May 04, 2009

Welcome To The Reputation Economy

By Rob Diana of Regular Geek (Twitter/FriendFeed)

Everyone knows a good reputation is a valuable thing. With all of the activity on social media Web sites, your reputation can now come from a number of sources. You could be a well known blogger or entrepreneur, or even what some people call a social media whale, describing those people heavily active on social media sites. Because of the amount of public dialog that people now participate in, your reputation is even more valuable.

Where Does Reputation Start?

There is a fantastic conversation on FriendFeed regarding whether some of today's bright teens should go to college. I was late to the conversation and decided against participating because I had a larger topic in mind - this blog post. The reason I bring this conversation up is that for most people, their reputation building is started in college. Not only do they build reputation by what they do, but they start building something the moment they attend the school. For example, if you attend a fine university like Berkeley, people immediately assume certain things about you. The same can be said for any of the Ivy League universities, high tech universities like MIT and Carnegie Mellon, and other top schools. By having a degree from one of these schools, you have stated that you can survive a difficult and competitive environment, and for someone interested in joining or building a startup, this is excellent experience.

Obviously, after or alongside schooling, you are continuously refining your reputation through your work experience and other activities like blogging or social media use.

What Does Reputation Get You?

Technically, reputation is one of those "investment" items that does not have a direct return. However, your reputation may get you that interview you wanted. It may not get you the job directly, but it may get your foot in the door. If you get into the freelancing business, much of your initial contacts will likely be due to your reputation as well. Similar to your education though, it is something that needs "care and feeding". It does not go on autopilot, it is something that needs to be steered through various obstacles. How you handle these obstacles in your career directly affects your reputation, as well as your success.

Is Reputation More Important Than It Used To Be?

Reputation has always been important, however the area of importance is changing. Before the Internet, reputation may have been critical to getting the sale or a new job. Now, your reputation can be seen and tested every day by your social media activity and your blogging. The management of your reputation is now of critical importance. You just need to look at the various situations that "went viral" or took on a life of their own. People being fired for comments on Facebook is not an uncommon thing anymore. An advertising campaign can fail so badly (i.e. MotrinMoms) that it incurs that wrath of moms all over the Internet.

Welcome To The Reputation Economy

Reputation is now worth almost as much as revenue. FriendFeed is the perfect example of this. The reputation of the team is stellar. Because Paul Buchheit has a fantastic resume and has had great success, when he says real-time conversation is the next big thing, people are listening. Because he works for FriendFeed, people are watching FriendFeed closely. To compare the effect of reputation, look at me. I have a decent reputation in social media circles, but if I said that real-time conversation was the next big thing (without Paul saying it of course), I might get a link from another blog or two. That could even be the end of the conversation. So, never underestimate the power of reputation because it may be as important as actual currency.

Read more by Rob Diana at

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