The Reputation Economy and Social Media

We are living today in a “Reputation Economy”, and like it or not, your reputation is affected by your social media activity (or lack thereof).

What is a Reputation Economy?

We are accustomed to the idea that our reputations precede us in our social interactions in the “real” world. Our friends know us, our colleagues know us, our clients and customers know us. And each of them has developed an idea about us that can be shared – our reputation.

In the digital economy and its extended social networks, the distinction between our physical and virtual reputations has disappeared. Our digital reputation is our “real” reputation, and the digital economy has become a reputation economy. Our reputations, as available digitally, carry very real implications. In the reputation economy our online personas can attract new clients, new friends, even new romantic relationships.

Your reputation defines how people see you and what they will do for you.  It determines whether your bank will lend you money to buy a house or car;  whether your landlord will accept you as a tenant;  which employers will hire you and how much they will pay you. It can even affect your marriage prospects.

And in the coming Reputation Economy, it’s getting more powerful than ever.  Because today, thanks to rapid advances in digital technology, anyone can access huge troves of information about you – your buying habits, your finances, your professional and personal networks, and even your physical whereabouts – at any time.  In a world where technology allows companies and individuals alike to not only gather all this data but also aggregate it and analyze it  with frightening speed, accuracy, and sophistication, our digital reputations are fast becoming our most valuable currency.
~ From The Reputation Economy: How to Optimize Your Digital Footprint in a World Where Your Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset

The Role of Social Media in a Reputation Economy

Social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or WhatsApp are readily available, easy to find, and easy to share. Everything we post, and just as importantly, everything posted about us, has an effect on our reputation. Prospective employers will Google you, and they’ll take a look at your Facebook account. Regardless as to your level of active participation in the social media world, there is more than likely something in cyberspace that has an impact on your reputation.

It is important to each of us that we actively manage our reputations online, and effective usage of social media tools is the best mechanism for doing so.

First Steps

If you don’t have at least a Facebook account and a LinkedIn account – get one now!

Yes, I’ve heard all the excuses. I have nothing to post. I am a very private person. I don’t have many friends. I don’t know how to use it. I don’t like computers. Technology scares me. I’m too old. My friends don’t use Facebook. LinkedIn isn’t for people like me. Feel free to add your own excuses… But here’s the thing; if you are not controlling your reputation online through these media, then your reputation is being controlled by other people.

Either people are talking about you, and you have no way to direct the conversation (or even know that it’s occurring), or, just as bad no one is talking about you at all. You may think that’s dandy – but it isn’t. When you are an unknown entity online employers may be reluctant to hire you, potential clients may be less likely to hire you, and potential romantic partners might even be less likely to date you!

Why is having no reputation online nearly as damaging as having a bad reputation?

  1. You are always competing with people who do have online reputations.
  2.  It is not advantageous to have an unknown reputation a reputation economy. Whether for a job or a date, it is human nature to fear and distrust the unknown.

Signing up for an account is pretty straightforward. Companies like Facebook and LinkedIn go to great expense and expend a lot of effort making their products easy to use and as intuitive as possible. Visit facebook.com to start there, and linkedin.com to join LinkedIn

Next Steps

Once you have some online presence, it’s important to manage that presence.

  1. What would you like your reputation to look like?
    This is straightforward enough at the most basic level. You probably want to appear as an honest, decent person, of integrity. But beyond that you may want to emphasize certain aspects of your personality and deemphasize others. You need to have a good idea abut what you want your reputation to look like if you want to effectively manage it.
  2. Edit the “About Me” sections in all your social media accounts
    Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google MyBusiness, you need to keep this section current, consistent, and on message. It’s often the first thing people see when they visit your social media pages. Make sure that there is something there, and that it reflects upon you exactly the way you’d like it to.
  3. Photographs, photographs, photographs
    People love images. We can’t help it. Make sure you accommodate that desire – first and foremost with a good profile picture. If your account is in your personal name, then use a photograph of yourself. No silly symbols. No avatars. You are the person with the the reputation. Your picture is who you are. Corporate accounts or accounts for business names should use either an official logo, or the principle person’s picture, as appropriate to circumstances. Beyond profile photographs, the use of photography will enhance your pages, make them more enjoyable for visitors, and encourage people to learn and linger. If you have the budget, inclination, and ability video posts can be even more powerful than photographs.
  4. Participate
    They call these media “social” for a reason. Spend time there. Join a few groups. Answer questions. Share information and knowledge. Become active online. You don’t need to spend hours every day, even a few minutes every couple days is enough to build a reputation as an active participant, and as a person that adds value in their online community.
  5. Monitor
    Login to your accounts daily if possible. Remember, you are there to manage your reputation. You’ll never put out a fire that you didn’t know was burning.
  6. Manage
    This is the hard part. It isn’t technically difficult. It’s hard because it requires discipline and commitment. There’s the old saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Well your online reputation in the reputation economy won’t be built overnight either. Stay focused on your goals. Set aside time every day to monitor your accounts and respond to questions and comments. Set aside time every week to post content and add value to your online communities.
  7. Ask for help
    You hire a lawyer to draft your contracts. You hire an accountant to do your taxes. You hire consultants to help you solve business problems. Consider hiring a consultant (like me) to help you develop your social media strategy and manage your social media presence. I’m located in Toronto and provide most of my services here, though I will consult online or by telephone too. Just like the field that you are in, my field is competitive too. I’m happy to help you find someone more appropriate to your unique requirements, if my services are not what you need.

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