One of the things that we work very hard on in our Scentsy business is to create a positive online reputation. We do this through a variety of methods: blogging, YouTube, Facebook, and many other forms of social media, unique content creation and virtual collaboration.
Our constant efforts have paid off. Many times we have been contacted by someone who watched one of our videos, or read one of our articles online, and who express interest in the business because of our story, and the positive impact the business has had on our life.
So how are “brands” or “reputations” established on the internet? Chris Anderson (editor of Wired magazine) once famously noted,
“your brand is not what you say it is…it’s what Google says it is.”[i]
This concept goes far beyond the notion of a product based “brand”, or a service based “brand”, or a corporate based “brand”. It applies just as readily to an individual “brand”, or “story”, or the way that you are perceived with respect to your business. Your personal reputation capital will form the basis for many career and business opportunities that will come into your life.
Rapper Jay-Z once famously stated, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”
This concept doesn’t apply to celebrities, athletes and musicians anymore. Every single one of us has a reputation that will precede us online, and will form the basis for how we are perceived by others.
Therefore all of us are “businesses” in a general sense, just like Jay-Z. The value of our personal “business” is really the value of our reputation capital. Personal reputation capital is creating an economy of trust online, not just in commerce but also in relationships as well, particularly relationships as they apply to career opportunities.
Writer and consultant Rachel Botsman is the co-author of the book What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption[ii], and is a founder of the Collaborative Lab, a innovation based organization focused on helping start-ups, established businesses, and local governments use collaborative consumption to deliver innovative solutions. Botsman’s research delves into the concepts of online trust, reputation capital and the power of collaboration and sharing through social networks, and how these concepts will transform business, consumer decisions and generally how people live and associate with each other. In a speech at a TED conference in 2012 Botsman discussed in detail the concept of “reputation capital” and its implications for the future.[iii]
In her talk Botsman made a very convincing case that an individual’s online reputation will be their most important asset going forward. She uses innovations such as www.airbnb.com (a website that allows people to rent their houses, apartments and other spaces to strangers from all over the world), www.doliquid.com (a website that allows people to rent out their bicycles), www.taskrabbit.com (a form of Ebay for errand running where you hire strangers to run errands for you), and www.lendingclub.com (a peer to peer financial lending site where strangers can enter into private loans with each other), to make the case that reputation capital is creating a marketplace for goods where no marketplace once existed.
Were it not for the trust that is created through online reviews, and reputation capital, people would not be willing to engage in these types of transactions; however, with the Internet, not only are these transactions taking place, they are thriving and adding massive value. As she aptly notes “virtual trust will change the way we trust each other face to face.” Virtual trust, through reputation capital, allows complete strangers to engage in transactions.
Botsman goes on to further describe the implications of reputation capital on individuals and their careers. She notes “reputation is the measurement of how much a community trusts you”. She also identifies, as I have previously noted, that each social network posting, forum comment, transaction record that we make online goes to form the basis of our digital image (what she calls a “reputation trail”) that impacts our personal reputation capital, thereby projecting to a particular community whether, and in what form, we should be trusted. Although context clearly matters when establishing reputation, Botsman suggests that perhaps in the future our reputation from one community could be transferrable, or at least influential, to another. She suggests that the future could make way for a “Facebook or Google like search and see a complete picture of someone’s behaviors in different contexts over time”. This would enable complete strangers to easily see who has trusted you over time, and why.
Botsman believes that reputation data has the potential to, if not completely replace the traditional resume, then at a minimum serve as a highly influential indicator of trustworthiness to potential employers. In support of her position she points to www.stackoverflow.com, an online community for computer programmers where technical questions are asked and answered by fellow programmers. As questions are correctly answered users obtain points, or ratings from other users on the site, and are even listed in the user section based on their rankings, with the top ranked users showing up first in the profile. Botsman notes that computer programmers are starting to list their stackoverflow rating on job applications, and that employers are recognizing this as a form of trustworthiness and credibility as to their skills as a programmer.
[i] Joel 6.
[ii] Botsman, Rachel and Roo Rogers. What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise Of Collaborative Consumption. New York: Harper Business, 2010. Print.
[iii] Botsman, Rachel. “The Currency Of The New Economy Is Trust” TED.