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TP Bites: Digital footprints – Managing your online profile

In this episode of TP Bites, Jordan Greenaway and Luke Thompson break down our new dedicated Digital Footprint Audit service tailored for individuals and families looking to manage their online profiles.

man in suit looking at laptop

In this episode of TP Bites, Jordan Greenaway and Luke Thompson break down our new dedicated Digital Footprint Audit service tailored for individuals and families looking to manage their online profiles. 

Transcript

Jordan: Welcome to this special episode of TP Bites. I’m joined by Luke, a partner at Transmission Private, to discuss a new product we’ve launched, which is a Digital Footprint Audit. The discussion I think, is going to take probably three phases and will be no more than 10 to 15 minutes overall, The aim is to give people a colour of this product, its value proposition and how it looks in practice, what motivated us to launch this product, and the problem that it solves.

Then we’re going to talk about the technicalities, what it looks like in practice. And then we’re going to talk about a recent client that we supported with one of these audits, and how it was valuable to them. 

So, I want to start the discussion by asking Luke why have we launched this product? When I say launch this product, we have been carrying out these audits for a number of years now for clients. But we’re just giving them more visibility on our website and more visibility in our marketing. So people actually understand what we’re doing. So Luke, what’s the problem?

Luke: I think it comes down to this core belief. I think a lot of clients are starting to think in this way as well, which is what turns up for a search review on Google, what kind of digital profile that you have is a litmus test for your reputation. Whether you have a good reputation, a bad reputation, or even no reputation at all. 

And if you want a competitive edge in whatever you’re doing in your career — maybe you want to source a non-executive directorship, maybe you want to launch a brand new family foundation, whatever it is, in your business, or charitable career — reputation makes the difference. And by and large, what appears for you online, really is a litmus test for whether you’ve got a good or bad reputation.

What is a digital footprint?

Jordan: I think that kind of went unsaid there, Luke. Which is what is a digital footprint? A digital profile is all the content about them online. And by and large, in our audits, we focus on that content that is more visible, we can go to the very very depths of the web — to some kind of early old, maybe forgotten social media posts that you put on Twitter 15 or 20 years ago — we can find all that content and say you need to think about taking that down. 

But actually, this footprint audit, by and large, focuses principally on what’s easy to find when you search your name. Or when we search the name of one of your family members, or one of your businesses or one of your trusts or one of your foundations. 

What turns up on Google? What’s the snapshot judgement that people make from looking at that content? What impression do they come away with? Do you come across as credible? Do you have the gravitas online to be able to do business effectively? That’s what we’re talking about here. 

When we say digital footprint, generally that term is quite all-encompassing. It means everything on the internet about you from your inclusion in leaks to your past presence on social media. 

Luke: Also, there might be some people listening, saying “Well, why does it matter?”. Well, there’s a reason why it matters and there’s a reason for why we’ve been doing this for the best part of five years. It’s because if you are an entrepreneur, a high-net-worth individual, or if you’re a next-generation family member, then there’s usually latent interest in you online as an individual. 

There could be 500 people searching for you a month online as it is. I think clients are faced with a decision, do they control what people read about them online? Or do they leave it? I think there’s a big shift now in individuals recognising that they need to control what people perceive and think about them. The best way to do that is to take control of their digital footprint.

Jordan: I can see now someone sitting at home listening to us, Luke, and I can visibly see the scepticism steaming off their head. Because when you search them now, there’s no information there at all. There might be a company house record, but they’ve never really had any visibility online. And they’re quite happy with that! They’ll be sitting there thinking, why would anyone search me? There’s nothing there. There’s no danger. That’s no threat to me. So I’m sorted. I have no problems. But what we’re saying is that you do have a problem.

You don’t have any digital reputation at all and that’s going to harm your business transactions. When a financial partner, business partner, or a company that you potentially want to invest in searches, you and ends up finding nothing at all, then that’s a red mark against your name.

It’s not just me saying that. We did research on this about a year ago, and half of the public said that if they searched you as an individual online, and they couldn’t find any information, then it would be a red mark against your name. They think “What’s going on here? That’s strange. I would rather go with someone with a credible track record. I can see there they’ve done successfully in business and that they have good ethics”.

What is a negative digital footprint?

Luke: Yeah. I think there’s an illusion that if there’s no negative content sitting on your digital profile, then it’s okay. It’s perfectly fine. I’ve got a decent profile because there’s no negative content on there. 

But what they’re missing is that it’s actually a missed opportunity. Everybody wants an edge in the business world. My argument is that edge is controlling your digital footprint. We live in a digital world, we have been for the best part of a decade. But I think working remotely caused by the pandemic, that really emphasises the need to have a good digital profile. Because when you’re zooming somebody for that important business meeting, they will undoubtedly have googled your name and read the content that sits on that Google first page.

Jordan: And let’s go further than that. While they’re speaking to you on Zoom, Zoom is taking up half the scree and your online profile taking up the other half of the screen. They probably use that to guide the discussion in many ways, which I think is quite interesting. 

But I think that’s enough about what the problem is, I think it’s important now for the people listening to actually get a colour on what that digital footprint audit report actually looks like. Let’s go beyond the trends and the macroscopic view and get down to the details. If you engage us to conduct a digital footprint audit, for you as an individual, you as a family or you as an organisation, then what does that actually mean? What do you get back?

Luke: Well let’s start from the endpoint. So the end result is you get an eight to ten page report that basically looks at three things. The first thing is the various different key search terms that people are using to search for your name. So it might just be your name, it might be your name and company, it might be your name and family. So it will look at all those various different key search terms, as well as the volume for people who are searching for you.

Jordan: And Luke, just before you go on there. Just to ask you a question. How do you pick those search terms? Are you just kind of getting on the basis of intuition? Just guessing what people are searching for? How do you pick them?

How to find your digital footprint?

Luke: No. So it’s all done by volume. So we use proper tools to figure out how many people are searching for those individual search terms. So for example, we’re not going to record the search terms that no one’s actually searching for — it is all done by volume. It will take into account probably the top 10 search terms for you as an individual. 

Jordan: And you have the technical tools to actually pull out this data and actually slice and dice and pick the most important ones?

Luke: Completely. It’s important to do that because search results Usually, they usually vary depending on various different factors. For example, location. If you’re searching for your name in Edinburgh, you’ll probably get a different set of results from if you’re searching in London. So proper tools to do that, and being guided by the data effectively. 

Then the second part of the report is looking at those results for those search terms. We’ll break down those results into separate tables and we will look at two interesting metrics. I think it’s quite important to mention the sentiment of each link. Is it positive? Is it negative? Or is it neutral? So is your Wikipedia page positive? Is it providing positive content? If so, it’ll be a positive link. 

The second metric is whether it’s controlled or uncontrolled? Is it an old piece of media coverage that was placed online 10 years ago? If so, you can’t change the content of that we don’t have the right to do that it’s uncontrolled. But if it’s your company website that’s controlled. So we will look at those results, analyse and buy those two key metrics. And really just to give a picture to the client as to what those results look like, are they positive, negative or neutral?

Jordan: There’s another column as well, isn’t there? It’s, is it about you or not? And this is, I think, something that people miss. They sort of understand the positive or negative stuff and they sort of understand the controlled or uncontrolled stuff. But perhaps a more important question is: is it relevant or irrelevant to someone searching about you? 

If you’re trying to prepare yourself for a business exit, or looking to raise funds for a new business, or looking to secure new financial partnerships, or looking to build your reputation amongst the local community — finding positive content, or neutral content, or a blend of positive and neutral is important. Content that is controlled, that you can change to ensure you’re responding to those stakeholders and that it aligns with your long term ambitions. 

But it also just needs to be about you. It’s really bad for a bank to search your name, for example, and just find a lot of content that’s completely irrelevant. It’s a huge red mark.

Luke: Often you get clients who say “I’ve got this biography on this website, or, you know, I’ve got this Twitter page” or whatever else it might be. But of course, it doesn’t appear on the first page of Google. So how are people finding it?

Jordan: And if it doesn’t appear on the first page, you might as well not exist, right?

How to manage your digital footprint?

Luke: Exactly. Because no one really is going on past the first or second page. So, it needs to be on that first page. 

Then the last bit of the digital footprint audit, probably the most important, is the reputational recommendations. We look at the data. We look at the key search terms. We then look at the results. And we make some recommendations for improvements based on what we’re seeing. 

Those recommendations will take into account whether you have a Wikipedia page — or if you even should have a Wikipedia page. It will take into account your images, or videos affecting your digital footprint. It will also take into account whether there are any media or news articles that are sitting on those search results. 

So it’ll take a broad helicopter view of your digital profile, and then make recommendations for improvements based on that.

Jordan: And what I think is really clever in what you’ve done in the audit is that on that first page, you give three headline recommendations. 

These are after you look at the digital profile. You pick the three things that are most important. But then on those final two or three pages, you dive into the individual aspects of their profile. 

So, you’ll have a little section on media profile. Or perhaps a little section on maybe the biography that you found on their company website. You’ll have a little section on their LinkedIn profile if they’ve got one. You’ll have a little section on Twitter, if it’s relevant. You also have a little section on a unique bit of content that you found for that individual. 

So, not only do your recommendations take the form of high-level strategic pieces, but then you’ll dive into those individual bits of content and give really actionable recommendations that probably they can carry out themselves too.

Luke: Yeah, low hanging fruit. And that really adds value to the client, because often they can just engage and do those practical implementations themselves.

Jordan: So, just to kind of summarise very quickly for a listener. What this report is, you’ve heard us discuss, is a standalone 10-page report. 

The first three pages will provide you with analytics, the number of people searching you and where they’re from, the search terms they’re using, as well as three headline recommendations. The next set of pages will contain a snapshot of how you look against each of those important terms. Then the final section will contain very specific actionable tactics and recommendations on each of the individual components of your digital profile, be it Wikipedia, be it social media, be videos, be media content, be it photographs.

Luke: And I should say to people who want to visualise what it looks like, we have produced an example template report that we can send over to people just to show you how what that end product looks like.

Jordan: And just to bring this to life, Luke. Just as we kind of close this just to bring it to life. Can you give me a kind of example of this in action, maybe talk about a client on an anonymous basis? About something that you found as part of this process that they wouldn’t have found otherwise? And how it led to action for them?

Luke: Yeah, there was an example where we did this for a client. He was an investor and as well as being an investor, he had all these different strands to his career and work. He also had a very common name. There was I think, 1000s of people searching for that name online every month. None of that content that was already out there was findable. 

One of the key recommendations that we made to him, after looking at all the data or looking at all the results, was there was no single place to capture all of that content in one central hub. There was no website for his company, there was no personal website, there was no website to capture his philanthropic work and there was no Wikipedia page. 

There were just biographies on other allied websites. And our key recommendation to him was, first of all, people aren’t finding content because it was unoptimised. But most importantly, he needed a single place to capture his CV and to capture his biography online. That was what was lacking and I think that was holding him back.

Controlling your digital footprint

Jordan: It doesn’t necessarily need to be in the form of a personal website, right? Because that doesn’t fit everyone. Personal websites can sometimes look egotistical or a little bit cliche.

But he’s a very successful investor with a large portfolio of companies. So why doesn’t he have a website for his investment activity, for example?

That reminded me of maybe one thing that connects many of the clients that we support, which is when we do this Digital Footprint Audit. What I find is the most common recommendation that we provide is not necessarily around identifying reputation risk and saying taking this down or take that down. Of course, that’s important to find that information but what I find the biggest recommendation is that currently you just lack gravitas online, you’re not coming across credibly, your digital profile is thin. It’s an issue for you and it’s an issue for your business activity. 

So how can we strategically and intelligently ensure that when people searching you, they go “Ah, this is a person I want to do business with”. If there was one common recommendation, across all the various audits that we’ve recently carried out — it would be exactly that. And of course, it’s not relevant to everyone, because some people already have very extensive digital profiles. But for the vast majority of people, they don’t. 

So Luke, I think that’s kind of covered off the majority of our discussion today. Anything that you’d like to add?

Luke: Well, I’d like to leave you on this point. Which is imagine your Google search results and your digital profile as a blank canvas. You can paint that picture however you want to — you have that level of control now. 

We live in a digital world, telling your story the way you want to is now possible. We have more control to do that than ever before. I would say anyone who’s listening who’s interested in engaging us on this, head to our website — it’s a real archive of content to read and absorb. 

Also head over to our Digital Footprint Audit information hub, which basically encompasses everything we’ve just discussed., In it we talk about the processes for how we do it, there’s an example report, and a little bit more about the service in general. 

Alternatively, if you don’t want to go on our website, give us a call and let’s have a chat.

Transmission Private publishes a monthly newsletter that tracks the future of reputation management for private clients.

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Transmission Private publishes a monthly newsletter that tracks the future of reputation management for private clients.