When we watch a television show regularly, or listen to a favorite radio personality, we internalize a connection. We come to know these people superficially, perhaps even a little about their background and families. But over time, even though we may never meet them in person, we do believe we know them on some level. Stalkers of course take this internal dialogue to a dangerous level but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
What comes to happen over time as we have these internal dialogues about the people we see and hear all the time is that we begin to form a picture of how trustworthy they are, how authentic or true is the picture we have of them versus the works and deeds that we are able to see them do when they are not in front of a mic or camera.
For example, this week we got to see Michael Phelps smoking a bong. Not quite the narrative that all of us have been fed by the media since China this summer. Trust has been broken and more than a few people now question how authentic the story line about Michael really reflects the person behind the image.
In out interactions on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter we have similar interactions with our online communities – though we may not consciously know it or even think about it. Fred Wilson had a post today about how important it is to have a consistently identifiable avatar across your online presences. Why is it important? Because it helps people construct that internal image of who you are (or at least, appear to be) over time, using a familar and easily recognizable touchstone. It helps build your virtual bank of trusty personal capital.
Online, it’s much harder than in real life to verify how authentic the image projected by a person or company is versus the real entity behind the image. Ultimately, it comes down to performance – how consistent are the messages coming from you online, do you do what you say you will do when you say you will do it, is your work consistently high quality, can you work a process to a successful conclusion.
You have to do something – positive or negative – in order to give others something to compare their internal dialogue of who you say you are to something more approximating who you really are by how you perform or what you do. Whatever that happens to be.
But the operative word is “Do.”
I am a noisy friend to have online. It’s on purpose, and has a reason.
The reason is this – my clamor will help someone visualize what my thought processes are, how I go about conducting business, and what my reputation is online.
And their internalization will either incent them to make a real personal connection with me at some future point – personally or professionally – in a way that has more impact than some schticky spiel about getting rich while you sleep.