Thursday, August 23, 2007

Big Image Plus Tiny Company Equals Credibility Gap

"On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog" was the caption of a cartoon published in a 1993 New Yorker magazine.

It's funny, and is a reminder that the Internet and the Web let people and businesses disguise themselves. To a point. An anecdote in the September, 2007, Reader's Digest (p. 161) showed what will eventually happen to an Intenet poser.

The writer hadn't received her purchase, and hadn't gotten a response from her e-mail. Later, her phone rang. a teenager at the other end apologised for the delay, and explained what the problem was. "...I can't get on my computer right now because my mother's vacuuming and this room only has one socket."

I've known people who were CEO, Director of Marketing, janitor and the office girl of the company, and whose website used phrases like "we provide quality service" and gave other indications of having at least some staff.

I understand how tempting it is to project the image of a substantial company, with a:

  • Luxurious office suite
  • Warehouse
  • Loading dock and
  • Parking lot
when all you've got is a corner of a room that you share with
  • Several kids
  • Your wife
  • A music keyboard
  • An electric guitar, and
  • A chair buried under a pile of clothes
The problem, as I see it, of inflating your online image is that, sooner or later, somebody's going to notice. Then, you've got a credibility problem. If you were deceptive, or at least alternatively truthful, about the size of your company, what else have you been hiding?

I'd rather not have that sort of explaining to do.

Since many of my online projects make use of my personality, it's easier for me to be a one-man show than it would be for someone who was trying to run an online store or repair service.

Even so, I suspect that in the long run it's better to be more open about how many of you there actually are.

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