The Guardian is dominating the news cycle for good reason. They broke the NSA spying scandal currently consuming the mass attention span of the blogosphere. But not too long ago they reported on the emergence of online reputation management (ORM) as a growth field. A certain Eric Schmidt (yes, that Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google) predicted that identity management will soon be “the new normal for the prominent and those who aspire to be prominent.” He wrote this in what should be a textbook for social media trend watchers, The New Digital Age (co-authored with Jared Cohen). Now that is one impressive endorsement for a new breed of online professional.
Finally Good News welcomes ORM to the table of online influence-makers. I think Schmidt’s observation will turn out to be prophetic and consequential. Maybe ORM is the real story that ought to be headline grabbing. The idea is pretty simple: search results filter our access to information. We strongly favor items that occur on page one of a Google search result. Search algorithms, however, don’t sort for serial accuracy. What matters, as we all know, is mostly date, relevance, and popularity. Online reputation management tries to balance these somewhat blind forces with accurate messaging.
The internet has a long memory, to be sure. It’s also the scene of many heated discussions. So it makes sense that a market should develop out of the desire to influence the way identity is perceived and ideas received. There are provocative questions about strategy. How can ORM fulfill a need and provide services based on truth and accuracy? There needn’t be a contradiction here. The basic assumption, which is both powerful and inherently good, is that truth is, as the saying goes, the daughter of time. Give it enough time and the true essence of a person’s identity will come to be known – no matter if the truth actually starts on page 10 of a Google search result.