Twitter: Reputation Management in Social Networks

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…

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.

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  1. Excellent post, Laurel. There are more and more twiter users popping up like TUBEdotTV and worse: my favourite example at the moment goes by the name of PrivateMessages. I’m probably a little less charitable than you and think of many of them as spammers. I recently blogged my thoughts on what I believe is going to be a growing challenge for twitter and other social networks.

  2. Thanks Laurel, this post left me thinking carefully about my own online reputation and the type of reputation trail I leave. In particular it made me wonder about the percentage of times I ask for help as opposed to the percentage of times I offer it. Most of the time my offers are less than my questions, not because I don’t want to help but because I may not have the knowledge or the confidence to put my suggestions out there. But if I am also really honest sometimes I will read something and think, if I had a spare 30 minutes I could probably go and find that or look that up for someone but in our time-poor life we have to sometimes pass. Your comments about twitter also hit home. As an avid twitterer and a lurking plurker, I also vet the friends that I choose to follow. I work in education so I find twitter to be a wonderful social and educational network which is invaluable in my work. However your thoughts about the profile made me think much more about mine and about the message I am giving out by not ensuring that I write the profile well. So thanks. I’m going to revisit my profiles, attempt to help more than I request it and continue to follow only those friends and colleagues who have the same interests and passions as I.

  3. Hi Sean, one would think by now that spammers understand the harm they do their brand, but I guess not 🙂

    Hi Anne, wow! thank you for your kind words! I hope you aren’t too harsh on yourself, we all engage carefully at the beginning, only investing more time and energy later, when we are sure the relationship/network is worth our attention and energy 🙂 No way am I putting up my baby photos and home address until I know I can trust both the host and the other members. Heh.

  4. Laurel,
    I saw this post mentioned on Twitter by Anne. You have done such a great job in articulating my thoughts!! I thought I was odd by wanting to know who someone was, where they were from and what they do, before following or ‘friending’ them. From the beginning (Jan 08) I have chosen to have my face as an avatar and use my full name for Twitter and my blog. A risk I took at the beginning and am glad I did.

  5. I’m not sure how I’ve managed to miss this until now, Laurel, but I’m glad I found it! You’ve really hit the nail on the head and this is something I’ve been thinking about myself of late. As a younger tweeter I’m always looking out for wiser industry experts to learn from but, as you so clearly point out, it is a two-way street and no one wants to follow someone who’s all ‘take’ and no ‘give’. Great diagram too!

  6. Nice work Laurel – your post reaffirms that despite the speed of the internet and the ‘instant’ results it can sometimes generate, it still takes time and effort to build a personal (and corporate/brand) reputation.

  7. Hey, I read it!

    Funnily enough, it took me a while to ‘trust’ you on twitter. There are just too many social media consultants, brand management ‘gurus’, etc, etc, that all seem far to polite and boring and and nothing to twitter as a community. Like a Hallmark made for TV movie, they play it so safe to protect their ‘brand’, they end up just being bland.

    So for me, when i see an Australian following me, i tend to follow back, but the words ‘social media’ have the opposite affect. It gives me pause.

    I guess i just don’t want to be another follower number in their next Powerpoint presentation on the value of social media.

    I keep meaning to write a “Why i probably didnt follow you back on twitter” post.. Maybe i should.

    Anyway, this post made me update my twitter bio. 🙂

  8. @fulltime casual
    We here at SilkCharm Marketing Enterprises thank you for your comment and assure you we are listening. We must also advise you that, as per the T&Cs, guidelines and conditions of commenting on this blog, your comments may appear in our boring-as-batshit death-by-powerpoint presentations at corporate pissups. Have a nice day, and don't forget to fill in our marketing poll for some crap prize such as the ipod that we have lying around the office, so we can send you spam mail to your email account.

  9. hey, as long as i don’t have to sit through it, you can use me in any PowerPoint presentation you want. As for filling out a form for the iPod, what is this, the stone-age? Don’t you just have some goldfish bowl i can throw my business card into?

  10. What do those thin feedback arcs mean? For example how is Trust information used to improve content? Or Reputation used to target connections? There is something missing from the diagram I think.

    1. Yep, because it’s time focussed – first day basic fill out of profile, first week, more profile/identity, first month offering content leading to Trust, and first year, gain a leadership Reputation. Of course it’s not that exact timeline 😛
      But if you don’t like the feedback, you go back and change some elements. Early on, we fix our profile, later on we offer better content (e.g. better answers to questions). You only need one “you didn’t hat tip that” or “we dont’ agree” and you will sit back, evaluate and edit yourself.

      I’ve also noticed that later on, some normal mild people decide to take on the bad boy or troll persona. That may not happen on day one – they watch the play first – then move into that role. So yes, the feedback arcs say that we adapt our activities over time.

      Note: if you run a social network, a change in sociability (rules, colours, events, rituals, leadership programs and so on) may cause those feedback arcs to change dramatically, and quickly for all members.

  11. Agree with most of what you have to say, BUT there are exceptions. There really are a few people who do not think of themselves, nor care to be, influential. There really are a few people (albeit, VERY few) who are not promoting blogs and peddling themselves as “journalists” or some other imagined self-important designation. I am on fb and twitter, using my own name on fb, to keep in touch with friends and family. I really couldn’t care less about my “social reputation.” Those who know me, personally, either trust me or don’t. I don’t sell anything, and am not looking to buy anything. Twitter is, for me, an opportunity to comment on things in the political and global arena that OTHERS have to say–rather like talking to the television during a broadcast, but with the remarkable advantage of the comment having a real person at the other end. I’m invariably surprised when I receive a response to those comments, but glad that I have at least made my thoughts known to those to whom the comments are actually directed.

    I neither have, nor care to have, a large group of followers. One might reasonably ask “then why are you reading this page?” Just started following a trail, ended up here and was struck by the nature of the thing. Thanks, done!

    1. Yes of course if you have a locked personal account this doesnt apply.

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