Give credit where credit is due. Facebook reached 250 million users. Twitter is the fastest growing social media network. Nearly a million blog posts are published each day. We’re on the cusp of it now. Communication has really transitioned to a Web / Text based enterprise.

Steve Nash to announce the signing of his new NBA contract on Twitter. Oprah, Ellen, Ashton Kutcher, and ESPN all promote Twitter to the masses. CNN teams up with Facebook to provide live chat during major events. It’s happening right now. The majority is adjusting to instant spontaneous expression. And the ORM flood tide is about to roll in.

I’ve been awaiting this season since 2005, when I bought up a handful of domains related to online reputation management with the expectation of turning my Web marketing business into an exclusive reputation monitoring, management, and consulting service.

How Will We Recognize the Tipping Point?

A few things have to happen first. As you observe each step you’ll know we’re “that much” closer.

Phase 1: When the average person feels more comfortable sharing their opinions online than offline, you know we’ve reached critical mass. It’s only a matter of time.

Phase 2: Once people feel more comfortable searching out opinions online than asking around offline, the level of influence each online opinion holds trends up drastically.

Phase 3: When people spread opinions, rumors, and gossip found online without verifying accuracy, the iron is white hot.

Phase 4: Any and every possible comment will be shared, read, and spread about brands, products and services, and each company will either be prepared to address them as they are posted across the Web or they will be caught unaware and suffer the damage caused to their reputation, which inevitably leads to an erosion of consumer/investor confidence.

Phase 5: Online reputation monitoring, building, and repair services will have to ramp up their staffing to handle the volume of clients and mentions online.

Some would argue that we’ve already reached Phase 3. I see phases 1-3 still rising. But the tipping point is near. Most companies should already be engaged with ORM services to protect and expand their influence. But even the latecomers will hop on board soon enough.

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