You’ve bought into the idea that a strong public presence is important, and you can see that there are different ways you can be present. Now you have to decide where you will live. You will need a static, virtual presence to which you can point others. You need a place that represents you. This is why you need a digital map.
Specifically, ask yourself:
- where will I keep my ideas and the things I make?
- where will I have my conversations?
- where will people find basic information about me?
How you answer these questions will begin to define your digital map.
A digital map is different from a digital footprint
Your digital map is where you live and create online. It is created and controlled by you. This is different from your digital footprint. Your digital footprint is what people find and understand about you when they search for you. The two are very different.
If you do a vanity search (which you should do regularly) you’ll find that your footprint is made up of stuff other people have captured or written about you. Your digital map is important because it’s where you will lay down the stuff that people will find. If you want to dig into digital footprint a little more, read Digital Footprint – How the World Understands You.
The basic foundation of a digital map
Marketing expert Chris Brogan suggested that you think of your digital map from a couple of basic categories:
- Home base. Your home base is a property that you control and own. It’s where you do your heavy thinking and create value that people associate with you. Simply put, it’s where your content lives. Usually it’s a blog or website that reflects you and your focus.
- Outposts. These are the places where you have conversations — typically, social applications that allow you to comment and share. Good examples are Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Through your outposts, you not only connect with people, but you also build your audience. Ideally, you hang at your outposts and occasionally bring people back to your home base when you’ve got something to communicate.
The concept of base with outposts relates to the basic idea that there are only two things on the internet: content and conversation. So you’ll build your best stuff on your home base and then talk it up on your outpost channels.
There are lots of places to lay down roots. You have to pick your properties and decide where you will spend your time. I sometimes think of the elements of the digital map as our communication wardrobe – because everyone chooses to dress differently! I use communication wardrobe and map pretty interchangeably.
What my map looks like
This is what my map looks like. As you can see, my home base is my blog, 33 charts. It’s where I I keep my most current bio and where I think and write. It’s my area for weighing in on issues of the day. While most of my writing centers on technology and physicians, I take the liberty of going wide and occasionally taking on broader health subjects. This is a site where I can effectively do my own thing. It’s like my house or my yard—I can dress it up and do what I want when I’m there.
Most of my outpost time is spent on Twitter. This is where I listen to conversations, take the pulse of public perceptions, and get most of my best information. (I recruit amazing people to bring it to me.) It’s where I share the most interesting things that I find.
LinkedIn is where I have contact with other professionals and maintain a public-facing bio. It has evolved recently from being just a place for your online curriculum vitae (CV) to a full-blown social network. More on this later.
You can see that I keep a presence on Doximity and Facebook as well. While I may not spend as much time on these sites, they’re important outposts for connecting since you’ll find that there are people who spend their time on Facebook and those who prefer Twitter or Instagram. Having connections in multiple places will help you reach slightly different populations when building your audience.
Keep your public map simple
The idea of stepping out beyond the clinic can be overwhelming to a lot of doctors. There are so many places and so many platforms that it can easily become unmanageable, so start small and focus on doing a few things really well. Try to produce your own content in one place and then engage and socialize on only one or two core places.
It’s easy to get pulled in 15 directions based on what friends, neighbors, and peers are doing, but constraining your participation will make your engagement more meaningful and impactful. Most importantly, your involvement will be sustainable over time. Trying to do too many things at once will lead to burnout. Keep in mind that you can always expand and take on new platforms as time and bandwidth allow.
Don’t create a ghost town
Don’t commit to something that you don’t think you’ll keep up. If you commit to a blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and a YouTube channel, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to stay on top of all those things. And after a couple of months, when you’ve run out of steam and good ideas, the very audience that you wanted to impress will arrive on one of your properties only to find that it’s been abandoned. A space with your name, no conversation, and nothing new for two months is a social ghost town. And so a social ghost town may do more damage to your digital footprint than not being present at all.
“This is the argument for starting small and scaling up as your interest and commitment allow. If you find that you start something that you simply can’t keep up, you can always take it down or delete the account.
Don’t build your public presence on an outpost
With so many options and so little time, doctors sometimes choose to spend their time on outposts like Twitter or Facebook.
I know an internist who proudly tells me that his public presence is entirely built on Twitter, but that may not be the best strategy. And it actually may not be possible. That’s because Twitter is better designed for transient conversations and sharing than it is for keeping things. Twitter is about now. In other words, if you want the world to understand you based on your tweets, you’ll have a hard time since what you share will be swept away in Twitter’s information stream. Even if you share something brilliant (in under 140 characters), it won’t last. And when someone tries to find your brilliance later by search engine, they may come up empty-handed. The same can be said for Google+ and Facebook.
To create a presence that’s lasting you need to create things that can be found. A blog post, a YouTube video, an image, or a podcast that lives somewhere people can find it represents a better way to make a lasting impact. I like to call this kind of material enduring content.
Twitter is great as a place to share, gather, and chat, but leave it at that and be sure you have a place to store what you create.
This page is part of a bigger project: The Public Physician, a field guide for life online. To read more check out the Public Physician landing page. It’s packed with information on how to live and work as a professional online.