Year for Productivity Session 20: Following Our Digital Footprints

year_productivity_graphic_20So what is a digital footprint? According to Webopedia, “This [digital footprint] is information transmitted online, such as forum registration, e-mails and attachments, uploading videos or digital images and any other form of transmission of information — all of which leaves traces of personal information about yourself available to others online.”  Other popular terms for this is one’s “online identity” or the elements that can make or break your “personal brand.”

So, what is the big deal about developing a “personal brand”?  As long as I’m safe on my social networking sites and don’t post lewd pictures or talk carelessly about topics that job interviewers would find objectionable, I’m ok, right?  No, it’s really quite a bit more.  Montoya says, ” Personal branding is a strategic process – it is about intentionally taking control of how others perceive you and managing those perceptions strategically to help you achieve your goals.”  It is marketing Y.O.U. by putting your best foot forward.

By Lorenz kerscher at en.wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

“One of the most basic online tools for branding is that of researcher profiles, which can serve as a first point of contact and a convenient hub that connects scientific works.” (Scientific Marketplace)

Marketing sounds a battle-cry for scientists to communicate their body of research more effectively and competition in the academic arena demands scientists pay attention to promoting their public persona.  Having a researcher id which is current and complete is essential because institutions and funding agencies make their decisions based on the researcher’s CV and reputation can be won or lost depending on what the researcher’s online presence and profile reveal.

Marketing includes many activities that we already do as a regular part of our professional lives; the trick is leveraging those activities to reflect the best of us.  Sharing our presentations on Slideshare or Vivmeo, for example, is one aspect of our online identity, as is facilitating open access to versions of your academic articles. Marc Kuchner says that branding and relationship building are the two key ingredients for scientists marketing themselves.  Marketing oneself, Kuchner cautions, is not just self-promotion; it is “trying to figure out what other people want or need” and then go about showing how what you are doing can meet those wants and needs.

In a post on September 16, 2013, Kuchner talks about the growing role of Linked-In and Facebook Groups for Scientists.  These are groups of professionals often with varying amounts of “proof” as to the professional and scientific standing of anyone wishing to join.  The problem, Kuchner says, is that no index of these professional groups exist and professionals generally locate the groups through serendipitous networking with colleagues or by harvesting the group names off other professionals profiles.

Another avenue is scientific blogging.  Aggregators like Research Blogging () provide opportunities to have your thoughts about peer-reviewed research in your area to reach a larger audience.

Ideas on how to enhance your online identity:

  • Cross-link your profiles so that you present one united identity to the world.
  • Keep your profile current.  Make it a habit to update your experience, presentations, publications and honors on a regular basis.
  • Review your privacy settings. Social networking sites often update their policies and what you thought was private may no longer be.
  • Create a profile on, a social networking site focused on those in academia
  • Maintain your LinkedIn profile even if you aren’t looking for a job.  Because LinkedIn is so popular, your LinkedIn profiles will likely float close to the surface when you are searched on Google.
  • Blog or Tweet about your past research articles which you have made open access.  Melissa Terras found her article downloads sharply increasing when she followed this technique.
  • Participate constructively in online forums. Online is not the place to vent feelings or frustrations.  Sarcasm is often mistaken for something much more personal and hurtful.


For Further Exploration and Insight:

1. Google yourself and explore what your digital footprint is today.  Try the search in a few other search engines as well.  Do you have cleanup to do?

2.Explore one or more of the tools and/or sites mentioned in this article. Where would you fit in?  What about your users?  Would it be advantageous for them?


Selected Readings:

Eke, Helen Nneka. (2012). “Creating a digital footprint as a means of optimizing the personal branding of librarians in the digital society,” Webology; Dec2012, Vol. 9 Issue 2, pp1-12

Fenner, Martin(2012). “One-Click Science Marketing,” Nature Materials,11:5,pp261-263

How to Grow Your Twitter Following:  An infographic with lots of tips for increasing your impact.

Interview with Marc Kuchner, “The m word,” Nature Materials, 11(5) – pp264 – 265

Kuchner, Marc. Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times, Island Press, 2011.

Kuchner’s blog:

Melissa Terras’ Blog, Is Blogging and Tweeting about Research Papers Worth It? The Verdict, April 3, 2012

Montoya, P. (2002a). The brand called you. Part One – What is personal branding. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from

Montoya, P. (2002b). The personal branding phenomenon. London: Personal Branding Press.

“The Scientific Marketplace,”(2012) Nature Materials,11:5,p259






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