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Online reputation and the digital footprint: Your delete button is lying to you!

It’s hard to imagine what our lives would be like without the internet. Let’s stop for a moment and think about it. You wouldn’t be able to email your clients or update your Facebook status with exciting news. There would be no posting photos to Instagram, no way to quickly pay bills online, and no video chatting with loved ones who live far away.

The internet has become our go-to for retrieving information at light speed and our new way of connecting with people. It’s safe to say that most of us use the internet multiple times a day but few of us keep in mind that, with everything we post on the world wide web, nothing can ever truly be erased. Everything we do leaves a trail – even when we think we have taken care of it.

Many of us think that, in hitting that delete button, anything and everything we have posted, typed, and browsed, will permanently go away. The truth of the matter is the delete button is lying to you! It falsely advertises to remove information with one simple click but, in reality, everything you do online leaves a trail. Every time you open your browser your every move is traced, examined, and remembered. This is simply the nature of the internet.

So what does this mean for you and, most importantly, your online reputation?

It means you must learn to build a strong virtual presence before your digital footprints lead down the path of digital destruction.

Social media platforms allow everyone the freedom to be their own broadcaster. On these sites and with these apps we have the freedom to express our thoughts and feelings, sharing them with the entire world. But with great freedom comes great responsibility. Just ask Axelle Despiegelaere, Belgian model who became one of the most viral stars at the 2014 World Cup. After being captured in pictures cheering for her country’s team at the games, Axelle landed a coveted modelling contract with L’Oreal. But it all came crumbling down when one lapse in judgment resulted in a terminated contract and a destroyed reputation.

Not practicing much discretion, Axelle posted a photo to her social accounts of her smiling wide, holding a rifle, and standing over a shot-down Oryx. She foolishly captioned that “Hunting is not a matter of or life or death. It’s more important than that…this was about 1 year ago…ready to hunt Americans today haha.”

It’s not surprising that the photo and its caption caused wide uproar. She reacted to the outcries by issuing an apology and insisting that it was only a joke not meant to offend anyone, but the damage had already been done. The delete button could not erase this level of destruction.

The silver lining of these reputation bombs is that they act as a cautionary tale and serve as a reminder that not everyone will react the same to what’s posted online. When what you post can never truly be deleted or forgotten, we have to be mindful of retweet and every photo. Don’t let one blunder cost you your reputation and the future of your business. Remember that everything leaves a trail so be sure your trail leads down a path of positivity and political correctness.

Sarah Pearce is a professional speaker, business coach and author of Online Reputation:Your Most Valuable Asset in a Digital Age

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