Online Identity and the Importance of Reputation


Phone-ins, interviews and opinion polls form the bedrock of traditional journalism. This form of audience participation enriched the journalism. In today’s online journalism, user generated content also serves to provide more layers to enhance the journalism.
Yet with all journalism it is important that your source is trustworthy.

Stephen Fry, is one of the most popular ‘Tweeters’, with more that 50,000 people following him on Twitter. He has built up an online reputation that makes people want to interact with him and experience his own micro-blogs.

However talking to one BCC reporter he revealed that his initial thought about Twitter, calling it ‘the weirdest and naffist idea I’d ever come across…You tell people what you’re doing and obviously a lot of that is pretty banal and common place and easy to mock…’

Fry goes on to comment that some of his blogs may be ‘savagely banal’ but such is the frequency and reliability of his Tweets that he is rewarded with such a high amount of followers.

If your online reputation is the basis of your popularity and reliability, then maintaining it is crucial. The ease and accessibility of Twitter means that it is very easy to destroy that reputation by Tweeting something that is false or slanderous. Stephen Fry commented on this, he is always ‘aware that I could shoot my mouth off inappropriately if I’d had a few glasses of wine or if I was in a really stinky mood, or if I reveal my location to disadvantage’.

Within the world of blogging and user generated content there grows a sense of online community. Many people who use Twitter commonly have questions or problems they need help with. This may be as a journalist, or for a more general question. The sense of community is such that you expect that if you ask a question, it is likely that another Tweeter will help you and answer it or refer you to a source that may help. By helping them, you not only solve their issue, you help establish credibility and identity among the Twitter and wider online community.

An example of this is when Stephen Fry tweeted asking for advice when a bat became trapped in his house and within seconds he had hundreds of replies within seconds! This method was by far the quickest way to tap into the collective wisdom of the public because of the reputation and following he had built up.

Watch Stephen Fry’s Unofficial Guide to Twitter below!

By Vanessa Holland

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