Craig Newmark (best known for his eponymous list) puts a fine point on one of the great truths of social media in the lead story of today’s SmartBrief on Social Media, arguing that “power and influence will shift largely to those people with the best reputations and trust networks, from people with money and nominal power.”
Newmark’s post is largely concerned with how we can quantify, measure and mark our accumulated trust. Because your social-network presence is persistent, it can play a role in tracking your trustworthiness. “Such systems show history and context, which play into trust, and display connections to other people,” he argues. But that isn’t where trust comes from — social networks are more like a mirror that shows you how you’re perceived.
But where does a person’s trustworthiness actually come from? That might sound a silly question, deserving of a glib response — and if you want to make fun of me in the comments for asking, I won’t blame you. But I think it’s an issue that’s so elemental that we tend to gloss over it. If you are anything like me, most of your answers to that question are a little backward, focusing on avoiding behaviors that hurt our reputations. But that’s answering the wrong question.
How do we actually build reputations? Is it just a matter of being honest and faithful? That’s certainly part of it, but I don’t think it’s the whole picture. Your behavior must also be noticeable. It has to be consistent. And it has to be valuable. I think we’re most likely to overlook those last two elements. It’s not enough to simply be profoundly decent in an inescapable way — your actions have to have consequences and they need to be same over a long period of time.
I think the element of time is what trips so many people up. It’s easy to be good for a little while. But when you’re toiling away day in and day out, sometimes you get an itch. You come to point where you start to feel like no one notices your forthright behavior. If no one is paying attention, why does it matter if you do the right thing? And those are the moments when reputations are won and lost. Maybe the trick to having a good reputation is just being patient and trusting that the work you do will be noticed. If time is money and money is trust, then maybe trust is just a matter of time.
What do you think? Where does a good name come from? How can brands work to enhance their reputations? And what about Newmark’s question — how should we measure trust? Does it even need to be measured?
Image credit, Slavoljub Pantelic, via Shutterstock