While reading Phil Baumann’s blog, I came across a suggestion for readers to get a professional reputation management service.
I have heard of large companies using these kinds of services, but am less familiar with the idea of small companies using them. Small Business Search Marketing has a killer post on why small businesses should use reputation management services.
I’m not entirely convinced. I see the merit of these services for businesses in certain niches, but have two counterpoints that I can’t reconcile with the benefits of constantly monitoring your own reputation:
1) Reputations are cyclical. Google and Britney Spears come to mind as famous names that have cycled in and out of the wringer a couple of times.
I recognize that cycles don’t have to be quite as bipolar as Britney’s. Companies and individuals can make efforts to ensure that their reputation cycle errs on the positive side.
But digital monitoring is a mixed blessing. It can lead to obsession. In fact, I think that in some scenarios, it is obsessive (like using it to monitor your popularity among friends). Why add another technology with potential for obsession to your army of toys, when simply adhering to good principles will probably ensure your reputation anyway?
2) Reputation comes from the heart. This is where the good principles come in. If, on principle, I am consistent, honest, and interested in providing a good experience to my clients, why would I need a reputation monitoring tool?
If the tool caught a bad remark, I would become concerned with upholding my reputation as a separate entity. I’d be chasing an elusive concept rather than providing good service as a matter of principle.
There’s no such thing as a perfect reputation if you’re in the game long enough. Reputation technology encourages people to chase perfection as a standard. I would rather spare myself the stress of chasing an externality by acknowledging that mixed feedback is inevitable–and even instructive.
For those reasons, reputation monitoring technology–as with any technology with obsessive potential–needs to be used with discernment. There is a trade-off, and it has a lot to do with an increasingly scarce concept: Peace of mind.