I’ve been interested to see organizational Twitter accounts in the past few months which have been established but are either protected or not in use. Oklahoma City Public Schools has an official Twitter account but has updates protected.

OKC Public Schools (OKCPS) on Twitter

My request to follow updates was granted, so I am able to see and follow OKCPS Twitter updates once I log into Twitter, but I’m quite mystified why the district continues to have a “protected” Twitter account. The district’s Facebook fan page is not protected, so anyone can click the link provided on the OKCPS homepage and immediately become a ‘fan.’ I certainly encourage both individuals as well as organizations to carefully consider who they choose to “follow” in Twitter, since we can be judged by the company we keep both online and in person, but protecting updates on Twitter in this context seems counterproductive to the goal of providing an open and free flow of information and updates about your organization.

Worse than setting up a Twitter account and protecting updates, however, is the practice of setting up an organizational Twitter account and never using it or using it only once.

Servenet.org is a nonprofit I learned about because of a visit to The King Center online today and a link in their left sidebar under “Get Involved.” Servenet includes a prominent icon on the right sidebar of their website homepage inviting visitors to follow them on Twitter.

servenet.org: Volunteering made simple! > Home

The organization’s Twitter account has only been updated once, however, in March 2009.

servenet.org (servenet) on Twitter

If Twitter use is something which is going to be “phased in” for Servenet, I’d say it’s about time to start tweeting!

Tools like Ping.fm can help individuals post information updates to multiple accounts simultaneously. I use the free WordPress plugin Twitter Tools to send new posts on several blogs immediately to Twitter. I have not figured out how to post updates to an organizational Facebook “fan” page from WordPress, but I’m sure there must be a way. (We needed this for the K-12 Online Conference this year, and had to manually copy/paste Twitter updates to our Facebook page.)

My advice to organizations regarding inactive Twitter and Facebook pages is: If you’re not going to use one of these platforms to regularly communicate with constituents, don’t set up the accounts in the first place! If you’re going to setup an organizational Twitter account, don’t protect your updates. As an organization, you’re using Twitter to better communicate with people on the public Internet. Protecting your updates impedes others being able to view your updates, so it doesn’t make sense to do it.

For individuals, however, I’d give different advice. I think it is important to try out and experiment with different types of social media tools. After creating a profile on a website, however, I think it’s worth considering whether or not you want to maintain or delete that account. I probably need to delete my profile on MySpace which I never use and hadn’t visited (until this evening as I composed this post) for months. This is not the case with Twitter, since it does not provide a “comment wall,” but with sites like MySpace, FaceBook, and others your account can accumulate unwanted and/or inappropriate comments over time which could reflect poorly on your digital footprint. I guess we could call this process “digital footprint cleanup” or “digital footprint maintenance.” If you’re a technology early-adapter you likely have accounts on multiple sites on which you’re no longer active. It’s important to realize some profiles on some social networking sites continue to actively “live” and may grow… so consider carefully if you want to keep those accounts or delete them if you find yourself not using them.

I have found it helpful (thanks to a tip from James Deaton months ago) to maintain a list of the websites to which I actively contribute on ClaimID. (claimid.com/wfryer) I went ahead and deleted my MySpace page from that list this evening, but haven’t deleted my actual MySpace profile yet. I also deleted it from my “Connections and Contributions” links in my blog’s left sidebar, along with links to the TechLearning Blog (to which I no longer contribute regularly), the website 43Things, and my handouts site on PBworks which I’m migrating to wiki.wesfryer.com (made with Google Sites) in 2010. Lots of digital footprint maintenance!

lots of footprints

I’ve collected a series of links and put them in my course outline for my “Technology 4 Teachers” course this semester, under the heading, “Digital Footprints, Privacy and Information Disclosure.” I recently added a link to Yahoo’s Safety website: FAQs about your Digital Reputation. I think it’s a good idea to use the term “digital reputation” when discussing these “digital footprint” ideas and skills with students.

It’s important to be both proactive and vigilant when it comes to protecting our digital reputations and digital footprints.

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