Does Your Reputation Change with the Wind or Age like Cheese?

Reputation management is not something I consider on a regular basis, although I find it interesting.  Early on in life, we learn the dos and don’ts of behavior, and how we treat other people and how we act impacts the reputation that we develop.  Since reputation is the perception others have of us, we control it by our actions.  While Hester Prynne might be said to have had her personal brand literally tied to one event, most of us develop ours over time.  Not only that, our reputation or personal brand will change over time.  It will change for the better if we are thoughtful about how we treat others and about the types of activities in which we engage.

The time element is why sites like Klout and Peerindex are so uncompelling to me. If you use Twitter (I do:  @davidpwhelan) or Facebook (nope), you can use these sites to see one perspective of your online activity.  They look at your Twitter messages and Facebook posts and the people with whom you interact and, subsequently, actions taken by those people using information you share.  People who post messages frequently, who have their messages forwarded frequently, and so on, achieve a certain amount of reputational currency on these sites.

Unlike real clout, though, Klout in particular seems to blow with the wind.  Take a few days off from posting messages and your score drops.  Post more messages and you see your rank increase.  Reputations don’t change that quickly.  If you have a good reputation, you can probably go for a few days without reminding people of it.  In fact, there are people who I have met only once or twice who, if they reached out to me, would get whatever help they needed because I respect them, almost entirely based on their reputation and on the reputations of those people who link us together in a social network.

Similarly, if your reputational clout is diminished, it is probably not by something that you will bounce back from immediately.  Lost reputation may never be overcome but it requires remaking the bonds of trust that existed and, in my opinion, rebuilding beyond the point at which those bonds existed in the past.

A good reputation is built over time, like a well aged cheddar.  It is not something that zigs and zags based on a technical algorithm.  It is a deeper consideration of who you are and what you consist of.  Klout says I amsocializer, which strikes me as funny both because I am not a socializer in meatspace nor would any of my Twitter messages be considered particularly social.  In fact, I try to make a point not to share anything social at all, but use Twitter – both in my reading and my sharing – as a research resource on those topics I find interesting.  I don’t give a fig who follows me but if people choose to, it won’t be because I create social connections.  It will be because I can contribute to their information flow.

All of which is to say that those who have started to think about whether the collision of social media metrics and personal brands are probably overthinking the benefits of these two arenas.  It’s a personal brand or reputation because people have to know who you are and have a perspective of you.  It may not even be uniform.  To think that an online reputation can be measured without actually looking at what the person shares in messages, or to really understand that person’s network (and not just the people who like, friend, or follow the individual), is hard to fathom.

Perhaps this is all sour grapes.  My Klout score fell last week because I was at the community fair, fishing with my boys, and picking berries with my family.  I may bounce back but, frankly, I would rather be measured by the activities I was engaged in and not on the activity or lack thereof of my online social media.  I will continue to look at Klout, and others, because it is interesting to see what they can aggregate and perhaps, in the long term, I will find new people with whom to network and interact.  But it will not be based on their scores.