When You Should and Shouldn't Use Your Real Name on Social Sites

People like me who teach online reputation and networking take it for granted that using your real name on social sites is a good idea, but a recent question on Quora reminds me that this is not as obvious as it seems.

An anonymous user asked Did you provide your real personal info to Quora when your user account was created? and explains that he or she avoids using their real identity to thwart data mining. There might be cases when this is a good idea but for most people it is actually better to use your real name because it boosts your online reputation.

When people hear about you or meet you for the first time they are likely to Google your name to see what comes up. This test will only find web pages that use your real name because Google cannot know that the owner of the username SqueakyPencil87 is actually John Smith. Some of the people googling your name will just be curious colleagues and friends, but quite often they could be potential employers or business partners and if the result of the search is inconclusive this can hurt your ability to find work, get accepted by schools or close a business deal.  If you do not have many real-name profiles on serious websites then Google will return whatever it can find, which could be embarrassing old blog postss, dating profiles or even unsolicited profiles on content scraping sites that look like you created them though the information is unreliable.

Creating a solid online reputation is actually very simple. All you need to do is create and maintain personal profiles on popular websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Quora. But to get any benefit from these profiles you have to use your own name and, once you have chosen the real-name policy, you need to manage your content to reflect the way you want others to see you.

WHEN YOU DON'T WANT TO BE FOUND. But there are cases where you would like to participate in social activities without being visible to anyone who searches for your name. You can achieve this by setting privacy settings so that your pages are not visible to anyone, but a much safer alternative is to use a real-sounding but false name for these profiles. In this was Google will never find these pages. Many people use this approach on Facebook, which they reserve for private conversations with friends. Some people also choose to avoid using their real name on Quora for the same reason, usually because they want to answer questions about topics unrelated to their work and fear a dilution of their online reputation.

But for most people the benefits of a real-name profile outweigh the disadvantages. Having relevant and interesting content on respectable sites makes your first page of search results look much more positive. People will see this and they will be impressed, yet it costs very little effort to achieve it, simply to be aware of the consequences of using your name and when this is a good idea.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics you can contact me through the website http://andrewhennigan.com, by email at conseil@andrewhennigan.com or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 in Sweden and 0033 6 79 61 42 81 in France.


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