Our online reputations

There has been a bit of a healthy debate going on in our studio over the last fortnight sparked by our presentation for the Apple Store. This debate has centred around social media, professional identity, reputation and the blurred line between.  Social media is really in it’s infancy and the possibilities for development are endless. Academic Danah Boyd suggested in 2007 that social networks are used differently by groups/life stages for different purposes, she argues,

“Youth go to MySpace and Facebook primarily to hang out with friends. 20somethings go to get laid. Both groups use the sites to keep up with what’s going on in their social world – where the parties are, what gossip is key, etc. White collar workers go to LinkedIn for career purposes….Unfortunately, there’s no really good social network site there to meet the needs of the older contingent.:Danah Boyd ”Incantations for Muggles: The Role of Ubiquitous Web 2.0 Technologies in Everyday Life.” Emerging Tech 2007. California

This view may well have shifted in the last couple of years as we are increasingly seeing companies launch Facebook/Twitter/Blog combos and among our small group we certainly know of several Baby Busters if not Boomers who are active on Facebook. Interestingly the Boomers and the teenagers are using networks for much the same purposes, i.e. mainly social.  However it is the people or life stages in between where the dilemma begins.  These people are in their prime career years and are their own best commodity yet many are still using social media in the same open way they always have.

A client told us an anecdote recently which illustrates why this could be a problem.  He was at a conference and one of the speakers referenced an obscure author, as he did this our client observed that the  people sitting in front of him instantly googled the name on their smartphones.  In all honesty we have to admit doing this ourselves, not just companies or the odd names but now almost every name we come in contact with, suppliers, designers, academics, whoever.  If this person has an online presence at all it will show up on the search.  You can pretty much gain access to most peoples networks, even if that person has applied some basic privacy settings.  The dangers of social media are further illustrated by the infamous ‘urban myth’ where a chap in a call centre called in sick to go to a party/festival/pub crawl and subsequently loaded photos onto Facebook-he was later fired.  Closer to home we must all have seen the recent NHS suspensions and sackings in the news, all due to inappropriate use of social media.

So as social media and networks multiply and broaden our online communities should we be considering our reputations? Should we be taking as much care about our online persona and reputation as we do our credit rating for example? Author Rachel Botsman argues that we should and her talk on the rise collaborative consumption at TEDx@Sydney is a fantastic starting point for anyone who wants to understand current collaborative behavior in social media. http://www.collaborativeconsumption.com/events-and-speaking Most people who have come into contact with us know that we love our social media so this topic is a tough one. We would love to hear other people’s opinions and stories about how the conflict between personal and business social media is impacting upon our everyday lives.

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  1. This is such an interesting (and not to mention mind-boggling!) subject. As a designer I have a very active online presence and I can see the huge benefits of using Twitter as a tool for publicising my work/blog, it really does work. I do feel that social media becomes difficult when the professional and the personal become blurred. Also now with things such as Facebook Places and Foursquare we are now sharing our exact whereabouts at any given time. I actually just read (via Twitter) about an employee who lost their job after calling in sick and then checking-in somewhere using Facebook Places. I’d say it is definitely important for everyone, particularly professionals, to consider their online reputations… or at least utilise a bit of common sense!

  1. August 5th, 2010
    Trackback from : Social Computing Platforms

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