Google your business. What do you see?
Every result on the page that mentions your brand is part of your digital footprint.
The web is a vast digital landscape, which can serve as a blessing and a curse. There are plenty of opportunities to grow your business on it, yet it comes with its fair share of risks and repercussions.
To maintain a healthy web presence it is crucial to understand how your digital footprint can impact your business and how to protect your brand’s reputation. Over half of CEOs express that spearheading digital improvements has earned them increased revenue.
What Does Digital Footprint Mean?
Also referred to as a digital shadow, digital footprint refers to the data trail employees or businesses leave when using the internet.
This data trail can include:
- Any online activity conducted by your company or employees (posting content, subscribing to a newsletter, leaving an online review).
- Any representations of your brand or business made by customers, partners, or competitors on the web.
Two forms of digital footprints are used to build your brand’s online profile: active and passive.
Active Digital Footprint
An active digital footprint is when a user intentionally shares information.
- Posting on social media platforms
- Posting content on your website
- Logging into online platforms via user accounts
- Making online purchases
- Downloading applications or forms
- Completing online forms such as subscribing to a newsletter or agreeing to accept cookies on a browser
Passive Digital Footprint
A passive digital footprint is when information is collected about a user or business without their knowledge.
- Social media sites that use a person’s likes, shares, and comments to target them with specific content
- Websites collecting information regarding how many times a user visited a site and recording their IP address
- Photos and other identifying information shared by friends, family (and even strangers) that may reveal locations and activities not primarily revealed by you or your organizatio
Why It's Important to be Aware of Your Digital Footprint
Digital footprint monitoring is vital to business for the following reasons:
Digital footprints are long-lasting. Once the information is public, the business has little control over how others use that data. Companies must take precautions in what they say or post to safeguard their information and reputation.
Digital footprints affect a business’s reputation. Over half of consumers conduct online research before deciding to work with or buy from a business. A strong and positive online presence gives your customers confidence in your ability to serve their needs and eliminates that first crucial barrier to purchase.
Digital footprints left unprotected are what make you vulnerable to cyberattacks. If businesses do not employ the right risk intelligence strategy, they, along with their executives and employees, can be the victims of malicious online attacks. Did you know that in recent years, 85% of organizations have been victims of phishing attacks, and 92% of executives have had their credentials exposed?
Digital footprints can put physical security of your employees or operations at risk. The threat to your company’s cyber security is obvious, but the digital tracks you leave behind can also make your organization vulnerable to physical threats. For example, executives are now much more active on social media and what they say (or DON’T say) may provoke protests among groups trying to force their agenda and provide justification for acts of violence. This leaves the executive and company a potential geopolitical target, requiring greater analysis of potential travel risks and monitoring of emerging crises.
What Your Digital Footprint Does For (and Against) You
When considering how your digital footprint may affect your business, leaders should be mindful of two areas—the benefits and repercussions.
If you take proper precautions, your digital footprint can help bolster your online reputation, which can:
- Help your company be seen by those who matter most to your business—your target audience.
- Create a positive reputation for your brand, encouraging more sales and improving your bottom line.
- Leverage your customers’ digital footprints and help you provide more personalized offerings and messages to them.
Alternatively, mishandling or neglecting your brand’s name can lead to loss for a business or employee. Some of the effects of poor digital footprint handling include:
- Inaccuracies or misrepresentations about your business that can harm its reputation.
- Words and photos posted online by employees or executives that can resurface and harm their individual reputations and the company’s reputation.
- Data harvesting (e.g., spear phishing) that allows cybercriminals to commit identity theft or build targeted malicious campaigns.
How Can You Manage Your Digital Footprint?
Here are three tips to help you manage and protect your company’s digital footprint:
1. Check Your Digital Footprint
Start with a quick web search on your company’s name.
Ideally, a direct search on your business’s name should return branded content on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs). Branded content includes pages such as:
- Your website
- A knowledge panel
- Social media profiles
- Review sites that mention your brand
You can also:
Learn more about how to limit data exposure in our two-part
Sifting Through Digital Exhaust blog series.
2. Employ Online Reputation Management Strategies
Depending on how your digital footprint appears, you may want to employ the help of an online reputation specialist.
A reputation specialist will likely help your team with the following:
- Conduct a site audit to examine your digital footprint thoroughly.
- Map online strategies to help improve your online presence and build more positive listings on search results.
- Manage online reviews and brand mentions.
- Employ SEO or content marketing strategies to bolster online reputation efforts.
- Set up automated tracking/metric tools.
3. Rely on a Digital Risk Protection Platform
Protection platforms such as Constella Dome protect thousands of employees and executives from digital risks. Dome monitors threats in real-time, enabling business leaders to take proactive steps to protect and enhance their digital footprint.
Here’s what you can expect:
- Automated monitoring and unlimited scalability
- Real-time alerting on digital risks
- More visibility over your entire workforce rather than just a few people
Check your exposure risk to get started.
4. Converge Physical Security and Cybersecurity Operations
If your business still treats physical security and cybersecurity as two separate entities, the time to converge them is now. As technology advances, the line between physical security and cybersecurity is blurring. Today’s attacks often target both cyber and physical assets, particularly as physical security assets continue to move into the cloud. By connecting your company’s security efforts, you can reduce the risk of disruptions that affect the ability to produce vital goods or services.
By 2025, Gartner predicts that half of the asset-intensive organizations will converge their cyber and physical teams under one department. Therefore, it makes sense to establish holistic security programs to inject your company with resilience.