Sociologist Sam Ladner was direct when she opened her session on reputation management and monitoring. “We won’t talking about reputation systems”, she said. “eBay reputations will not be part of our discussion. Read Bryce Glass’ blog if want to know more. He also has a Slideshare called Designing your Reputation System“.

In fact, Dr. Ladner led an amazing session in which she explored the meaning of reputation, attributes of reputation and the impacts and contexts of brand conversations that could be reputation impacting.

Despite the response of McNeil and the amazing brand-recovery case study that is the Tylenol cyanide poisoning incident of the 80s, the company still took six days to respond. Can you imagine a six-day response time today? How would a six-day delay convert in a twenty-year span?

To setup the discussion, Dr. Ladner presented the three elements of the Looking Glass Self:

  • We imagine how we appears to others
  • We imagine how others judge that appearance
  • We react to that imagined judgment

Consider that reputations cannot be managed. To help understand why, Dr. Ladner outlined the three key attributes of the Online Self:

  • Hidden (online sources lack contextual cues)
  • Digital (easily broken down, re-arranged, mashed-up and rearranged)
  • Proliferating and Permanent-ish

What’s most interesting is where brand discussions are taking place and how that context affects the brand reputation and the opportunity of individuals and corporations to participate in that discussion (Forester Research and Statistics Canada):

  • 48% of North Americans participate in social computing
  • 30% of Americans have posted online ratings
  • The average Canadian spent 35% more minutes talking on the phone in 2003 than in 1997

Dr. Ladner walked through a number of online tools and services that allow individuals and companies to monitor reputation.  There are several classes of tools available:

Using examples that involved these tools, we learned of a number of studies in which included brand reputation of breakfast cereal based on health and nostalgic references, and brand reputation based on online attitudes on sustainability.  The examples were incredibly interesting and I would have been grateful for an extra hour to explore these examples in more depth.

Before leading a more interactive discussion, Dr. Ladner proposed some reputation monitoring best practices:

  • Systematic (develop standard metrics, stick to them)
  • Regular (measure at consistent intervals)
  • Governed (assign accountability for metrics, create a task force)

We were all encouraged to use Google Labs to do our own research on reputation conversations, offering that we research Dell and Best Buy together over a period of time and look for when the Dell announcement on selling their computers at Best Buy.

We were able to wrap up with a more lighthearted discussion on the doppelganger effect.  I guess there are some advantages to having a one-of-a-kind name.

Note: this session will be available in slideshare.