I was curious about it and very happy to share my pictures with the world.
One of the ways to become good at this thing [social media] is to have a genuine heart for sharing, and not just for the purposes of “look at me” but sharing to find a tribe who mainly resonate with what you are doing. There is something about people feeling what you are doing, and sending that vybe right-back makes you feel like you are a part of a bigger community that understands you. The good thing with that type of feedback is you get encouragement and learning to do what you are doing some more or change for the better.
The tip for success, in building and maintaining a community, is to be consistent and being real. My platform may be visually curated but the feelings behind the pictures are not, I am being as real as possible. It’s how I live my life, and what I share.Shared by: Mutua Matheka, renowned Kenyan Photographer.
There are many pieces of advice online and from different people about building a digital footprint beyond what I have shared. As mentioned in one of the tips, keep learning about doing what you are doing better. Be curious, read more articles, take short courses, and above all experience it all! Experience remains the best teacher, and sooner rather than later, you’ll be also sharing your tips on how you built a great digital footprint.
Featured Image by: Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash