What’s in a name? More on building brand you

Usernames are a modern blight or benefit, depending on your view.  If you are active online, every socail website/social media platform needs a username, and if you didn’t get there quickly enough, you’ll find it taken by some other smartarse with the same name as you. I personally love 1Password and since I’ve had it in December its remembered 85 different logins for me. That means I could have 85 different usernames if I wanted to, but it kind of defeats the purpose if you want to build a consistent brand, of brand you.

One of my Twitter friends @bananasontoast was chuffed to find my Twitter handle/username was my real name. I am really lucky because Tiphereth is one very obscure name. Lucky for me its been available at most of my preferred social media channels. Since I have been on Twitter, its meant I can be found really easily on Google. My friends from Twitter have found me on Flickr easily, LinkedIn and if I was doing anything on YouTube, they’d find me there too. My name is my brand.

If you don’t have an unusual name and @yourname has already been taken on Twitter, YouTube Flickr et al,  its best make up an online identity that encapsulates “brand you”. Like any brand design, consistency is the key, so  check its availabilty where you intend to be.

@bananasontoast has a great username because its memorable, he’s got the great little mushroom avatar, and he’s consistent in his brand online. Mitch Malone is his real name, but everyone knows him as bananasontoast.

@acatinatree is one of my Twitter friends who’s voice is consistent across Twitter and her blog, the year of the cat. She has  copped it lately for not posting her photo anywhere on her blog or Twitter profile page, but regardless, her brand is the “acatinatree” and its connotations and the cat avatar is really working for her.

@eskimo_sparky is part of Happener.com and has another great personal brand identity, partly because of his distinctive avatar.

@servantofchaos has a very distinctive online brand, consistent across his blog and Twitter. Gavin Heaton is famous for his marketing knowledge, but its his brand persona that stars in the Servant of Chaos blog which has the broadest reach and brand recognition.

@likeomg is another one of the Australian Twitterati and everyone on Twitter knows who she is because of her very famous username. She’s also the social media adviser for Amnesia Razorfish as Heather Ann Snodgrass.

@stevieenglish has built an impressive hairdressing brand through his alter ego Stevie English (not his real name) and continued the same brand voice on Twitter, his website and blog.

All these usernames have everything to do with building a brand online. A personal brand which in some cases is more authentic than the person who uses it. Human nature by its nature is inconsistent. Yet a personal brand can help you live up to its independent identity.

Seth Godin wrote recently on authenticty:

If it acts like a duck (all the time), it’s a duck. Doesn’t matter if the duck thinks it’s a dog, it’s still a duck as far as the rest of us are concerned.

Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not “being who you are”.

That’s because ‘being’ is too amorphous and we are notoriously bad at judging that. Internal vision is always blurry. Doing, on the other hand, is an act that can be seen by all.

As the Internet and a connected culture places a higher premium on authenticity (because if you’re inconsistent, you’re going to get caught) it’s easy to confuse authentic behavior with an existential crisis.

What’s consistent about all these personal brand identities, is that that they have built an authentic brand without necessarily using their real faces or their real life names. That’s not to say they aren’t also known as their real life names, only that they have constructed a consistent and authentic online or brand persona that lives over and above their real life personality. Its the consistency in communication  or voice as suggested by Seth is what makes the personal brand authentic.

I was inspired to write about this, partly because of what happened to @KatieHarris. Katie has a blog called ZebraBites, and she changed her Twitter name from @ZebraBites to @KatieHarris, and then wanted to change it back to ZebraBites, only by the time she got around to changing it back, it had been taken over by Gaby Alvarez of Alberta. Oh no!

Update: Katie Harris got @ZebraBites back from the very kind Gaby of Alberta, after explaining she had it first and it related to her blog. There are nice people on Twitter and its a happy ending to our story on personal brands.

Moral of the story:

  1. register your username build your personal brand just like you would a domain name
  2. don’t change your username on a whim, add another one rather than change, especially in the fast moving world of the interwebs.
  3. Be consistent in your communication, both in your voice, and also your visual representation of your brand  – consistency is how you build your authenticity.
  4. Choose a brand that reflects what you are most like and most like the “voice” you want to be known for online – and have fun building brand you.
  • Top tips Tip. Useful for small biz and start ups too, as these rules apply across the spectrum.

  • it’s funny about mine: i’ve been blogging (and “blogging”) for years, and there was a point in NYC where i decided i was over my old ‘brand’ (fauxy.net) and wanted a change.

    when i registered likeomg.org it was on a whim. i do say “like” and “omg” a lot, but never in tandem; for some reason, it was stickier than i could have ever imagined. just have to get over the whole “this is LIKEOMG” intros when i first meet people 🙂

  • servantofchaos

    If only I had read this when I started my blog three + years ago. Until recently “gavinheaton.com” was unavailable – so I was stuck with servantofchaos … but you know, I am used to it now – and it feels like a comfortable suit all worn with use.

  • If you're registering domains then don't forget there's .com, .net, .info, .biz, .org, .tv, .com.au, .co.uk (you get the picture) that you need to commandeer too. I know at least one high-profiler who should have known better who is being held to ransom for Tens-of-thousands for a .com version of their localised URL.
    Then there's Gmail, hotmail / Live (good luck!), Yahoo, Skype … (you get the picture).

    Personally I maintain 2 brands, my professional one & my private one – just in case someone makes me an offer I can't refuse for my professional brand & product. The real 'me' is not for sale.

  • Great points about domain registration. I aways advised clients to register as many as they could get/afford because ultimately it is your brand and you should protect it just like any IP.
    There's a whole other post about the professional vs private brand – its great that you personally can make the distinction so the “commercialisation” of the professional brand makes it easy to offload it, its much harder to “sell” your own personal identity.

  • Ok, you've dragged me out of the woodwork. 8) Good post Tiphereth!

    Firstly, to jump on the brand wagon *sigh*, an important point to make is about consistency, be who you are everywhere you go, people will recognize you. Brand recognition… So keep those avatar consistent and on message, they are your logo. But let it evolve.

    Now, on the domain/real estate thing, I say go wild, grab as much as you can around your brand. At Kazaa, we had more than 1300 domain's on the books. And yes, the cost of a $25 domain vs lawyers, UDRP ,etc for acquisition is well worth it if you think your brand is valuable!

    Lastly some general good advice on personal branding: Be Yourself! Apart from authenticity being the new black, it's the easiest brand to maintain. 8)

    *steps back into the shadows*

  • Annik

    Sometimes having a unique name is a pain in the arse. It makes you very transparent…

    Having said that, I'll still sit on everything “annikskelton” in case one day when I can be as truly heinous as I like without fear of retribution, I'll be ready. 🙂

  • Great post Tiphereth! In spaces with narrow bandwidth, a 'branded' av means you can communicate more with less…
    It's ridiculous that I check and secure all possible branded usernames for work even in networks where we don't maintain an active profle, partly for risk / reputation management and partly because I don't believe you can accurately predict where the next burst will occur – Twitter was a real Black Swan – but until recently had never thought to do that for my own name.
    Recently discovered that twitter features acatinatree1 and acatinatree2 – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I suppose.
    #Lazyweb tip: username dot com is v helpful

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  • Great post!

    You'll be pleased to hear that the very kind Gaby Alveraz returned ZebraBites to me a while back. Thank goodness. Will never, ever mess with my handle again.

    Feels so good to be *me* again! Right on brand.

    ; )