( Tom Karst )

LAS VEGAS — A person’s digital presence can begin before birth and will endure long after death, and author Eric Qualman said there is no sense for people or companies to avoid working on their digital reputation now.

Qualman, the author of “What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube,” spoke Jan. 15 at the 2020 Potato Expo about the “five simple habits” of digital leaders that can help their companies compete.

Digital footprint

“All of us, as individuals, and all of us, as organizations, have a digital stamp,” he said, noting that 25% of kids that are “born tomorrow” already have a social media presence.

The “digital footprint” is what an individual posts about himself or a company, so that can be controlled, he said.

“The more important piece is actually the digital shadow, or what other people post about us online,” he said.

Collectively, it is up to individuals or companies to produce their best possible “digital stamp” and then protect it, he said.

“It’s all about producing your best, and then also protecting it in this post-privacy world,” he said.

Qualman said the five simple habits of digital leaders are:

  • Simple: For example, he suggested using videos without sound to simplify a message. Also, Qualman said digital leaders should focus on the task at hand and avoid being distracted by a long “to-do” list.
  • True: Qualman said digital leaders “step into the discomfort” of speaking truthfully about their company online every day;
  • Action: Companies should not be afraid of failing, but instead seek to “fail fast” or “fail forward,” he said. Qualman said companies can resolve issues with customers on social media and win their long-term loyalty. “What I say is that when we have a mistake, it is really about embracing it and taking advantage of it,” he said. “It is truly about being as flawsome as possible,” he said. Customers love it when companies seek to correct mistakes, he said.
  • Map: Have a firm destination, Qualman said, but be flexible in how you get there. View hurdles to success as short-term pain but also as barriers to keep competitors out. “Pioneers always get push-back,” he said. “If you are not getting push-back, you are about to get disrupted.”
  • People: “Post it forward” but focusing on the accomplishments of others rather than your own company, he said. Take three minutes each day to build your social network in unselfish ways. “Do the un-selfie, rather than the selfie,” he said.

Lasting impact

 Technology has allowed one voice to be magnified through social media platforms like FaceBook and Twitter. Digital steroids, he said, have made “word of mouth” into “world of mouth.” The social media reputation of a company can influence its attractiveness to potential employees, he said.

“You as a leader impact so many more people not only five seconds from now, but five years, 50 years and 500 years from today, because we all have these digital stamps,” he said.