What is your reputation worth?

Businessperson brainstorming about trust in business.

Do you know what three words sum up your reputation? And what your personal and professional reputation is worth in the real world?

Rachel Botsman is a ‘sharing innovator’ who studies collaborative consumption (online sharing of everything from apartments to cars and skills) and believes our reputations will become more important than our credit history in the new economy.

Why? Because reputation is the measurement of how much a community trusts you. Your customers, suppliers and investors all develop trust in you and your business through your behaviour. Every transaction we make, whether it’s personal or professional, leaves a reputation trail online that has a real-life consequence in our lives and careers.

After watching Rachel’s most recent TED talk , it’s clear that not only is building and protecting your professional reputation critical for business, but in the not-too-distant future it will be inextricably linked with your personal one. Rachel argues that technology has made it possible to build trust between strangers practically overnight. So how do we make sure our online identities reflect our real ones? Do we want them to be the same?

I trust twitter buddies I’ve never met, online shopping sites I’ve never used and stories written by journalists whose credibility I’ve never verified. Clients that live in other cities, or on the other side of the globe, have trusted my advice and it’s likely I’ll never meet them. How to you develop a trustworthy reputation online, to encourage strangers to do business with you? Here are a few ideas. 

Social proof

People like knowing that someone else has had a positive experience as a result of trusting you. Ask for testimonials from clients as soon as you’ve completed the transaction. Share the best ones on social media. Use client logos on your website. Make sure your ‘about’ page tells the story of who you are—don’t hide behind corporate jargon. People are actively looking for reasons to trust you, so help them along a bit.

Community

Much like the trust built between neighbours in small country towns, a good community is generous with knowledge and demonstrates consistent behaviour and values. Remember, ‘familiarity breeds content’. Whether it’s social media, an online forum or face-to-face meet-ups, creating a community of engaged fans benefits your reputation.

Platform

This is about leveraging the trust already built by other people, using recognised platforms that your potential customers already use, like PayPal, iTunes and eBay. Less barriers to making the sale means a more efficient way of building trust.

Experience

Last but not least is their experience. You will never build trust online, if you don’t provide customers with a great experience offline. Word of mouth is more powerful than any other form of marketing. Create a life-long customer and they will shout your praises from the rooftops. Trust me.

(Originally published at Shoe String Startups)

I'm an SEO copywriter and brand storyteller based in Sydney, who's besotted with words, good stories and hot chips. I'm currently studying a Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Macquarie University.

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