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Consider this: anyone, strangers included, can tell a great deal about you via your digital footprint; that is, the trail you leave behind as you share updates, post pictures or check into places. It's likely that you're broadcasting what you look like, where you work, where you've been, who you know, what you like to do, and of course, your views on a variety of topics.

As the amount of information continues to pile up online, your digital footprint can either help or hurt your personal brand and your business.

I've seen business owners and personal contacts tarnish their reputations with a few words or a few clicks, not realizing the full power of the digital world. Every picture you post, every status you like, every update you send is essentially announcing to the world who you are, permanently.

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Over the past two days alone, I've witnessed two pretty major gaffes take place in my network – both of which were unfortunate and completely avoidable. In the first instance, a business owner publicly called someone out on Facebook in regards to a personal issue, complete with profanity. In the second incident, a professional who works for a major energy company 'Liked' what could be considered an inappropriate public photo. The action showed up on the feed of everyone who followed them.

Think for a moment of the repercussions. Before I do business with or consider hiring anyone, the first thing I do is find their social media profiles and find out what they're all about. Do you swear? Stop. Are you overly negative or regularly posting inappropriate things? Don't do it. Published words, and any online actions for that matter, can easily be misinterpreted, so be careful about how you may be coming across online. Whether it's the language you use or the tone of what you are saying, every word you type, every action you take online is essentially what you are broadcasting publicly, and permanently.

At the same time, you still want to have a presence. So avoiding the social space entirely can backfire too. Many companies, including my own, use search engines and social media to dig up information all potential candidates. What are we looking for? We're hunting down information to potentially validate your resume, to find out if you walk your talk and to learn more about you, as a person. Also, when I'm looking to use the services of another business, especially a business which is tied to a personal brand (as today they essentially all are) I do the same thing. I expect and know that potential clients of mine do the same when trying to find out more about my business.

It's critical now, more-so than ever, to educate our employees, colleagues and especially children, that what they say or do online is permanent. It can be a great opportunity for you to build your brand or prove to be the easiest method of self-destruction. Maybe it's time to do a personal digital analysis on yourself? You may be surprised looking from the perspective of an outsider.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Lisa Ostrikoff is a TV journalist and anchor-turned-creator of BizBOXTV, a Canadian online video production, advertising and social media marketing agency. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook .

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