Online Ratings: When Trust Is The New Currency

Today, just a few quick clicks around the Internet can reveal vast information about both your past and your present, which may one day determine your future ­­— for better or for worse.

Everyone who is communicating online, which is pretty much all of us these days, has to face this new reality. Our mothership website Worldcrunch recently published a piece from France that looks at the latest fears about the phenomenon, entitled “The Spreading Psychodrama of Being Rated Online,” an article originally published in French daily Le Monde.

Guillemette Faure writes that the increasingly heavy reliance on user ratings systems by service-based apps and websites has major effects not only on the online reputations of companies, but of customers too.

Being a part of the service-based so-called “sharing economy” means that we’re all at risk of being judged in these daily digital ratings: Just as Uber riders can rate drivers at the end of rides, drivers can also rate riders. Fear of bad marks (or, really, their subsequent and imagined real-world consequences) means that “everyone is running after good ratings.”

Take Christophe Duhamel and his company, the French recipe-sharing website Marmiton. He recalls to Le Monde how when his website first launched, users would remove their recipes from the site after they received any less-than-favorable reviews. “No one understands their genius,” he says sarcastically.

In an era when shiny iPhones, and the Twitter profiles and Instagram photos that they hold, are always within reach, the celebrated old marketing adage "reputation is everything" now applies to you and me, all the time. 

So if good reviews — and good reputations — are so important, how do we get them?

As brand consultant and author Rachel Botsam defined it in her widely viewed 2012 TED talk, “reputation is the measure of how much a community trusts you.”

In the current state of today’s digital economy, which Botsam says is built around “collaborative consumption,” trust between consumers and companies is the key that unlocks contentment and success for both parties. After all, if you’re planning to road trip across Europe with strangers using ridesharing platform BlaBlaCar or stay in someone’s apartment via AirBnB, you’ll want to make sure the driver is safe and the host is sane. And naturally, you’ll rely on their online ratings — their virtual reputations — for peace of mind. As Botsam posits in her TED talk, “the currency of the new economy is trust.” And four years later, this maxim for brands is now more and more relevant for their customers too.

Photo: Alexandra E Rust