Identity And Reputation Online: Embrace It Or Fall Behind

My number one development to watch online is the growth of the reputation graph. If you want some background on this, read these blog posts from Jon Bischke here and here. My take on this is that it’s a mix of reputation management as well as online identity management. 

We all know that our “presence” online continues to grow and at the same time, your reputation online is becoming ever more important. Just think about how much effort people are putting right now into blogging (myself included), answering questions on Quora, tweeting on Twitter, checking in on Foursquare, reviewing places on Yelp and Qype as well as communicating on Facebook.

This is leaving a digital trail of who you are and at the same time, how good you are. Not only are you “out there” but what you leave behind can help to define you. Do you get around a lot? Check Foursquare. Are you good at writing clearly about some topic? See Quora or your blog. Do you have a broad network? Check Twitter and Facebook. Mix this all up and you have a pretty good measure of reputation and identity. 

Some of you may be getting worried at this point. It’s a scary thought how much someone can technically find out about you online. If this is you, stop reading right now, crawl under a rock and wait it out. It may get better…..good luck on that. If you’re still reading at this point, you’re one of many who have realised this has already happened and you are completely transparent online. It will only get worse (better?) in the near future. I’m personally awaiting this with open arms. I’ve gone on record that right now, if my VC gig were to dry up overnight, I’d be doing everything possible to either launch a business in the online reputation space or trying to work for a business in that space. 

I believe there is an opportunity to link all of your online activity together to create your online identity. Again, this is just a quick brain-dump of what is on my mind but you need an algorithm. This algorithm has to pull in what you are doing on all these sites, be it Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, your blog and so forth.

Every site and your activity there gets a certain weight. Further, on the sites where you create content, those people reading it will eventually rate it (see Facebook “likes”). This rating should also influence the algorithm. Further, you qualify each sites’ content. If you wrote a review on Yelp, you also check whether the person actually checked-in via Foursquare. You get my drift.

What this algorithm needs to be is a standard. Further, it needs to be mutually beneficial to the sites we are all on. Not only does it help Yelp for example when I write a review. My reputation should also determine where Yelp places my review, i.e. if I have a great reputation for restaurant reviews, my review lands higher. Same goes for Quora. If I am the VC guy with a great reputation for advice, my answer on Quora gets a higher rating and placement below the question. 

At the same time, I am incentivized to do more on all these sites which helps them get more content (win:win). The more active I am, the stronger my reputation and the better my placings on these sites (very good for me). I already have this problem for example on Twitter. I can’t follow everyone…it’s just too much. I want Twitter to let me choose a topic, have it show me who the top 10 rated people on this topic are based on my above mentioned algorithm and then follow them.

Coincidentally, I would obviously try to be top 10 in my industry segment to get reach. I also want this as part of Disqus on my blog. When someone comments on a blog post, I want to know who they are. This way I can easily see whom I want to engage first. It goes on and on in terms of ways one could implement this. 

I’m firmly of the opinion that we are entering a new wave online. We as individuals will no longer simply be participating online. We are going to get measured and rated. It’s not enough to have peoples’ CV’s on a LinkedIn or a blog link or a Twitter handle. We need a rating which precedes you just like your reputation does in the real world. We also need to be rewarded for managing our reputation online by allowing it to be measured. I’ve already written how I no longer want to create content for others without being compensated for it in some way. I focussed on Yelp and Tripadvisor with that post but Quora is the same thing. I’m not just going to answer questions for the fun of it. I want my reputation online to be influenced by the quality of my responses. 

As already noted above, many people will cringe about this. It’s almost too much if you really think about the implications. It is going to force people to change how they approach things online. At the same time, hiring people will be done in a completely different way. Further, seeing what your friends are up to will be so much more enlightening. Dating will be flipped on its head (oh that’s gonna get even worse when people google you!) You get my drift…if you’re already someone who curates to the best of your ability the reputation you have online, you’ll be comfortable with this. If you’ve been putting off building a reputation online, you may already be way behind. 

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