Build Your Online Reputation

In the old days, it used to be reference letters that supported our claim to authenticity. We got one when we worked at a job and performed well, or when we asked our neighbor who knew us for a long time. I’ve accumulated quite a few of these letters and am grateful for them. Today, however, our reputation is formed online in virtual space.

Real-time references

I’ve noticed that whenever I publish online—whether it be on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest—people who approve of what I post express their appreciation in the manner provided by the particular social media website. It could be clicking “like,” commenting or becoming a follower. When and as this process unfolds, more people are attracted and I begin to build an online following.

This is why I think that today’s references, the “new references,” are those individuals who, like atoms in motion, are attracted to me by an inexplicable “chemistry.”

It happens over time

The process of developing our online reputation takes time. This is because followers want to see whether I’m capable of offering quality input consistently. They become used to my style and the manner in which I present material. It could be originally crafted content or references to extant content that is interesting and/or useful to them.

I’ve had followers express themselves after several years of following me! So, be patient because it really does take time.

Repetition isn’t boring

Assurance comes with repetition. It doesn’t mean that I say the same thing over and over again. It means repeating certain themes that are refreshed and renewed in the same way that we do not wear the same clothes every day. My experience tells me that follower are savvy and extremely aware of these nuances. They enjoy when I “re-package” content that nevertheless reveals my authentic self.

By word of mouth

People communicate with each other and when they find original, online content, they share the news with online friends. In many ways, therefore, the number of likes we get is not a true representation of the interest we build for our brand, products or services. It’s important, therefore, not to obsess with the number of likes you get. That’s because for every like you receive, there are perhaps ten others who like, but aren’t ready to commit to clicking.

I read an interesting article about Pinterest which explains that people who follow you are interested in your overall taste. If you’re consistent, the images you choose for your various boards and the descriptions you carefully craft for your Pins (as opposed to using what’s already provided) reveal things about you. This is precisely what people look for.

On Twitter, for example, there are entire communities whose members are “magnetically” attracted to each other via shared interests. You can find them by using Twubs.com. These are worlds of their own within the virtual, online world of the Internet.

The total picture

How we brand ourselves involves a complex process that unfolds over time and tangibly demonstrates, in a flitting succession of clicks, posts, expressions, reactions, chats and images: the whole picture of who we are.

Atoms

 

Permanently Offline

If the title of my article compelled you to read more, it’s probably because its antithesis holds true.1

We are so connected–on every level–that disconnecting both appeals to us yet seems entirely unattainable if not for allowable periods of time (e.g., sleeping).  “Instead of using media simply to receive information and/or entertainment only at certain points of time and for a specific amount of time, many … have developed the habit of being online almost permanently.”2  (my emphasis)

A person may, for example, discretely read the news on their mobile phone while in the company of others saying “Uh, huh” at strategic moments of a conversation they are only in part following.  This person is, in effect, “escaping” from reality by entering the online, virtual world.  If, however, we define reality as the “ultimate online experience” (this idea is similar to what is presented in the movie the Matrix) then, by getting on the Internet, we are going online to go “offline.”

Whether we’re in a train, bus and “even when driving our [own] car,” we don’t stop communicating.3  We may choose not to communicate with the person seated next to us; we may, instead, be communicating with someone on the other side of the globe.

Vorderer and Kohring ask why we are spending so much time online, to the point that it’s almost permanent.4  According to these authors, we do this in order to feel included5 and, I might add, not to miss out on something.  Stopping our permanent access to information and news would make us feel excluded and fear ostracism.6

With the heightened acceleration of modern life, we are also more and more online because “this sort of behavior is suitable to meet the communication requirements of our time.”7

Is it?

As I read the above, I thought, Who defines the communication requirements of our time?  Are they necessarily defined by and attached to the myriad digital devices we use on a daily basis, or is there an alternative?

Although reading the news on one’s smartphone while seated at a cafe (in the company of others or not) poses no immediate threat other than possibly offending someone by not devoting one hundred percent of your attention to them, thousands have literally met death or incurred injury by inattention while trying to negotiate driving or walking while engrossed in their cell phones.8

Where are we placing our attention?

In many ways, where we choose to focus our attention (and what percentage of said attention) appears to dictate where we are.   How much of us is at the cafe, listening to a conversation?  What part of us is learning about the latest natural disaster or reading our e-mails?

There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer to these questions.  Vorderer and Kohring say that even after rewarding periods of time offline, “eventually all go online again.”9

If we define going online as getting on the Internet, then perhaps, like any other favorite product we use, moderation is best.

Photographie personnelle, prise par Douz (Tunisie), Auteur: Asram

Photographie personnelle, prise par Douz (Tunisie), Auteur: Asram

 

References

1 Vorderer, Peter and Kohring, Matthias.  Permanently Online:  A Challenge for Media and Communication Research. International Journal of Communication.  Accessed on 30 July 2013.  <http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/1963/848&gt>

2 Ibid., 189.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., 191.

5 Ibid., 192.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid..

8 “According to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, 2,600 people died in 2004 and 330,000 more were injured while using cell phones just before an accident.” DoItYourselfStaff. Driving Safety Tips-Statistics on Deaths By Cell Phones. Accessed on 31 July 2013.  <http://www.doityourself.com/stry/driving-safety-tips-statistics-on-deaths-by-cell-phones#.UfpUx21uqSo>

9 Opcit., 190.