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Establishing Reputation Online

Establishing Reputation Online

It used to be that getting to the right person took a very long time. We’d have to “do our time” if we were employees, or we’d have to “get to know people who know people,” if it were business networking. Going from “being there” to “being known” to “being the guy to meet” takes effort, and it takes some understanding of flow, of people, and of what matters to people. Doing this and being authentic is harder still. Here are some thoughts, and I’m not going to go easy on you on this one. It’s too important.
Authentic or Die
If you’re looking to be someone you’re not, the velocity at which this gets exposed online is astounding. If you’re pretending to be a people person, it shows. If you’re trying to be “one of the guys” and you’re not, it shows. Just be the person you are, and find the way that this connects with the people you need to reach online. Don’t waste calories trying to put on a show. It just isn’t sustainable.
There used to be this “who I am at work” and “who I am out of work” divide. The truth is that it’s fading. And if you’re in a place where it’s not fading, start looking around, because if you’re the type of person who reads Media Bullseye, you’re likely not the “typical” person in a gray job. So bear that in mind, too. Be YOU, the real you, or as close as you can come without being hauled off to the crazy farm.
Build a Home
In the online world, it’s vital to have a “home.” I usually mean a blog. No, I pretty much ALWAYS mean a blog. Your horrible brochure website won’t cut it. If you’re hiding behind a Home / About / Products / Press / Contact Us website design, get out. It does nothing for people’s opinion of you, and it doesn’t do much to further any goals you hope to accomplish online. You can have the typical site, but make your “home” a blog, where people can learn about you.
On this home, build a robust “About” page. Make it about you. Show a picture, if you’re willing. Share some of your hobbies and passions. When you blog, blog from YOUR perspective, not we, not recycled press releases and notes tidied up by the marketing department. Make it about YOU.
Find Friends
Friends are the coin of the realm in the online world. Start with people you know from the real world. If they blog, add them to a blogroll. If you’re blogging about similar topics, link to them, mention them, show people who you know and what you think of their works.
Add blogs of common interest to your topic from people you don’t know personally, and start commenting on their blogs. Become a regular. Get to be known by the blogger and her audience.
Build a profile on LinkedIN and Facebook, and connect the same types there. Actually, wherever you join a social network, do your best to connect up the people you’re hoping to be friendly with on ALL the networks where you roam.
A Word About a Word
Get over the “friends” word. It doesn’t mean “people who will move your couch.” It means “People who you share at least a shred of common interest with online.” I have tons and tons of “friends” on social networks that I’ve never met, several that I have no intention of meeting, and many who mostly are “friends” because they’ve chosen to reach out to me, and so I reciprocated.
Don’t limit yourself to people you know, people in your profession, people you think are “top quality.” Add the crazies. Add the dreamers. Add the people who might some day matter to you in ways you never knew before.
What You Say Matters
Establishing a sound reputation online means living by your word. It means building an awareness in others of what you know, how you share, who you help, and how you build connections. As I write this, I want to clarify: reputation and fame are two completely different things. Reputation means that you’ve evolved a presence that people equate with what they believe you’ll do, say, and know. I don’t know how to make you famous. But I obviously have something to say about reputation.
If you’re blogging, say what you mean. If you’re a PR or marketing type, use real words and talk about real things. Stop worrying about the message, and start thinking only about connecting with people on the other side of the wires. Think about humans reading your words, hearing your podcast, watching your videos, and make sure you’re being true to what you’re putting out there.
Sometimes, we get caught up in memes. Be wary about how these flow into your other actions online. Confession: I loathe when grown people talk like LOLCats. I can’t fathom doing something professional with them thereafter. To that end, I repeat: be wary of what you say.
Do More for Others, Shift Credit
Want to grow your reputation fast? Do lots of things for lots of other people. Be helpful all the time. The moment people think of you as “that person who helps,” you’ve got a start on something that can’t be bought. Go one step further and NEVER be the person taking credit for things. If you can, deflect it to others gently and politely. It just comes off a lot better than the opposite. For whatever reason, this is where I feel a lot of people fall down in the reputation game.
Learn how to be proud without asking people to put your name in lights. The person you should be sharing your pride with is yourself. Pat yourself on the back. Tell your imaginary friends, and move on. (By the way, this is an area that I have to struggle with a lot, but when I do it well, it’s always better than when I look around for credit.)
Your Reputation Becomes Currency
So why do all this? The answer is simple: in the current world, especially online, there are too many distractions and options vying for our attention. Reputation becomes the one sure way that people will pay attention to things that are important to you. This might not always be your things, mind you, but instead, perhaps you use your reputation to help others meet their goals and needs.
If you’re a corporate marketer or PR type, reputation is what gets you past the skeptic / disinterest gates. If you’re a professional using media to connect with others, reputation is the baseline before people spend their time and attention on you. In BOTH these cases, reputation is something you can’t buy, and that is worth more than money. Build up a big account, and do that by being authentic, building a home, finding friends, and being helpful.
Chris Brogan builds his reputation one friend at a time at []. He is VP of Strategy & Technology at CrossTech Media.

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    Jen Zingsheim

    Great post Chris, I especially enjoyed the ‘a word about a word’ part…it’s a good thing to keep in mind.
    And, thanks for leading by doing…your generosity with your time and knowledge has helped many of us!

    Kristen Forbirger

    Excellent post, Chris. I’m glad you addressed the work/out of work divide. For many of us, especially young professionals, this is a scary thing to do, but an absolute necessity. From that standpoint, I’m curious to know what you would suggest for those of us who not only represent ourselves, but our employer (and even our clients) online.
    ps. As for building a home, I’m working on mine (tumblr is just a “rental” property). Thanks for your advice, as always!


    That’s amazingly on target… excellent post!
    Of course I got stuck on “Confession: I loathe when grown people talk like LOLCats. I can’t fathom doing something professional with them thereafter” because it’s a truism for me.
    One of the smartest women I know, normally a grammar nazi, incredibly well-read, very articulate often lapses into “lolspeak” and I just don’t understand. We’re close enough to have discussed it and I still don’t understand the appeal.
    Unfortunately tho, since this is all true, that means I must really be a long-winded, rambly, procrastinator just like my blog indicates! Eep. Better get to work on that.

    Josh Holat

    Your post is extremely helpful and informational. Being a young person trying to get known around web, taking advice from a person with your reputation is extremely valuable. Keep up the great work and thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. I look forward to using your advice! 🙂

    Maren Massingill

    You have got fantastic content here, Appreciate it, I find this is fairly compelling. I have really liked reading through your writing. Just brilliant what you’ve created here.

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