"You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Remember that old saying? That came from a time when most people met face to face. Now, in the digital age, your first impression precedes you. In a previous article, I wrote about the fact that "You Are Who Google Says You Are."

Everything about your online presence from your social media profiles to your status messages, your opinions to your articles and tweets, everything you publish online is a small reflection of who you are as a person. Today, before anyone meets you in person, they spend a few minutes on Google to determine who you are, what you stand for and just about anything they want to know about you. It's an understatement to say that, "Your reputation precedes you."

This week, we have a digital identity expert and founder of Binary Tattoo, Cat Coode who spent some time speaking with Devishobha, founder of Kidskintha- a platform for millennial parenting and its unique challenges. Devishobha met Cat Coode as a guest for her interview series called Momspirations and they spoke about 5 ways brands manage their digital identity.

Your Brand Begins With Your Profiles

The company's profile: A good profile is one that is direct, simple and tells the brand's story at first shot. Both the profile photo and the cover image together create a great imagery and impression in the eyes of the viewers and it's important for them to complement each other. The best ones are those that are kept very simple and stick to the message. The 'About' space should be as clear as possible, and the rest of the page would do well to complement each other.

The profiles of your employees & brand ambassadors: In the age of social media, people representing the brand carry the extra burden of representing the brand's identity more than they would like. Nothing is more reminiscent of this fact that this recent incident in India, where an upcoming brand was forced to give up a very popular actor as its brand ambassador purely out of pressure from social media, because his public image at the time was harmful to the brand's image. When companies have people within the organization representing them in certain specific roles, their profiles have a large impact on the company's brand image too, though it may not be in the scale of a celebrity endorsement.

The profile of the anyone associated with the brand: People like employees and clients who are associated with a brand could give out an impression about the company, even though personal profiles cannot be tied too tightly with the company's. However, in professional networks like LinkedIn, a brand is seen in a very positive light when its employees share the company's updates and events regularly on their timelines, even if it is in a personal capacity. Build policies around the use of third-party applications: Most companies would require the use of third-party apps. Most apps request access to some of your data to run the application. In some cases, unseen metadata may be sent to the app makers. To protect sensitive and private information, it is always it is advisable to put out a clear set of rules for use of app requested data especially while working with a team.

Some useful rules: Always download only from the App Store of a device. Turn off data that might not be required by the apps Do a rain-check on what kind of data is being requested, and if the application needs that kind of data. Be wary of free apps. Most are 'free' in exchange for information.

Apart from this, employees should also be made aware of other organizations that might be interested in getting the company's data(and their own).

3. Educate your teams on how to deal with Cyberbullies. The thing with internet trolling is that you never know who the troller is nor will you likely meet them face-to-face. One wrong tweet and the trolling may explode and there's no knowing to what level it can cascade. In some cases, many are also left wondering what was so offensive about a post or tweet that exploded the bullying. In such cases, it's always a good thing to have a consistent plan of action and policy to deal with cyberbullying.

Some recommendations:

Have information handy on the cyber bullying reporting procedures for various platforms. Always take a screenshot before deleting the post to be able to provide evidence.

4. Create a Social Media Policy for your teams. Social media acts like the proverbial wildfire. The instant the publish button is hit, we lost sight of where our written word is spreading next and what pathways it will trigger for further dissemination. In the light of such a scenario, it is extremely important to have consistent controls on the source. Having clear guidelines for your team(s) or even club(s) that you might run can save us a lot of heartbreak down the line.

Some recommendations:

Have consistent guidelines about photo posts. Set clear expectations on the language and tone to be used in the messages. Brush up the policies at regular intervals and have it reach the teams regularly.

5. Keep branding consistent. Earlier, the only messages that we got about brands was billboards and television ads. Today, we see brand messages splashed out on several platforms- Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn company pages, Youtube, Blogs, Interviews of prominent leaders- everything spells out something.

It becomes important to keep social profiles up-to-date and in-sync with each other. The profile and cover pictures should communicate the same sentiment across platforms. They should also be kept up-to-date with information on upcoming products and services, to keep it fresh for the viewers.

Different networks cater to different demographics. Hence, convey the brand's core personality on different platforms in a manner that connects with the demographics on the network assumes utmost significance. A LinkedIn campaign definitely cannot be as flashy and free-style as a Facebook or Pinterest campaign, but both have to connect to the brand's personality and convey the core message to the audience. Similarly, promotional offers on different networks also need to be altered to suit the network.

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