How To Bulletproof Your Reputation In The Digital Age
“I date younger men… Predominantly men in their twenties… And when I date younger men, I have sex with younger men,” Cindy Gallop shared matter-of-factly.
Except this wasn’t a private conversation with a close friend. It was on the stage of TED’s main conference talking to hundreds of the smartest people in the world and the 800,000+ people that would go on to watch her video. It certainly wasn’t what you’d expect from a former senior advertising executive (49 at the time) and the former chair of the board at international advertising agency, BBH.
Cindy Gallop wasn’t being spontaneous. She was making one of the most calculated decisions of her career as a way to launch her new company, MakeLoveNotPorn.
Many of today’s top entrepreneurial leaders are making similar decisions to Cindy’s. They are deeply sharing who they are and what they believe with the world. Everyone from Tony Hsieh (founder of Zappos), Gary Vaynerchuk (co-founder of Vayner Media), Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Jacqueline Novogratz (founder of Acumen Fund), Richard Branson, Jason Fried (co-founder of 37 signals), to Arianna Huffington (co-founder of the Huffington Post) are using books, blogs, social media, and speaking engagements to share their inside world while building their companies as the same time.
To understand why this increasingly makes sense in the digital age, we need to understand the explosion of online reputation platforms.
The Explosion Of Online Reputation Platforms
Online reputation platforms help others understand who we are, what we do, and what we own by organizing and publicly displaying related word-of-mouth. They help individuals make better decisions and facilitate exchanges that would never happen otherwise. How crazy was renting our most sacred space, our home, to a complete stranger before Airbnb!
The platforms that exist now are just the beginning. Every year, we’re collectively doubling what we proactively share about ourselves on social media and what we allow our devices to share about us. Now, for example, it is even possible to put a device in your car that shares your driving information in order to lower your car insurance rate.
We as as a society have not fully grasped the significance of this explosion…yet.
What It All Means
On the popular review website, Yelp, a Harvard study showed that a one-star difference in a restaurant rating impacts revenue between 5% and 9%. If you use Yelp, when was the last time you selected a restaurant with a bad reputation or no reputation? The Yelp for your industry is coming if it hasn’t already. It is impacting what jobs you get, the contracts you’re offered, your admission into schools and programs, and even what friends, significant other and romances you attract into your life.
Every reputation platform seems irrelevant at first. Then, it becomes a nice, useful tool. Finally, it becomes the price to play in the field. When this happens, having no reputation is as much of a red flag as a bad reputation.
Joe Fernandez, the founder of the largest reputation platform measuring influence, Klout, learned this firsthand in October 2011. Klout changed its algorithm in order to improve the quality of the overall score. As a result, some people’s scores changed significantly. He expected some backlash, but he was in no way prepared for what actually occurred.
First, an #OccupyKlout hashtag was created.
Next, his cell phone was leaked and he received hundreds of death threats.
That’s when Joe realized the importance of reputation platforms. In his words,
In the future, people won’t just have one score. There will be multiple scores and people might live and die by those scores. The good thing about all of this is that social data has been democratized. You can control your reputation. The top ways to build your online reputation are to keep make sure your profile reflects who you are and is up-to-date, to be authentic in how you portray yourself, and to be consistent in what you say.
Here’s what you need to understand about what all of this means:
Your online reputation is your reputation. People are using the first impression they have of you from the Internet to decide whether they connect with you and how they act toward you when they do.
In short, your online reputation will precede you. Ben Huh, the founder of CHEEZburger, put it like this during an interview I had with him, “I’d like to think that we’re getting into a world where we’re understanding more about the substance of a person rather than just their biology. While we’re no longer in the wild, biology still drives a lot of decision making. For example, you still hear things like, ‘men who are taller tend to rise more quickly in their career’. At its face value, that’s ridiculous, but it also turns out that it’s true. We’re moving away from biology as our first impression. This is actually a good thing.”
Who you are in one area will be how you’re perceived in all areas. Reputation platforms scale your reputation. In the past, reputation was solely determined by word-of-mouth in a small community or by our one-on-one interactions. In this context, word-of-mouth diminishes quickly over time and distance. Now, our reputations can be seen by everyone everywhere. It is always a Google search away.
Other people can more easily make their opinions of you go viral. Whether online or offline, we ultimately can’t control what other people say about us or the context in which they say it. However, what’s unique in the online world is that it is easier than ever for others to make those opinions widely known. This can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.
The implications of the future of online reputation aren’t innately good or bad. What matters is how you handle the shift.
Thus, a new question arises, “How do we best build our personal reputations in this new age?”