Django Unchained, your nonprofit, and the reputation economy

With Oscar season upon us, we’re seeing frequent trailers for films nominated for the little golden trophy. One trailer, that for Django Unchained, contains a line that has us feeling philosophical about your nonprofit and its online presence.

Django Unchained

And, no, it’s not The D is silent.

What catches our ear is this line delivered in DiCaprio’s affected Southern drawl:

You had my curiosity. But now you have my attention.

That caught our attention.

This simple phrase artfully and efficiently highlights a powerful distinction. That distinction happens to be a key element in a larger cultural shift that has been oft written about: the Reputation Economy.

According to Forbes magazine  “the reputation economy is an environment where brands are built based on how they are perceived online and the promise they deliver offline.”

As Rachel Botsman puts it: “The currency of the new economy is trust.”

Various folks have mused about how the reputation economy and the trust elemental to it already manifests itself in how you get approved for a loan, in how you land a job, in how it creates new business possibilites that could not have existed before and much much more.

They highlight how this new economy attaches economic value to something that doesn’t carry any intrinsic dollar value and doesn’t require someone to have significant assets or infrustructure to cultivate; namely, your online reputation, the trust it can generate in an audience, and how that trust can translate into influence.

Take a tweet from Justin Bieber and you have a case in point. His online reputation has cultivated a great number of followers – over 34 million, in fact. Those followers have a great deal of trust in his reputation. And that trust translates into influence.

Just ask Carly Rae Jepsen.

The DiCaprio line highlights an important progression in the development of one’s online reputation. It’s one thing to get someone’s curiosity. It’s another to grab their attention. And it’s another still to have that attention translate into influence and action.

When someone follows your nonprofit on Twitter, likes you on Facebook, or signs up for your email newsletter, you have their curiosity. When someone actually reads your tweets, checks out your Facebook updates, and opens emails from your organization then you have their attention.

We all have organizations that have our curiosity. It’s likely only a few that have our attention.

Without attention, there is no influence and there is no action.

Trust is an essential step for all of this. To gain one’s curiousity, they must trust that you have something relevant to say. They trust that you won’t spam them or sell their email address or clog their social media dashboards with useless drivel.

To gain their attention, they must trust that what you have to say is worth some of the precious little focus they have to cut through all of the clutter and white noise of our online world and actually digest your message.

Only then can they decide if they’re going to do something about what you’re saying.

Here’s where we wax philosophical: the very nature of nonprofits suggests that they should be better positioned to benefit from the reputation economy and the trust that is its currency that any other entity.

Why? Because the sector’s very reason for being is to serve the public good without a profit motive.

The reason why the tax code has the 501(c) designation is to invest societal trust in a particular set of certified organizations governed in a particular way so that private individuals are encouraged to trust them with their hard earned cash and valuable time in order to solve problems that no individual could solve alone.

Of course, that trust isn’t always justified or granted to the sector as a whole. There are many reasons, some well-justified and some just plain loopy, why.

But that doesn’t change the overarching question: are nonprofits better positioned to benefit from the reputation economy and the trust that is its currency that any other entity?

If so, how can that natural position be translated into practical reality for a nonprofit?

How is your nonprofit building its online reputation to cultivate trust that can translate into influence – influence that can rock the world for social good?

Photo credit: Django Unchained, The Weinstein Company and Columbia Pictures

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 at 4:41 pm and is filed under nptech. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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