Owning your name in search, variations and nuances

Christopher Wink sends this e-mail:

What is the line with all of these online networking devices? I read with interest through my Google reader your post on increasing one’s searchability online , which was exactly why I started my Web site back in December. I have a Flickr account and Youtube and, as you know, LinkedIn and some others, use my actual name and use these products, all with links to my Web site, pushing all traffic to one place, so I can control what potential employers or others interested see and know about me.

But I never had a Facebook account or MySpace page. I dismissed them as slop and wastes of time. But I also know they can definitely direct traffic to my site. …But do I want these readers? …Do I sign up for Vimeo, and Twitter and a Tumblr – I understand their purposes, but don’t think they serve me – though, I’m sure, they all, in their own way, would bring traffic to my site. So, do I set these accounts up and let them sit – knowing I won’t really use them – just so I can have the opportunity to push to my site, or not? …Should I pick and choose, or truly optimize and control my name search?

In a slightly related topic that I would be interested to hear your thoughts and could provide good blog fodder – when it comes to Google name searches, any advice about name variations? Howard Owens is fairly straightforward, but my byline is Christopher Wink, plenty of people call me Chris Wink – which happens to be the name of a founder of the Blue Man Group, and a pesky competitor for name recognition. People with names like James, John and Jack, and certainly names beyond the Christian tradition change form with popular nicknames. That is pesky for branding.

Do you think it’s best to pick one name and run with it, or should I try to compete with Christopher and Chris Wink for example.

Just some thoughts. Discard or ignore any or all of them, but I would be interested to hear your thoughts and thought they might be good for your blog, too.

This is a good topic to cover because while I believe it’s an ironclad rule that every journalist should own his or her name — his identity, his brand —  in search, the are variations and nuances that I don’t think are as important, but maybe others do.

You could drive yourself crazy trying to join all of the thousands of social networking sites out there.  Just joining and creating a basic profile helps, but there’s also value that comes from participation and you lose some of that by over extending yourself.  There are only a handful of sites you need to join to get sufficient SEO juice, especially if you’re blogging, because that is naturally going to generate links to your site.

As for owning variations of your name — it’s fine if you can do it, but I think most editors are going to understand if you don’t own Chris when you go by Christopher, especially when there is a prominent person using the variation.  Anybody searching for you specifically, will probably default to the brand you’ve established for yourself.

One of the rules of branding is being consistent. If your brand is going to be Christopher Wink, you should always be Christopher Wink.  I’m always Howard Owens.  I’m never Howie Owens (though this post just gave me an idea — not a bad idea to own the domain name variations of your name if you can get them, and I was amazed to find nobody had ever registered howieowens.com, so I just did; I already own howard-owens.com).

Anybody have any thoughts? How deep do you have to dive?  And in the future, will you need to dive deeper to stay competitive?

Too much, too easy anonymity is a bad thing

I just stumbled across this post from Kevin Kelly on the dangers of anonymity.

However in every system that I have seen where anonymity becomes common, the system fails. The recent taint in the honor of Wikipedia stems from the extreme ease which anonymous declarations can be put into a very visible public record. Communities infected with anonymity will either collapse, or shift the anonymous to pseudo-anonymous, as in eBay, where you have a traceable identity behind an invented nickname. Or voting, where you can authenticate an identity without tagging it to a vote.

Anonymity is like a rare earth metal. These elements are a necessary ingredient in keeping a cell alive, but the amount needed is a mere hard-to-measure trace. In larger does these heavy metals are some of the most toxic substances known to a life. They kill. Anonymity is the same. As a trace element in vanishingly small doses, it’s good for the system by enabling the occasional whistleblower, or persecuted fringe. But if anonymity is present in any significant quantity, it will poison the system.

There’s a dangerous idea circulating that the option of anonymity should always be at hand, and that it is a noble antidote to technologies of control. This is like pumping up the levels of heavy metals in your body into to make it stronger.

For the newspaper.com, it’s not enough just to confirm an e-mail address — identity is important. Even if you will not require (or try to) real identity, there should be a mechanism for enforcing some sort of identity, even if it’s persona-identity, but even then, it should be traceable to a real-world person.

Communities built around anonymity eventually lack cohesion.

I started down the Kevin Kelly path this morning because of this post on “Better than Free.”  Kelly’s point is that in a world where free copies are abundant, economic value is derived from other factors.  In context of this issue, a newspaper.com that makes trust/transparency, authenticity/authority part of its brand promise (which goes hand-in-hand with requiring identity from contributors), then it is building value — a competitive advantage into its online efforts.

More on Keven Kelly here. His personal site starts here.

Previously: Real identity helps foster healthy communities.