If you don’t have an online presence today, the reality is that your the equivalent of the product with no reviews on Amazon. And just how often do you buy products with no reviews, or try a new restaurant with no reviews on Yelp/OpenTable?
I believe there has been a general shift in people’s thinking, where a lack of social proof is now an indictment of mediocrity (or worse). In the past, all products, businesses, and people were given “the benefit of the doubt”, but now, having no information available online is actually taken as a negative signal.
I noticed this in my own behavior fairly recently when my wife and I were trying to pick a pediatrician when our daughter was born. It was so natural for us to go online and check out reviews, that it didn’t occur to me until afterwards that we are no doubt excluding a bunch of great doctors who just happen to have no online presence, Yet even if that’s true, how would I even evaluate these other doctors to decide who to go and see?
Note that this behavior is not about reviews, it’s about getting more data so you can make more informed decisions. If I wanted to go find a personal trainer right now, it would be important they share the same core beliefs as me. For example, a lot of people tell you squats are bad because they hurt your knees, which I disagree with (as long as you have good form). I also don’t agree with a lot of the nutritional advice out there, so I wouldn’t want someone who is going to try to convert me over to their beliefs. As a result, a 5-star rating means nothing to me if that person is a cardio-specialist vegan whose never squatted a day in their life, because it’s not at all what I’m looking for. Without that person putting out there in the public domain, what they believe in and what they know, how do I know which personal trainer would be the best choice for me?
So, I guess it has sunk in for me that if you have any kind of ambition in your professional life, whether it be starting your own company, promotion, change of career, changing companies, hiring great people to come work with you, selling your products or services, or whatever really, you need to put yourself out there in the public… just like any other product or service on the web.
And just like in the personal trainer example, it’s not about getting everyone to love you so you get 5 star reviews. It’s just about putting your own thoughts out there to find like-minded people. I’m not shooting for “internet famous” here with this blog – I just believe that not having a public persona is no longer a tenable strategy if you’re ambitious.