March 10, 2013 by Lea
By Lea Wehbe, MSc in Management Consulting 3 student
I was reading the other day an article in The Economist entitled “The price of reputation” that addresses the issue of your personal online reputation management (PORM) and how start up companies such as Reputation.com have based their entire business on that matter. As I finished reading the article all I could think of is the degree of absurdity to which our virtual world has reached. Let me tell you why. Privacy is no longer your right, unless you constantly monitor it. Your identity can be easily copied for fraudulent reasons. Or simply the new Internet era does not allow for two people to hold the same name; one has to eliminate the other.
Reputation.com, Personal.com, and companies as such have built their business model on social media’s new privacy laws – basically guidelines and regulations allowing everyone who’s anyone to copy your virtual identity. These businesses are “devoted to protecting and polishing people’s image online” with membership packages starting at $99/year. In other words, they charge you for your right. Talk about an opportunistic business – yet again, what business isn’t opportunistic?
How do they do that? They gather a bunch of your personal keywords (e.g. name, age, address) and insert them in your SEO matrix to detect whenever you are mentioned online and/or eliminate any hoax-like information from your top search results; something you can do yourself but it might take more time and effort from your end. I asked myself a question here: are these firms really creating value? Sure, the idea is new and original, and I do recognize the need specially since Facebook first declared its new privacy guidelines in 2011. But how much is the customer willing to pay? “A lot of companies have started with idealism about empowering the online user, only to find that the user wouldn’t pay,” said a technology investor, Esther Dyson. On the other hand, Michael Fertik, Reputation’s founder, believes the market demand is now happening. Yes you can manage your online reputation, nevertheless I can see why people would opt for this fast solution.
As an aspiring consultant, I understand the importance of social media trends and how this tool became everyone’s online presence’s strategy, on a personal and professional basis. Even companies have adopted this new strategic trend for expansion, sales, customer service, and advertisement purposes. I am not trying to attack companies like Reputation.com, yet I am raising awareness of today’s social media consumers. Act now and take ownership of your online reputation. My colleague Corinna Zeigler talks in depth about “Why it is important to manage your personal and professional online presence” in her article and I urge you to read it. I believe my question to you is: what price would you put on your reputation? Remember, consumers have a very high bargaining power in this industry…