Cafe Witness

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

(Secret?) Identities

Christopher Penn has a pair of very valid blog posts about how the Web 2.0 is quickly becoming the Matrix 2.0, and on the value of protecting your brand name assets on Twitter.

This got me thinking about a number of related topics.

Self-Defense Real Estate

- Do you own the URL of your name (i.e. "YOU dot com")? If you don't, who does?
- Do you own all available comparison URLs of your name ("YOU dot net, YOU dot tv, etc.)?

If you don't, or if you believe you're "not important enough" to need to, let me ask you this: what happens when you ARE "important enough" to become a household name, even in a very small circle?

Chances are, you'll BECOME popular because other people are talking about you... and other people may realize the value of your name before you do.

The savvy people are out there right now, buying up every URL associated with their own names, "just in case."

The savvier people are out there buying up every URL associated with OTHER PEOPLE'S names...

- Do you own the URLs for your children's names?

Let's presume that the web, as we know it, is here to stay, and that URLs will still be a valid way around the information superhighway in another 20-30 years.

How many of us have children who -- like ourselves -- may someday grow up to "be someone"?

Imagine how grateful you'd be, as a kid, knowing that your online identity was safely registered by your parents before you could even clutch a mouse. It certainly beats the alternative: knowing that you'll someday need to buy that URL back from some black market identities dealer who's currently using it as an affiliate site.

All Websites Are Actually Real Estate Agencies

- Is your profile registered on MySpace? Facebook? Digg? Twitter? Technorati?...

I recently joined Virb, a new social networking site... or, rather, STBD did.

I initially saw Virb as a new networking / marketing tool -- a cleaner version of MySpace -- so I registered a profile for Something to Be Desired. As I'm writing this post, I realize I haven't yet signed up as myself yet... so I just did.

I could (and should) do the same for every other social networking site on the planet... and every other web app that could be used for marketing, communication and brand imaging. So should you.

EVERY WEBSITE is a potential link into your world -- or your brand / product / business -- for someone else.

Think I'm joking? Google me. What do you see?

As of today, the top search results are:

- Something to Be Desired (the web sitcom I produce)
- The STBD blog
- This blog
- My Technorati tag
- My Blogger profile (including my AIM handle)
- A Jeff Pulver blog post referencing me
- Bryan Person's audio interview with me from PodCamp Boston
- STBD's Network2 show page
- A Chris Brogan interview with me from April of last year
- My MyFeedz tag


- The easiest way for people to find me is through my work.
- Blogger and Network2 are ways to find me that I have AT LEAST SOME CONTROL OVER.
- Technorati and MyFeedz tags are ways to find me that I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER.
- Pulver, Person and Brogan's blog posts are also inbound links to my life that I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER.

Two other interesting notes:

- The Brogan interview was several pages down on my personal Google search results in April of last year. (Yes, I ego-surf.) Since then, Brogan and I have each seen our profiles rise, to the point that this same once-buried interview is now hot stuff.

- My MyFeedz tag actually produces no results. I've never even heard of MyFeedz until just now. But evidently other people have, and whatever is said about me there will have a much better chance of being heard by others than what I might say myself on, say, the PodCamp Pittsburgh Feedback page, which doesn't appear until the fourth page of Google search results.

What Does This Mean?

- You'll never have 100% control of how you're viewed by other people -- especially online.
- You DO have SOME control over how you're viewed -- and you should take those opportunities to stake your claim (and "defend your brand").
- You never know when your profile on an arbitrary website, a comment you've left on a blog or something you say in an interview will be stumbled upon by someone else, and THAT WILL BE SOMEONE'S FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOU.

Each of us needs to decide exactly how much of a "public persona" we're interested in cultivating online, and how much of a "private persona" we're willing to live without.

Think Michael Jackson had it bad walking down the street in the '80s without being recognized? That's nothing compared to what Britney Spears contends with from Perez Hilton on a daily basis -- or what you face thanks to Google, MySpace, WordPress, Twitter...

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