Personal name domains - i.e. controlling your own brand

Personal name domains - i.e. controlling your own brand

In today’s socially connected digital world - one of the things young people should be controlling and cultivating is their own personal brand. Sadly, many twenty-somethings will learn the lesson too late; after having loaded Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or other outlets with typical teenage and college hi-jinks. Once something is placed online, it’s virtually eternal. Yes, you can attempt to scrub and purge things - but they’ll have a funny way of popping up again and again.

Fortunately I grew up in a less digital world

No, I’m not getting nostalgic, I’m simply stating the truth. I’m thankful that my dalliances and stupidity is only documented in my own mind (and that of my friends). Camera phones and instant uploading simply didn’t exist - so all the silly stuff I did wasn’t captured and immediately shared. This isn’t the case for young people today. Almost everything is recorded and shared. And it can potentially damage their reputation and/or prospects later in life.

Controlling your personal brand is and will be increasingly important

The next generation will be acutely aware of the perils of relinquishing your privacy. They’ll learn from the mistakes of the generation before. But it doesn’t mean that missteps and mistakes won’t be documented and uploaded. So for younger folks and the next generation owning and managing your personal brand will be even more important.

You are your reputation

While I think the intrusion into social accounts by colleges, employers, and such will subside as privacy laws catch up with technology - it will remain true that you are the sum of your deeds (especially when they’ve been “youtube’d”). And if those deeds have been uploaded and shared - you’d better hope they’re not exposing your stupid level. Fortunately, social networks and their users are growing up. And smart users are already segmenting what they share via groups, lists, and even managing duplicate accounts. The lessons of haphazard sharing are already being learned.

Ultimately, as everyone gets smarter about sharing online. People will be more selective and protective of what they share and who they share it with. And hopefully, eventually there will be privacy protections implemented by legislatures - but I wouldn’t count on it.

Once you enter the workforce your personal brand is everything

Obscurity is fading. Your reputation is easily discovered online today. At least the one that you present online. So it’s important that when you enter the workforce your online brand represents how you want to be perceived and known. Scrub the stupid away from you Facebook and Twitter feeds - or create new profiles for “work” associates. Though few people have the motivation to manage multiple accounts over the long haul. So it’s easier to simply corral the party pics and debauchery laden videos under tighter privacy controls or to stow them away under a “list” or “group” so they won’t be available to everyone. So when you eventually add your boss or colleagues to your social network - they’re not looking at your weekend or younger escapades.

Instead, control your image. Be proactive.

I generally give two tidbits of advice to my younger colleges and proteges. One, if you record it digitally and share it assume it’s public and it’s forever. If you’d be embarrassed to show or say it your mother or grandmother don’t put it online. Two, get a personal domain and grab your name on all the social networks - though as time marches on, that’s becoming harder and harder. But regardless, capture the best possible options and use them to cultivate and curate your own personal brand.

It’s unlikely you’ll work for the same company for 40 years.

The days of gold rolex retirement watches is over. A career today will likely have you holding multiple positions for lots of companies. And as you migrate up the ladder between jobs - the first thing each prospective new employer will likely do is... google you. Or worse, they’ll do an official background check - and many now include robust online searches. It’ll be much nicer to have the information you’ve controlled and created be your online persona. The converse, leaving it up to fate and letting randomness control your digital fate. Are you sure your friends haven’t shared embarrassing photos of you? Or shared your rants and “unfortunate” comments?

There are additional benefits to controlling your own online identity too. You can keep your resume and portfolio (if you’re in that type of career) online and up-to-date so opportunity can find you. Your personal domain and networks will be your voice. All of this will help you sell yourself long before your first interview - if you do it right.

So if you haven’t done it already - go register your personal name domain - or get as close to it as possible. And start taking control of your online and professional and life persona. It’s why I have my own domain. And it’s why I immediately capture my name on every new social network (when I can). And it’s why when my wife and I were choosing our daughter’s name - I was checking if the domains were available for each choice. No it wasn’t the deciding factor - but the name we chose was available. So her personal branding has already started - and she’s only two and a half.

Feb 15, 2013

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