Last Updated Mar 31, 2008 3:00 PM EDT
If you have a virtual presence, chances are you have an online reputation, too. It's probably codified in some form. On eBay, I have a 100 percent positive feedback from 46 dealmakers, and my reviews on several consumer sites are considered, in aggregate, "somewhat" useful.
Yet, I don't put nearly as much time grooming my online reputation as my offline one. Should I?
The answer is, yes I should. And so should you.
John Sviokla has me thinking a little harder about this topic with a new Harvard Online post, Managing Your Reputation in a World of Crowdsourcing. I actually disagree a bit with his premise that the burgeoning world of user generated content is a threat to businesses because it puts reputation at the mercy of the mob. He writes:
The problem with Wikipedia, and blogs, and user generated content is that many of them don't have a strong reputation management process. Put another way, any idiot can have an opinion.I believe Wikipedia has quite a strong reputation management process based on peer review, and the overall quality of the content supports that claim. And bloggers gain importance and influence by the quality of their information and thinking -- an idiot blogger is likely to influence only other idiots.
Look Out For #1 Where I do agree with John is in his call that businesses, and I'll add individuals, must get serious about developing and protecting their online reputation.
Reputation is what's going to save you when a jilted paramour posts that you steal from the church, an angry customer criticizes your firm's selling practices, and a former employee e-mails around a phony arrest record with your name at the top. Sure, a good attorney can help but, as they say, no one reads the corrections page in the newspaper.
Online reputation also becomes increasingly important with the spread of Web 2.0 and its emphasis on social and business networking. In the real word, your word is your bond. Online, its your Five Star rating that wins you more deals, wider influence, and a bank account of goodwill when that idiot blogger does decides to take a shot.
In other words, investing in reputation maintenance pays off.
Do Unto Others
So what can you do to boost your reputation? Use common sense more than anything.
- Golden Rule. You don't determine your reputation -- it's determined by the people you interact with. So to others be fair, transparent, and honest. (And OK, it wouldn't hurt to encourage satisfied customers to post some love in your direction.)
- Watch The Watchers. Monitor what others are saying about you and your company. There are lots of firms that will do this for you. Be ready to interact online with a critic when appropriate in an honest exchange. In today's business jargon, be "authentic".
- Perry Mason On Line 1. Sometimes it turns ugly and ultimately defamatory. Know the law and use it if need be. But also understand it's better to win in the court of public opinion than in the courtroom.
How do you build and protect your online rep? Is it important to you? How would you address a competitor casting a stain your character?