The Coming Age of "Deep" Reputation
You see this trend already when you search for famous people, companies and so on. Google puts an answer box on the right, next to the search results. Their aim is to give you the answer to your question, not just a list of possible sources. In part this shift is driven by technology -- it couldn't be done in 1998 when Google started -- and partly by the shift to mobile devices. With a smartphone, smartglasses or smartwatch you don't have the screen space for traditional Google result pages.
At the same time Google's secret search algorithm seems to be favoring more and more independent authority sites like Wikipedia -- already the number one for many topics -- newspapers and other independent organizations. Newer devices also embed technology like apple's Siri which is effectively a gatekeeper, choosing which responses to give you. Again these tools rely increasingly on sources that are based on recognized authority sources.
Traditional online reputation management relies mainly on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs and websites where you create the content yourself. When independent authority sources become more important what will count more are the fundamentals -- not the number of profiles you created yourself, but the times you are mentioned in media, articles you have published, conferences you have spoken at, books you have written, patents in your name and so on. All of this takes more effort and more time than creating and maintaining social profiles, so to be ready for this shift you should really be working on a long-term plan today.
What this means in practice is that instead of spending a few hours building sites and populating social profiles people will need to return to more traditional PR methods, either directly or with professional help. Once again your reputation will not be defined so much by your activity managing web properties you control yourself, but by media and other independent authorities. In this scenario what will be more useful is to have strong PR and influencing skills.
There will always be individuals and companies who try to game the system, and it is inevitable that they will approach this business, but emerging technology is going to make this increasingly difficult and expensive. The days of picking the low hanging fruit are already numbered.
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