If You Can’t Be Found Online, Are You “For Real”?

I recently had an editor I work with ask about a source’s credentials because she couldn’t find her online. And I’ll admit that my first thought was also “Oh oh – weird!” But then I recalled a “back of the brain” feeling I’ve had for a while now about all of the valuable information and sources that I–and others–may be missing because we rely so exclusively on online content.

If you can’t be found online, are you important? Are you *credible*? Do you even exist? I think maybe  not…

I don’t know. But I can’t remember the last time I used an “offline” source to do research of any kind. And I have to believe that, as in the case with my editor’s recent concern, odds are that something’s “not quite right” with this purported source if we can’t find *anything* to support her claimed credentials.

But, while both ends of the “present online” spectrum send pretty clear messages (I think) about relevance and credibility*, there’s also a lot of grey space in the middle. That middle area, I think, represents some prime “negotiating space” for communication staff, consultants and others that have been trying to convince “the powers that be” that they need to have an online presence.

  • The worst that could happen? Your organization could be considered entirely irrelevant because you literally “don’t show up.”
  • The best that could happen? Your presence is *so* significantly higher than your competitors that you become the de facto leader in your field.
  • The most *likely* to happen? Your volume of presence when compared to the volume that your constituents (and that means *NOT YOU*!) consider to be a good assessment of credibility and value is better than yours.

I have a feeling that the latter scenario is the norm. It’s becoming increasingly important for both businesses and independent professionals to think about how their reputation is being impacted by their presence (or lack thereof) online.

Have you searched yourself recently? How relevant are you?

*After all, if you find *lots* of information online about someone does that make them an expert? A *real* expert? Is that all it takes in the 21st century?

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One Response to “If You Can’t Be Found Online, Are You “For Real”?”

  1. Digett says:

    I ran into this problem just yesterday, actually. I needed to find some basic information about a third party company to put into a basic bio on a clients’ website.

    A search for the business itself turned up no website, and a search for the owner turned up a bare bones LinkedIn profile and no solid information.

    Perhaps the business is new. But if their main business is supposedly ecommerce…how are their customers finding them?

    It used to be suspicious if a word you heard couldn’t be found in the dictionary — generally that meant that it wasn’t real, and couldn’t be trusted. Maybe the same is becoming true with not being found online.

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