Nov 112011
 
Find Your Digital Identity

Digital Identity

In the last blog post, “Digital Identity and Search“, we discussed the fact that all the information available about you online contributes to your digital identity.  

In this post, you and I are going to visit seven tools you can use to discover the personal information and grade the professional impression that you have online.

Hopefully, you are joining me in my social media experiment and you will check these tools together with me.

So, friend, you ready to take the plunge and see what is online about you?  Let’s go take a look at your current digital identity!

Digital Identity within Google and Bing Search

Of course, we start with Google and Bing. (I am counting Google and Bing together as one tool.)

My name isn’t that common, so putting “Mindy Koch” (in quotes) is enough for me. If you have a common name, you will need to add an identifier like +Michigan or +journalist in your search to help narrow the results down to you specifically.

If you read the digital identity last post, you have already looked at Google to see the earliest mention of you, so you have a general idea of your Google digital identity.  If you haven’t checked Google lately, you may find it very interesting.

Hopefully, you are in the first few pages of results.  And hopefully, you like the current state of your digital identity in the results.

We aren’t done with Google though.

After exploring the standard search result pages for your name, it is time to search Google Images.

Now, when I search Google Images for “Mindy Koch”, I notice several interesting things.

1.  I can put a face to the other Mindy Kochs in the US.  Cool.  I have been aware of them for years as I have monitored my online reputation and now I know what they look like.

2. Pictures of me are a small percentage of the results.

3. Luckily, as I skimmed the images I didn’t find any compromising or embarrassing images of myself.

4.  The images associated with me are incredibly diverse.  Featured pictures from blog pages I have commented on show up.  Pictures of people I interact with on Facebook show up.  Images of people who recommended my Empire Avenue stock show up.  Quite a few of the results are associated with me – but are not actually me.

One last thought before we move on from discovering our digital identity in Google Images. What shows up if we turn off “Safe Search”?  I always search with “SafeSearch” on, and I can’t think of any reason that I would have anything that would show up that wouldn’t be safe.  But, I should check just in case.

Okay, let’s do a Google Video search as well.  Anyone record you slipping on a banana peel or coming home from the dentist all goofy on laughing gas? Just checking.  Nothing showed up for me that I wasn’t expecting.  Hopefully, that is true for you as well.

We are going to use Google again later, but for now, let’s move on to a digital identity search in Bing.

My Bing search results were pretty much what I expected.  They look a lot like my Google search results.  I totally dominate the first few pages that I checked, so I am happy.

And, of course, next is a quick check of Bing Image and Bing Video searches.

When I checked my digital identity in Bing Image search, I found that Bing Image Search produces far less random results than Google images did.  Nice, simple, concise results.

So, we have the OBVIOUS “discover your digital identity” tool out of the way.

Let’s have some fun and explore six more!  I hope a few of these are new to you!

A search tool I get a kick out of is Spezify.  I love the layout of the results.  The results are just very visually appealing to me.  If you go check your digital identity there; I am curious to see if you think it is as cool as I do!  There really is something about the layout of the results that just fascinates me.

Before we explore your personal digital identity specifically, there is one other search I suggest we do.  Let’s see what people are saying about us on social media.

The social media search tool I like to use is SocialMention.  Since SocialMention searches social media sites, I am testing “Mindy Koch” and “mindykoch” there.  Most of my social media mentions come in the form of @mindykoch so I may as well search it.  I suggest you check your socialmedia monikers as well.

Your Personal Digital Identity

Now, let’s get personal.

If you live in the United States, you should try Spokeo and search your name again.  Select the state you live in and see the results…

For me, Spokeo reveals way more personal information about my digital identity than I would like.

It shows the street my house  is on, my age, my religion, my income bracket, and other typical demographic stuff.  But then, check this out – it even shows my interests:

spokeo digital identity

spokeo digital identity

Not all the information Spokeo has on me is correct.  I don’t enjoy arts and crafts, I don’t drink wine, and my parents are not elderly. But still, Spokeo has definitely crawled more than my information on the Internet.  It has crawled my activities.  Amazon obviously has been crawled.  Over all, Spokeo has assembled quite a bit of information!  I hate to think what is in the package available for purchase. *Shudder*.

(If what is revealed about you concerns you, you may find this link helpful: remove your digital identity information from Spokeo.)

Another site to check to see your personal information online is 123People.  This site searches globally with extensive databases in the US, the UK, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Again, someone can pay to find out even more digital identity information about us!  Perhaps, we should buy the packages and see what is in there!

If you are not happy with the 123 People results, you can get information about how to remove information at 123 People and clearing your digital identity.

So, you have investigated some of your personal digital identity, it is time to check the status of your professional digital identity.

Your Professional Digital Identity

In this section,  we are going to get “graded” on how clearly we are communicating our digital identity as a professional brand.

First, I want you to think back to your Google Search and Bing Search. How did you show up as a PROFESSIONAL?  Were you conveying the professional digital identity you desire? I feel pretty good about how I show up as a professional.  I still want to do a bit of finessing though of the top 30 results of me.  I want to absolutely make sure that they promote the best me possible.

We need our Google search results page open to use the next tool Online ID Calculator. This isn’t a search tool, it is a rating tool.  So, let’s go grade our digital identity at Online ID Calculator.

At first, it is easy to be put off by this site because it seems to ask for a lot of information. After using it, I realized it doesn’t connect my data to me and it doesn’t pull any information about me from the internet. It just works with the data I offer.

We just simply answer the questions and Online ID Calculator will let us know if our digital identity is “digitally dissed, digitally dabbling, digitally disastrous, or digitally distinct”.

I was happy to see that I am “Digitally Distinct”. Yeah!! :D

Important tip: before we leave Google, we need to set a google alert so we can monitor our digital identity.  Set it to search the internet.  I have a search for Mindy Koch and mindykoch since I use mindykoch as my usual online moniker.

The next site we are going to use is MyWebCareer. This site grades how well our digital identity is getting our professional message across online.  To get an accurate reading, it connects to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Quora.  Any score above 750 is excellent. The highest score is an 850.

Here is how my ratings went: Facebook alone, I scored a 555.  Adding Linkedin moved me to a 737.  Adding Twitter bumped me to a 770.  Adding Quora only bumped me to a 779.  I am happy with that but I can still do more work.  Good to know.

Hopefully, by now, you have been able to get your fingers on the pulse of your digital identity.

Before I close this article though, I have two bonus shows for you to view that feature your digital identity on Facebook!!

One is the Museum of Me and the other is Take this Lollipop.  You will need to give them permission to connect with your Facebook account to see the movies.

One of these shows is a real nice treat and lets you enjoy how well you have formed your digital identity on Facebook.  I love the Museum of Me and think it would be a super cool screensaver on my computer.

The other one, Take this Lollipop, is a bit more intense and is a reminder that there are lots of things we do want to share online and lots of things we don’t.

I urge you to watch both of them.

Next Post:

Shaping Your Digital Identity

In the next post, I will talk to you about flooding the Internet with positive information about you to influence your digital identity.

Until then, be on your best behavior, assume that everything you do can end up on the Internet, and check your teeth for spinach in case someone with a cell phone camera is around.

Mindy Koch
See my entire online presence at http://xeeme.com/mindykoch 
 
Synopsis of digital identity tools:
  1. Google/Bing Search – Image – Video
  2. Spezify
  3. Social Mention
  4. Spokeo
  5. 123People
  6. Online Id Calculator
  7. My Web Career
Bonus shows: Museum of Me and Take this Lollipop
Photo, “Search” by Jeffrey Beall, is used by creative commons license. Digital Identity.
Nov 082011
 
Digital Identity

Digital Identity

Have you checked in on your digital identity lately?  Seen how it is coming along? What it is revealing about you? You are aware of your digital identity, right?  I am pretty sure you have built it for a while.

I seriously doubt you would be reading this blog if today was your first day on the Internet, (and if so – kudos to you for discovering this blog on your very first day online.  You are a genius!) so I am going to safely assume you have been online long enough to be tracked by Google and Yahoo and Bing.

The search results someone gets when “your name” (or moniker) are searched are a key part of your digital identity.  (I will talk about other components of digital identity in another blog post.)

Everything you do online is recorded in a database somewhere (even in private forums your comments are searchable the private forum). Google and other platforms are relentless in their pursuit of data. Our online actions create results to be consumed, categorized, and analyzed for demographic, marketing, and searchable purposes.

You may not have built your digital identity INTENTIONALLY, but regardless of your intentions, you have built it.

So, how does your digital identity compare with the real life “personal brand” you try to convey?

  • You carefully craft your résumé.
  • Your digital identity captures your unguarded thoughts and feelings about your job, your boss, your career.
  • You painstakingly design your promotional materials.
  • Your business is revealed by everything you, your employees, and your customers say online about your company.
  • In real life, your professional and personal life rarely mix.
  • Online, they can blend to the point that your customers easily know what your cat looks like on Flickr or Instagram, where you like to eat dinner on Yelp or FourSquare, and which political party you support on Facebook or Twitter.

When we use social media, our digital identity grows exponentially. It is insane how social media crafts our digital identity relentlessly and unabashedly promotes who we are online 24 hours-a-day to anybody searching.

I hadn’t checked on mine lately.  Thought I would give it a gander on Google.  In fact, I got curious about the first references to myself I could find within Google.

Using a “custom range” in my search, I found this little entry from 2000.

Family Tree Maker’s Genealogy Site: User Home Pages:
Sep 6, 2000 – Mindy Lee Koch 9048-E Nathan Hale Court Wahiawa, Hawaii 96786. United States 808-624-4142 kochm001@hawaii.rr.com

None of that information except my name is still correct. But there it is. September 6, 2000. A scrap of information about my life from 11 years ago.

My first online marketing article appeared on Feb 1, 2001 – way back in the infancy of online marketing!

Being The Best In The Biz! – Franchise Mentality!
Feb 1, 2001 – By Mindy Koch. I have a cousin who just bought a Subway … Mindy Koch has been in Sales and Marketing for over 10 years. Having joined Internet…

And there it begins, the beginning of my digital identity. Genealogy. Yup. Online Marketing. Yup. Definitely me.

Sure, I did things online before 2000 but most of it was chat rooms, forums, email and static html websites that didn’t accept comments except for the few that put up guest books.  (Remember guest books?? Anyone? Anyone?  Bueller??)

Now, it is much, much harder to be online and not build a digital identity. In fact, not creating one is WORK.  Avoiding creating a digital identity requires juggling usernames, consistently being mindful of privacy settings, not connecting social media platforms in any way, and complete separation of online personas and real life interactions. (Once an online moniker becomes recognizable it has created a digital identity.  It isn’t based on a real name, but it is an identity nonetheless. If that moniker is ever attached to its’ real life digital identity counterpart, they are intertwined and the anonymity of the moniker is lost.)

For everyone else, not interested in jumping through all those hoops, creating a publicly viewable digital identity is the natural result of being online.

If you are using social media platforms, you are constantly creating a steady stream of data that builds your digital identity at an accelerated rate.

Digital Identity and Social Media Example

As far as I can tell, there are 28 people named Mindy Koch in the US. There are 12,100 results in Google for “Mindy Koch”. Of the top 100 results, 71 of the results are me. And each one of the 71 results involves social media. Each one. Granted, I have been online since 2000 (obviously, since I showed you the very first entry in Google already) but so were one or two of the other “Mindy Kochs” in the list.

If you are interested in the social media sites I showed up in the first 100 pages, they are listed at the very bottom of this article.

On top of the 71 search results that were about me specifically, there were  8 white page listing type pages that listed “Mindy Koch” across the US which I was on as well.

71 results about me plus 8 more about me and other Mindy Kochs. Total of 79.

The other 21 results not connected to me:

  • Mindy Koch FL – 3/100 (not social media)
  • Mindy Koch MI – 8/100 (1 wiki, 1 Flickr, 6 not social media)
  • Melinda Koch OH – 1/100 (not social media)
  • Mindy Koch NM – 2/100 (not social media)
  • Mindy Koch IL – 3 /100 (1 Ning, 2 directories)
  • Mindy Koch PA – 3/100 (directories)
  • Mindy Koch CA  - 1/100 – (not social media)

Am I trying to say, “Oh look, social media is ROCKING for SEO?? Look how I am in 79 of the first 100 references to me in Google just for the year 2011?”

No. That is not my point. Ranking for an uncommon name has little to do with SEO so it isn’t about that at all.  Also, I am online a great deal more than the other Mindy Kochs apparently.

What I am saying is “Look how social media puts my online activity on display!” My digital identity is very easily discovered.

Do I mind? No. To me, this isn’t a problem because I want to be found in Google and I want to have a robust digital identity. I use social media to BE SEEN online.

But, someone who isn’t mindful of what they are doing or saying when using social media, is probably not aware they are creating a digital identity that is very, very long lasting.

Don’t Be Surprised By Your Digital Identity

Anyone under 25 has grown up pretty aware of the fact that their lives are on display over the internet. They may not truly comprehend the long-lasting impact their social media actions can have on their digital identity, but they are aware that they are creating one.

For people over 25, (especially considerably older than 25) it can be a big shock to see what their digital identity is.  Many people are unaware of their digital identity hidden with in search engine results.

When my father retired as a Lt. Col of the military and was putting together his résumé, he was stunned to find that a political action group had slandered him and other people like him on numerous websites. He was given an epithetical label that no one who knows my Dad would ever attribute to him. Since my Dad only used the Internet (besides for work) to check email, buy airline tickets, and shop for a house, he was completely blindsided by the fact that he had a digital identity that he had not built in any way. It took me quite a while to clean up his digital identity and cover the slander with positive information.  The slander is still out there, but luckily, employers would have to go several pages into the search results to find it now.

Everyone needs to check their digital identity.

Social media marketers and entrepreneurs need to more than monitor their digital identity.  They need to shape it intentionally.  Businesses need to do the same.  Individuals looking for jobs need to shape their online identity purposefully so their expertise is clearly established.

My next blog posts will be about how to check and shape your digital identity using social media.

Until then, let’s see if you can find your earliest reference in Google!  Search your name in Google, from the left hand side select “More Search Tools” and from there select “Custom Range”.  Put in dates to search.  I did mine in years.  1/1/1998 – 1/1/1999 but you could do a bigger range.

If you do this, what was your earliest contribution to your digital identity in Google??

 Mindy Koch
My entire social presence -> http://xeeme.com/mindykoch
 
Digital Identity Photo, “Costume Characters” by Alaskan Dude, used by Creative Commons License