In days past, a person’s Reputation was something to be protected, nurtured and cultivated. The old-fashioned idea, that your reputation matters has never been more important. In the old days, your reputation was passed by word of mouth from person to person. But even if you made a big mistake, you could move, meet people who did not know or make amends over time and change your reputation.
In this digital age, as we transition from the world of search and the era of big data to the more perceptive and consequential age of big analytics, reputation takes on a new meaning. The amount of information you give away about yourself – your “digital footprint” – increases exponentially every time you go online. And big analytics is collecting, analyzing, benchmarking and grading every part of your online life. Which by the way, includes every purchase, every credit card swipe, every phone call, every traffic camera, every website visited, every hotel stayed in, every relationship and every communication.
Everything and Everyone Will Have a Score
Michael Fertik, of Reputation.com, predicts that it is only a matter time before each of us has a reputation score, just like we have a credit rating. He says, “Reputation is becoming more valuable than money or power.” And futurist Marina Gorbis claims we are moving towards a new economy where your web influence and social connections will matter just as much as the money in your bank account. The score will include our financial creditworthiness, our insurability, our hirability, our dateability, our trustworthiness, and in general, our likability.
We are already seeing this happening in some ways. There are websites that give you scores based on your level of social interactions. LinkedIn has a social selling score for sales or marketing people as well as a hireability rating. There is no doubt; the recruiters rank you based on criteria found online. You are scored on who you know, where you go, what you do and how you do it. The technology to track and rate you is available now but will become even more prevalent as the software becomes more integrated and affordable.
The Impact of Reputation Scores
Imagine that a vacation home you wanted to stay in refuses your reservation because your “friends” have trashed several in the past few months. Or suppose you do not get health insurance because your circle of friends is obese, and everyone knows that you have a higher chance of obesity yourself if your friends are. Maybe your circle of friends includes few poor souls who lost their job and have filed bankruptcy. Guess what? You are four times more likely to file since they are your friends. These seemingly disconnected pieces of our life can not be aggregated and a algorithmic score assigned to us.
In this age of big data and big analytics, everything you do is logged and saved. You will not be able to move away from or rewrite your history. You will not have a chance to make amends and change people’s perception of you. What goes on the web stays on the web. So Mother’s warning of “guard your reputation, young lady” has a new and more forceful meaning today.
Reputation is More Important than Brand
This scoring system is true of individuals, and it is true for companies too. Your reputation is more important than you brand. People no longer believe what your company tells them to believe. They ask their peers, check reviews, read social sites and find out what their friends think. The reputation score will transcend your products and services. It will impact your ability to hire talented employees thereby affecting your long-term future.
As a company, your competitiveness hinges on your reputation. Today I would also argue it hinges on your use of technology and tools to stay ahead of your customers and competitors. Providing personalized content and advertising is becoming the norm. Marketing automation makes this possible and customers make this mandatory. A company that is not utilizing these tools to provide your customers with better information, content and offers will not be around to worry about their reputation.
What to Do?
Your reputation will be commercialized and monetized even more than it is today. There are steps that you can and should take as a person and as a company to protect yourself or more important, to advance yourself. There are ways to use the available information to your advantage. Prudence dictates that you be proactive. Digital Reputation is a game changer. Be sure you have the tools to play!