Last week I spent some time in my campaigns class helping students think about life after graduation.
Identity, online and off, was a topic. The main goal is to be “findable” online, which is easier for someone with an uncommon name and much more difficult if your name is “Smith” or “Johnson.” One student said she shares a name with an adult film actress. What to do?
There are no magic answers here. But everyone can proactively manage this problem. Use your name consistently. If it’s common, think about using your middle initial or nickname. Secure relevant domains. Create a Google Profile. Participate intelligently in the social web. And register for services that can help create “breadcrumbs” that lead back to you.
I counsel clients to sign up for Twitter, or other services, even if they have no intention of using them. At least you know other parties can’t use your identity.
If online identity is a concern to you, take a look at knowem.com. This service can instantly check if your preferred name is available on 120 social media websites. For about $65, the service will sign you up for all of ’em. That’s right, every one, from Aviary to Zooomr (If you’re not familiar with all of these services, you’re not alone.)
For an additional $20/month, the service will continue to sign up for new services as they launch. (Please note that I have not evaluated this service.)
It might be overkill for most individuals, but a quick scan of the list will show some services that you probably should consider. Of course, you can sign up without paying a third party. The takeaway is to a) think about who you are and want to be; b) take steps to identify and protect this name; and c) build the infrastructure of participation so the web is working for you, not against you.
Just remember: you can’t opt out. The online conversation will continue and grow. So stake your place in it, and manage your online identity.