I’d like to show you how I see Profile, Identity, Reputation and Trust online. In other words, Brand Reputation Management – even if your brand is a Brand of One (you) you might find it interesting:
It’s on Flickr – thanks to GaryPHayes who was able to interpret my scrawls into diagram

The quick and dirty version:

We create a Profile (My Account) on a site, we make friends and add applications and groups and events to define Identity. We interact over time, offering content and comments and ratings which gains us a Reputation. That Reputation is then turned into a Trust factor – we decide how trustworthy a social network member is by the way they fill out their profile, by the connections they make, and by the content they submit, all of which is over time, which is why Social Media is a long term engagement. (me, so no link 😛 )

Lemme give you an example: Twitter.
I just got this email, the standard notification:

Hi, Laurel Papworth.

Steve Ireland (sireland) is now following your updates on Twitter.
Check out Steve Ireland’s profile here:
You may follow Steve Ireland as well by clicking on the “follow” button.


I don’t know Steve Irelend, so myfirst question is: Who ARE you and why on EARTH are you following(adding me a friend) me?? heh.

I don’t add everyone on Twitter – say NO! to white supremacists. Oh, and spammers.- so first thing I take note of is their real name and their *handle* or avatar name. In this case, the name is Steve Ireland (probably a real person, not a spammer) and the handle is fairly innocuous. If they have a Twitter name like BuyInsuranceCheap and no other other handle, I don’t even bother logging into Twitter to check out their profile. I like dealing with real people, even real people behind companies. Like whathisname from Dell.

When I click on the email notification link, I’m taken to Steve’s profile. How has he chose to represent himself on Twitter, one wonders? Well, wonder no more! 🙂 :

Many new starters try to join up a lot of friends before they have figured out how to set up their profile properly. Bad move. If the handle is a general one – say ‘TechDude” or something and no other information….

  • no ‘other’ name
  • no location,
  • no web link,
  • no Bio

….I’m tempted to not add them. Why hook up with someone who hasn’t introduced themselves?

And the challenge for you is, if you are not added on the first profile check, you have a MUCH harder job getting added later!

A cleanly completed profile that is relevant to target demographic (I pretty well follow anyone who is either Australian or notes Social Media in profile, double Trust points if you say both!)

After I check the profile – how the person has chosen to reveal themselves – I check their connections. This may reveal stuff they are not aware of. Are they following more people than follow them. After all on Twitter, you follow those you think have value. Look at this one from TUBEdotTV, who chose not to give a real bio (no real person, just Los Angeles as the location).
For those of you that don’t use Twitter, but know Facebook, this is like asking nearly 4,000 to be your friend but only 325 accept. I immediately assume that they are a bot (auto-RSS or something) or a spammer. So sue me 😛 If the numbers are closer to even, or a locked account (you can’t follow unless invited), I feel a greater sense of trust.

When evaluating Identity, and looking at the diagram above (Social Web – Reputation Management Cycles) we can see that the connections look a bit, well, dodgy.

Reputation is the long tail of your content. Have you been naughty or nice. Asking questions – or answering them? Asking for stuff – or offering? Giggling with a great sense of humour or snarking off with rude words? You want a bad boy rep? YA GOTTA EARN IT. Anyway, you get the general idea. One blog post, one tweet, one facebook status does not build your reputation. It accumulates over time.

On Twitter I look at the members profile page to see their Archived tweets.

Steven Ireland seems pretty harmless *shrugs* nothing rivetting for me to jump on and respond, but some real conversation and links to maybe interesting articles. However with TUBEdotTV we can see the ENTIRE backlog of tweets – all four of them:
Looks like spam, smells like spam, tastes like spam, it IS spam, by golly!

Look, there is nothing wrong with TUBEdotTV. You just have to ensure that your Values and Purpose are aligned. And that’s where Trust comes in. We look at the Profile, we check out Identity (events and friends lists), and Reputation (past activity, quality and tone) to determine if that person shares our Values system. If they do, we may trust them. But if they’ve gone out of their way to show opposite ideals from those we share, we may ignore or fight with them.

If they want to win our Trust, they go back and change their Profile, become more conscious of their Identity and friend connections, and change the quality and tone of their content. Or not. Heh.

It is only over time that we gain the trust of our network. Which is why companies need to be engaged long term, not short term: Reputation offline does not translate into Trust online. You can’t walk in as the representative of a company to dowse down a flame war about your brand, if you weren’t engaged before it exploded…. you need runs on the board.


Which is why it’s worth mentioning how eBay are in danger of screwing their whole ecosystem.

This model applied to eBay:

  • Profile – when looking at an item to purchase, what star does the seller have, how long have they been a member and so on.
  • Identity – how many sales have they done?
  • Reputation – what comments are left, how do they handle disputes?
  • Trust – I will pay higher rates from a member who has been on eBay a long time, done a lot of similar deals and has reasonable comment rating. I pay less for a newbie, with poor sales and no/poor comments.

If you remove negative comments and negative ratings from both buyers and sellers, one can only see how the profile, connections and have to take a leap of faith on Trust.

eBay is removing negative comments to stop sellers from ‘gaming’ the system. I believe some sellers were giving buyers a negative rating if they returned a product, even under the agreement of how to do returns. Why not show a score of positive to negative comments? If I, as a buyer, see a seller is giving a high number of negative comments, I will stop frequenting that buyer until his/her attitude improves. *shrugs* no one will want “Number of negative comments from this Seller: 100%” will they, now?


Look at Facebook. Pretend you just got an email from someone to be your friend. How did they introduce themselves in the email and what does their profile look like? How many friends do they have, how many mutual friends do you have? What applications, comments, wall crap and so on have they contributed to their social network. How much do you trust them?

So, are you thinking about how this works in other networks?

BTW I followed Steve Ireland, and chose to pass on TUBEdotTV.