Marketing In A Reputation Based Economy
Cred , short for street credit , slang for your reputation . Defined as: commanding a level of respect due to experience in or knowledge of issues affecting those environments. Cred is traditionally associated with young, trendy people in urban areas. Today in marketing 2.0, however, it’s a unit of exchange within the emerging reputation based economy. Simple terms: more cred = more value; more value = more dedicated customers; more dedicated customers = more $$. So, how’s your cred?
There are several different types of reputations on the Internet each impacting and being impacted by new media differently. Google , for instance, bases a site’s reputation on how many other sites link to it. If you want a higher ranking, get more and better sites to link to you. In the blogosphere this is called the "echo chamber" due to the effect of syndication on rankings. Ironic to the name, however, current SEO practices focus more on driving quality traffic from other sites over just any traffic from search engines. Reputation boosting practices include hosting brand sponsored topic websites where interested individuals can gather and form a community, or social network. This accomplishes two things for the brand. First, by facilitating communication the brand creates and centralizes an active community and boosts awareness of the industry. Second, by utilizing it’s own networking, the brand becomes an involved member who takes an active interest in the people gaining both credibility and awareness within the community. This is especially important for emotional industries like pharma. where people can gather and share stories. The key to successfully marketing in this environment is being the best. Your job as a marketer is to facilitate relationships and communication, then let them choose you.
Slashdot and experts-exchange , on the other hand, establish credibility in a different, yet still automated, way. They allow users to award points to other users to establish a more natural, organic, atmosphere of credibility. Much like life, in this society if you want to gain credibility you need to earn it. Once established, credibility within these networks gain you the advantages of prestige, trustworthiness, hire ranked posts, and the increased ability to improve your reputation. A segment posted by someone with high credibility, for example, will automatically rank higher than someone with less and, therefore, will have the advantage of being spotted easier and read more often thereby granting the author more credibility in the future. Much like spinning a flywheel , each positive interaction begets more positive interactions in the future. This is especially important because, unlike search engines, you cannot pay for placement; you must earn your reputation.
Contrasting the previous two methods, Digg is based on a simple aggregate of users identifying a link as something they like, or "digging" it. Every day thousands of individuals see something they like enough to go out of their way to digg it. They do this because what they saw had some value to them. In this society, if you want to have credibility, you need to have value. Enough value to drive users to want to tell others about you. Credibility in this arena gains you a dedicated following of individuals who regularly derive value from your work. Those individuals tell others and your friend base grows.
Social reputation also consists of all the sites that allow users to collaboratively rate and give feedback about you. Sites like Amazon and epinions combine a simple 5-star rating system with a short text area to facilitate individuals expressing their level of satisfaction. Where historically business need only worry about a select few critics, now everyone’s a critic. Restaurants, for example, formally sought to identify the media columnists to make sure their food was hot and the order was right. Automobile manufactures only had to impress a select few magazines and reviewers. Walmart went so far as to put commercials on television which emphasized what a great place it was to work. No more. Sell a bad product on amazon and people will know. Sure it’s possible to influence this initially with staged postings, but that won’t last long and isn’t it easier just to deliver value?
The final part of your social reputation and credibility consists of everything else. This is where all the bloggers who have an experience and write about it reside and where other bloggers syndicate the post. This is where the photo of a bug in food you served falls. This is where the youTube video of your employees goofing around or slacking off fits. And this is where people can praise and recommend you. This is where people can post links to your products. This is where friends forward interesting emails. This is the culmination of your brand reputation.
This is new media marketing.